Saturday, December 22, 2012

How to Have Happy Holidays in Spite of it All

With empty hands, I take hold of the plow
The last couple of days have been hard for me, with a major weather system blowing me away yesterday, as it can fibromyalgics.  Three days ago, Wednesday, I came home from collage to find Tom at the kitchen table looking stressed, with a bloody gauze pad on his forehead.  He had fallen and hit his head on a corner of the hutch.  He may have been saved from being blinded in that eye by the fact that his glasses initially took the blow.  We are so close that I "lose it" when I am frightened for him.  Lose my equanimity and become all a-tremble.

I was already shaken.  My beloved women friends and I had been sharing the general pain of the Sandy Hook shootings here in America - 20 schoolchildren, six teachers, and two mentally ill people all died.  The mentally ill people were Nancy Lantz and her son, Adam.  Nancy owned at least five weapons, including the semi-automatics that can kill a lot of kindergartners in a minute, whether you can aim or not.  But Adam knew how to aim -she'd taken him target shooting.  And he knew where to get his hands on guns.  Nancy was a brand of everyday walking-around paranoia, a survivalist, who'd stocked up on food and water and guns. 

A lot has already been accomplished.  I read this morning that various of the United States, including my own Ohio, have passed funding for the treatment of autism. So many of us have petitioned the White House that President Obama has replied via a video.  People are turning in guns in Connecticut, where they understand now that people with guns kill people.  But the work is far from done.

It is our work as people of good will, Christians, Buddhists, atheists, all citizens, to stay with this work, but not to let it destroy us.  I awoke this morning realizing that I need to bring myself back emotionally from too much empathy and emotion.  It is a very good motivator, but the work of change needs a clear head.  So there's a Zen koan, "With empty hands I take hold of the plow."  I can actually visualize this, hands relaxed on the plow.  (The painting above is one of several van Gogh made of ploughmen.) 

The empty hands mean we work from our understanding of the universal, of all the dynamic and potential of life.  So we need to be refreshed by spiritual practice and by celebration, by love and friendship and our understanding of the constant miracle of birth.
Botticelli, The Birth of Christ (attended by the animals)

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