A Very Narrow Focus

February 24th, 2021

Our world has contracted. Over the course of the last year, the scope of our existence has, for the most part, shrunk down to the size of our house. My wife and I used to travel a lot. We used to be active members of our community. Now Karin and I almost always stay at home.

This change in our lifestyle, as is the case with most other people, is primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are no longer many places for us to go, and we are not necessarily interested in visiting the places that are open. For instance, I used to meet friends and pray at the synagogue. The synagogue has been closed for nearly a year. I used to go to meditation practice at the Zen Center. The Zen Center doesn’t even exist any more. Karin used to join with her knitting group at a local McDonald’s every Thursday morning. Now they meet on Zoom. About the only thing that Karin and I still do regularly is go to Mass at our church. Even that has become much less of a communal experience. Things have become increasingly impersonal.

During the last few months, a few friends have cooked us meals and brought them to our home. These visits have almost always been “dump and run” operations. There has been very opportunity for idle chatter. We sometimes did not even know that a delivery had been made until we heard our dogs bark, and then discerned the squeal of tires in the driveway as our benefactor fled the scene.

The weather this month has made it difficult for us for us to do any outside activities (except for snow shoveling). Frequent snowstorms and single digit temperatures have made me reluctant to go on the long walks that I was accustomed to make. Even the dogs have not shown much interest in exploring the world beyond our front door. Except for running small errands, we have stayed indoors.

This month also began with a radical change in our routine. Karin and I suddenly became the sole caregivers for a two-month-old boy named Asher. We had forgotten just how time consuming it can be to provide for an infant. It did not take us long to remember how it all works.

Asher is low maintenance, as far as babies go. That does not mean that he can care for himself. On the contrary, he requires our constant help and vigilance. The fact is that, at this very moment, as I write these words, Asher is trying to get my attention. He is making curious grunting/growling noises, reminiscent of the sounds the girl made in “The Exorcist”. I will no doubt see to his needs, which probably have something to do with getting him a new diaper.

Let me make this clear: Right now, Asher is everything.

Our focus on Asher has taken an laser-like intensity. Karin and I have other interests. We have other people we want to help. All of those activities and people will have to wait. There is only one person in our world, and he weighs about eleven pounds.

It’s okay.

It all becomes worthwhile when I carry Asher in my arms. I look at his round, cherubic face. I see the trace of a beatific smile there, like that of the Buddha. Asher is pure love. He is pure joy. He is new life.

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