January 1st, 2021
The snow is coming down hard. Wet, fat flakes are covering the street. The wind looks like it’s coming from the southeast, and it is making the snow swirl and twirl as it falls. My car is parked in the driveway, getting whiter by the minute. That’s okay. I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t need to go anywhere.
I am trying to remember 2020, and it is all a blur to me. Too many things happened too quickly. The situations weren’t all bad. Some really good things happened last year. It’s just hard for me to sort it out. How does a pandemic connect with a premature birth with a toxic national election with the grand conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the night sky? Do any of these connect?
I think that they do connect, but I can’t figure out how.
Zen Buddhism emphasizes the interconnectedness of all things. However, Zen doesn’t explain how all this stuff interacts. The Buddhists simply point out the fact that nothing is separate from anything else. Non-Buddhists have said the same sort of thing. John Muir stated:
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
The hardest part about dealing with the past year is that it was so chaotic. Seldom, if ever, was there any kind of logic or meaning to the sequence of events. Every morning was the start of another “what the fuck?” kind of day. Troubles aren’t quite so bad if they make sense. Carl Jung once said,
“Man positively needs general ideas and convictions that will give meaning to his life and enable him to find a place in the universe. He can stand the most incredible hardships when he is convinced that they make sense; he is crushed when, on top of all his misfortunes, he has to admit that he is taking part in a ‘tale told by an idiot’.”
2020 was a “tale told by an idiot”.
Zen promotes the assertion that anybody can be a teacher. Our four-week-old grandson, Asher, is teaching me something. Trump is teaching me something. The dharma teachers in the sangha teach me something. There is no need for a person to have a cool-looking robe and an official title to pass on wisdom. Everybody can do it, and actually everybody does.
When you come right down to it, everything in the universe is a teacher: a star, a snowflake, a border collie. All things teach me if I am only willing to pay attention. There lies the rub.
What did 2020 teach me? Well, it taught me (or tried to teach me) patience. It taught me to be in the moment and roll with the punches. It taught me to give others what they need, regardless of what I might want. 2020 taught me to accept what is right in front of me, and not yearn for things that I can’t have.
As a teacher, 2020 did a pretty good job.
I hope I passed the final exam.