Enlightenment, or Mistake after Mistake
As always, I’m trying to figure out how to be, in this world. This world! And I thought I’d have more of a handle on it by now. How to proceed? Mistake after mistake…
Wife, daughters, friends.
This is for you.
Mistake after mistake.
In a post from a while back I quote Jane Hirshfield who says that "The Chinese Zen teacher Lin-chi (Rinzai) described enlightenment as becoming a “person of no rank”: the person who knows his true nature, like the ordinary person when in the liminal state of transition, is free of the forms of status. To be of “no rank” is to be equal with everyone, whether beggar or king.”
What library work, that practice, has taught me better than anything is that I’m a person of no rank. That we’re all equal. In one shift, for example, it’s possible to speak with a homeless person, the CEO of a company, and an admired author. Each person has something interesting to offer, each is valuable.
I suppose what has me thinking again about this is that this weekend I’m going to be in Windsor for BookFest. I’m going to be sitting on a panel and workshop with people who are far better known than I am. After reading the bios of my co-panelists, I mentioned to my wise friend, Kimmy Beach, that I was going in feeling small, I was going in as the sidekick. And she replied, “feeling small is fine, makes you more real and human. I’d always rather go in feeling small than thinking I know everything.” This is good and what I needed to hear. I’m going in as someone with no rank.
The Foundation for Greatness
Is always built upon this foundation:
To appear, speak and act
As the most
I come back to the above words by Hafiz fairly frequently, and also these next words by Cixous:
“We who are bits of sun, drops of ocean, atoms of the god, and who so often forget this, or are unaware of it, and so we take ourselves to be employees. We who forget we could also be as luminous, as light, as the swallow that crosses the summit of the incomparable hill Fuji, so intensely radiant.....”
– Hélène Cixous
That we are here at all is a miracle. And maybe we move from error to error, we who are bits of sun, imperfect drops of sunlight, but let’s not mistake ourselves for employees. If I work for anyone or anything, it’s for the light that swings in midday, late autumn, and lands on a bowl of oranges in the middle of my kitchen table. It’s for the sun that illuminates the spider web strung behind the roses that never quite bloomed after the snow fell early and that yet are a miracle unto themselves.
I’m here to be astonished, quietly, and in the service of the beautiful details of an ordinary existence.
“I can’t quite shake the astonishment. I can’t quite believe what my life keeps teaching me, that material existence is a thin veil thrown over a foundation of miracles so numerous and profound we almost invariably overlook them.”
– Martha Beck