Vaguely along these lines, this morning I picked up a book by Ram Dass and Paul Gorman from this heap I could call my "library," titled How Can I Help? This is the kind of book that is on paper with a cover, so it seems like a memento of times passed. I opened it to a story I enjoyed, not for the first time, but then, a story is new every time you read it.
One day a rabbi, in a frenzy of religious passion, fell to his knees before the ark and started beating his breast, crying, "I'm nobody! I'm nobody!"Don't you love it? Competition even in being the very least. Ram Dass refers to this as "the problem of always having to be 'somebody.'" There is a Zen koan that touches on this:
The cantor of the synagogue was impressed by this spiritual humility, and joined the rabbi on his knees. "I'm nobody! I'm nobody."
The shamus (custodian), had stopped cleaning the floor in the far corner to watch this. Now he felt drawn in by this shared spirituality and joined the other men, falling to his knees and calling out, "I'm nobody! I'm nobody!"
At this, the rabbi nudged the cantor and indicated the shamus with a gesture: "Look who thinks he's nobody!"
With empty hands I take hold of the plow.I take this to mean we try to step away from our ideas of who we are and who the other is, and realize our oneness. And let go of our desire for our actions to have a certain outcome, and just do our work. I think that for those of us who are aging or ill and can't "work" or even do much, emptying can just be a matter of remaining open to possibilities. When I meditate, I like to note that I am sitting in a space, that I am a space, in which anything can happen. I don't think a day goes by when I can't give a little comfort - maybe only to the birds at the feeder - or a smile. Just connecting.
[The title of this post is from a poem by Emily Dickinson that you can find here.]