The sun was fierce on the road. I fell in with a group of kids with cognitive disabilities who sat in stoic silence. When the bus finally arrived we were all so happy I started playing with them and got to the front of the line. It was hot! The bus driver had me get back out and wait for the kid in a wheelchair to board first, who thought it was real funny. I apologized to the boy, but he just kept smiling like, “Hey, how’re you doing?” So I waved back and it made me happy.
It wasn’t until I found a seat that I thought of my brother-in-law, who just fallen from a balcony and was now paralyzed from the waist down. He’s a tradesman, an electrician who also drove trucks in Afghanistan, for the money; a bootstrap blue collar hero with nothing to show for it. No property, no place to go… now suicidal.
I saw him last winter, the day my stepfather had found an intriguing roadkill, a young bobcat. It was good to see him. I really liked him, and all men like him who toiled for an honest wage. More than that, he had a wild spirit that was pleasing to witness. In the old days he’d probably be a gunfighter.
It wasn’t long ago that I suffered a badly torn-out knee that had me down for a couple of years. I don’t mean to put myself in the same league as these, or countless others who’ve suffered more, but it was enough of a shock, it put me down low enough that I was able to cut the cord – in the words of Zen Master Seung Sahn, to “put everything down.” It was the breakthrough I’d searched for all of my adult years. Here I agree with Kwang Roshi.
“It may strike us as funny, but there are very few enlightened people, simply because we cannot receive. When you receive something, you have to let go of everything, even yourself, the one who is receiving. Past, present–yes! even the present!–and future, everything must go. Then we have true receiving.”
I grieve for my brother-in-law, who has no framework, no path, no way to utilize the negative forces that will otherwise destroy him. One can only hope for some sort of miracle…
The bobcat had no intimation that his life would soon end. The boy in the wheelchair, he’d never walked, never gone anywhere on his own. My brother-in-law, how does he go on? Sometimes nature looks like this. You have to see it, all of it, this chaotic play of events, before you can come to any conclusions.
“Human life has no meaning.” – Zen Master Seung Sahn