Friday, February 18, 2011

Real Prosperity

It's an odd day. Bright sun. High winds. Huge gusts of air that send treetops into an exhuberant dance and cause branches to tumble to the ground. It's unsettling. The strongest gusts sound amazingly frightening and I wonder: Could a huge branch--or entire tree--land on the house, the deck, the goose barn, or a car? Not helpful or productive thoughts, I know.

Four grey squirrels ate sunflower seeds beneath the bird feeder this morning. Meanwhile their tails flew out behind them. Tails were spread (by the wind?) into a scene reminiscent of the cat when she plays hunter or is on high alarm, her tail expands to twice its normal size and sticks out in every direction. I've never seen squirrels' tails look that way before.

I practiced T'ai Chi Chih in mid-afternoon within the sunny warmth of the porch. Whew. Even from inside a sheltered area I could sense that, had I chosen to practice outside, the Chi would have been blown right out of me. It was comforting to know that I was safe, warm, and comfortable.

The older I grow and the more I explore Taoism and texts like Buddha's Brain I realize how much time I spend needlessly worrying. If a car gets hit by a fallen tree (as it did last fall), we deal with it. If an animal is injured or killed or if that same fate happens to me, life goes on. Does that seem fatalistic?

I think not. I just reread a story from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones that, in its own way, addresses this dilemma:
     A rich man asked Sengai to write something for the continued prosperity of his family so that it might be treasured from generation to generation.
     Sengai obtained a large sheet of paper and wrote: 'Father dies, son dies, grandson dies.'
     The rich man became angry, 'I asked you to write something for the happiness of my family! Why do you make such a joke as this?'
     'No joke intended,' explained Sengai. 'If before you yourself die your son should die, this would grieve you greatly. If your grandson should pass away before your son, both of you would be broken-hearted. If your family, generation after generation, passes away in the order I have named, it will be the natural course of life. I call this real prosperity.'
               'Real Prosperity,' No. 78

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