My favorite landscapes, as a kid, were polar opposites. On the one hand, there was the frantic and busy State Street in Chicago. I was a little midget to the grown people and screeching cars. And I loved it. It pumped my adrenaline. It was a collage catering to every sense, from garish colors to cheap perfume. Women wore so much makeup that it almost fell off. And I admired how they could walk with their high heels. Everyone was in a hurry. I was lost in the chaos, and yet I felt completely at home.
Somewhere I had heard about dope, and how if you ever messed with the stuff you'd be addicted for life. One day, walking around on State Street, a man pinched my arm. I was convinced he had given me a shot of heroin, and that I was now a doomed addict. I knew that the shot would wear off, but I also knew that with the shot came the knowledge of where to get my next fix, so far.
In the summers we went to a little beach town in Oregon. There was a vast ocean there, that went on all the way to the horizon. The beach was deep and long, and the sand sung as you walked in it, due to a special crystalline structure. The little town was as different from State Street as a place could be, and yet I loved it just the same. I could hide in each of these spaces, and I didn't have to say anything. I could get lost in the immensity of either space, feeling both a complete stranger, and back to being in the womb.
How lucky to be able to experience man and nature, if there is to be a distinction. In the end, I am a small invisible dot on an infinite landscape—part of the whole—a whole as immense as I am minuscule.
Sunday, March 6, 2016
I saw myself wearing a coat with buttons. Whatever I'd do, the buttons would be pushed. Something would set me off. It was like the buttons were just waiting to be set off. I even looked for Torah verses to set me off. I was like an eagle looking for prey. Why? I could have looked for something else.
I wanted to integrate more with the world, so I decided to make a lot of holes in the coat, like it was Swiss cheese. It worked for a little while, though I was now a contrast of buttons ready to strike and very holy Swiss cheese.
I took the coat off one day and realized that I had no skin. I'd been wearing it for almost 70 years and it had become my skin. So when I took it off, it took off my skin too. Or maybe the coat was my skin, growing as I grew and shrinking as I shrunk.
For awhile, I was so happy without the coat. I had eliminated the distinction between me and the other. So I looked for a place to hang my coat. I tried different closets, but I didn't want to wish my coat on anyone. It had bad vibes.
Finally I realized I could hang it in my childhood closet. No one was living in the house as it was being renovated. And I was a little upset with the people renovating it because they had put an outside door in our dining room right behind where my father sat. I know nothing about feng shui except that you shouldn’t have a straight shot from the front door to the back door. The door was like an arrow in my heart… so now you know what it is like when one of my buttons is pushed.
Then I read the Lakota poem about saying thank you. Ha ha, I thought. i don't have to give up my old and now holy coat with buttons. I can reprogram all the hot buttons to thank you buttons. I'd look around and see what would cause me to feel gratitude--to say thank you.
And when I started reading the Torah today, I came across this passage: “He imbued them with wisdom of the heart, to do all sorts of work, and I thought a great pleasure in having a love for searching for this wisdom of the heart, and for having so many guides along the way.” (Exodus 35:35)
And then I made bread today, and it came out good. So I said thank you to the bread universe, and then it turned out that it was too much for me to wash the baking dishes so I said thank you to my wife because she said she would do it.
So “thank you thank you thank you” as Gomer Pyle would say.
Thank you thank you thank you...
I told my grandson Charlie what my teacher told me 60 years ago... that a work of art is finished when none of the original idea remains. So...