WHAT THEY WANT FROM ME

It’s been warmer than usual—we repeat this frequently nowadays—and today our gardener, who comes several times each summer to keep things going, pruned the apple tree in front of the house. I liked the shape she gave it.

When we first moved here, the tree gave no fruit. After we took down the oak that towered over it, small, hard, green apples arrived, and they’ve been arriving every summer, less hard and less sour every year. Last summer was the first time we actually ate them. They were still on the sour side, and delicious.

Let’s see what this summer brings.

Every once in a while, I feel a big doubt come up.  What is all this writing for, I wonder. Does anything change? Just how important is the expression of one woman’s thoughts, conundrums, feelings?

I also worry that a blog can be self-serving. It’s an expression of me, and even if you’re careful not to make it always about you (or your dog, or your housemate’s dog), it can still be my thoughts about our political situation, my upset over the Middle East, my sense of life and how to navigate it. I could be tempted to make of something small something very big, magnify my actions, promote an image.

This morning, I railed silently at Joe Biden: It’s not that they dislike your policies, Joe, people just feel you’re too old! Four years ago, you gave us a sense that you’re asking for one term, not two, that you’d be a bridge to a new generation of leaders. What happened to that? Have you turned greedy? Have you, too surrounded yourself with people who won’t tell you the truth? The older you get, the less truth they’ll tell you.

I’m beginning to think that we should let AI choose our government. But I don’t think that another voice of indignation and disappointment is what the universe needs right now.

And maybe you’re one of the problems, says another voice. Too many of this Baby Boomer generation (I’m 74) is holding on, filling up the airwaves and bandwidths and making their opinions known.

And yet … And yet … Is there something more creative I can do here? More thought-provoking? More heart-opening? I inhabit certain interactions that may provide different perspectives. I’m Jewish and Buddhist, American and Israeli, writer and activist.

I’d like there to be an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, a release of hostages, and massive distribution of medical supplies, infrastructure, and especially food to the civilian population.

At the same time, my brother was in Dubai several weeks ago, where he’s always greeted warmly and graciously. But one Muslim leader said to him: “The Middle East is all Islamic; it always was, since the  beginning of the Ottoman Empire. You Jews are not Muslim, and one day you will be vomited off that land where you don’t belong.”

My brother said his piece, too, pointing out that Israelis are not colonizers, that they lived in that land long before Islam was born. But still, he sees his big job as listening, and it’s not easy. He flies back home and tells me what he hears, then goes back and does it again and again.

This time, spending a weekend in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, he was able to tell his host about how afraid he was for the life and health of his son, who served in with the Israeli army in Gaza for a few months till his return home. And his host, a Muslim businessman, could listen and sympathize.

In Zen Buddhism we do interviews between teacher and student. Since I don’t care for the word interviews, I’ve adopted the term face-to-face that, as far as I know, was begun at the Zen Center of Los Angeles.

In my early years with Bernie, or Sensei as we called him then, I’d done lots of interviews with him that were very formal, calling for full bows, ritual, lots of choreography.

One day, long before I became a teacher, he said to me: “Eve, do you know what people want from me when they come in for an interview?”

“For you to pass them on their koan?”

“They want me to listen to them. And Eve, do you know what else they want from me?”

“To confirm their understanding?”

“They want me to listen to them. And do you know what else they want from me?”

“No, Bernie, what else do they want from you?”

“They want me to listen to them.”

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