NOISE AND CONNECTION

I am indebted to Sensei Joshin Byrnes for reminding me of Bernie’s words: “Action is the function of awakening.”

It was one of Bernie’s big credos. Not for him a sense of awakening as in: You had a terrific experience of some kind, congratulations, sit there and enjoy that sense of no differentiation between you and the trees, the birds, or flying snowflakes.

In my experience, as I awaken, I see new aspects of life, which of course are new aspects of me, so I serve them. I take care of them. Bernie repeated that many, many times.

Sometimes it’s obvious. My housemate, Lori, is in lots of pain and needs constant care. Her loyal and hard-working sister needs her own time off to go home and sleep through the night. I offer to do that work for a few days starting Saturday afternoon and we have a conversation.

“It’ll be too much for you,” she says.

It’ll be a lot, no blogging or writing, questionable dog walks and challenging nights, but I’m connected to Lori. I’ve also become connected to her sister and much of her family, and friends and neighbors who want to help with the snow, the lawnmower (jobs Lori used to do), and meals. Connections have widened, creating bigger and bigger ripples, and maybe they’re weak at the outer edges but they’re there nevertheless, so of course, I want to do something. Not because I’m some wonderful bodhisattva but because it feels natural to take care of me.

 That’s what doing as a function of enlightenment means. I connect with more and more aspects of life, which means that I realize more and more aspects of myself.

When I was in Israel three months ago, I was puzzled by how it was that the media didn’t hide the situation in Gaza; the numbers of dead and wounded were dutifully reported, there was no censorship per se. So why did so few care?

It took me time to realize that those numbers and statistics were experienced as noise by most people, static on the lines, not the real conversation. The real conversation was always about them, what happened on October 7, and what was befalling their own soldiers, their own sons. Gaza was noise, and they weren’t connecting with noise.

When you’re not connecting, you’re not taking action. The faces of children crying and buildings toppling over after absorbing heavy bombs feel distant and irrelevant. The subliminal message is: This has got nothing to do with us. As if Gaza is on Mars, not 75 kilometers from Jerusalem.

I went a little crazy the day I read of the killing of the World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza. Why them, and not the 200 previous aid workers killed? What is there more basic than food and medicine? It was one of those days when pain and grief just sent me over the edge.

Slowly I’m learning the extent of my connection with Israel, including the bubbles caused by trauma. I am connected to the country and the people in my blood, much as Bernie is in my blood, not some external factor to appreciate or remember or even love. The dharma is in my blood; I don’t know how to even talk about it anymore.

I also feel a deep connection to Palestinians who live in the area, and in fact to that great Levantine culture so different from our own secular Western customs.

I know what to do for Lori, but what do I do with those more distant energies of connection? At the very least, I pay attention to what flows through me: the sinking of the stomach, the rising of the gorge of anger and shame, or something way subtler, a surrender to a long-running thread, a connection I wished to let go of, with no success, like a lover who walked out of your life long ago but remains in your psyche nevertheless; even after you’ve moved on, you know you won’t forget him.

There’s nothing permanent or solid about it, it comes and goes, one of many reminders of how insubstantial and empty we really are.

I overheard Aussie and the Illegal Chihuahua talking the other day.

“Aussie, what’s wrong with the Senora? Most days she is cheery and fine, but sometimes she mutters to herself and stares out the window, won’t even throw Llama Louie for me to catch.”

“She always wants to do something, Enrique.”

“Isn’t that a good thing, Aussie?”

“Not if it makes you miserable. You’d think she’d have learned by now that there’s nothing to do. Life sorts itself out, Illegal. Clouds one day, sunshine the next day. Nobody understands the weather. Just look at the snowstorm we got today.”

“Don’t you tell her that, Aussie?”

“Every day, Illegal. She says I’m a Taoist.”

“What’s that, Aussie?”

“I thought it meant I was a stockbroker, but she said I can’t spell.”

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