Have you ever noticed how the best and the worst are often attracted to the same places? Both the best and worst among us, and in us?
After a few days inside, I drive to the park that runs for four miles along the creek through town. At exactly where I usually take meditation, between two flat stones to lower and raise myself, some wretch has strewn drug paraphernalia.
More than half dozen blue and white capsules, plus opened packets of some kind of prescription cream and a dozen Q-tips have to be picked up before I take my seat. God knows what was ingested there.
I carry a garbage bag and baggies in my daypack to clean up such messes, which I find at various meditation places about once a month. Needless to say, I use a substantial amount of hand sanitizer.
After I take my seat, I am even more dismayed by the sight of a large section of an oak sapling lying in the middle of the stream. I’ve watched the sapling grow over the years. It had started overhanging the creek and begun providing shade.
It takes many years for Valley Oaks to reach maturity. Some man (undoubtedly a man) had stripped the sapling of one of its main branches, and there was a long, fresh gash in the slender branch over my head. How miserable does someone have to be to do such a needlessly destructive thing?
I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some conduit of collective darkness destroy my favorite meditation place, so after cleaning up, I non-judgmentally watched my emotions until the insult and injury were washed away by the rippling waters of the stream.
Friends and I have been grappling with the question: Does the immanent intelligence of the universe, beyond the destructive mind of man, care about the fate and future of humanity?
Today my friend from Italy, Giorgio, and I came to feel that it’s a matter of faith. Not faith that is synonymous with belief systems and organized religion, but faith in the compassion of cosmic intelligence, faith in humanity, and faith in oneself as an individual. Speaking for myself, such faith is not my strong suit, and all three levels are being sorely tested during this pandemic.
Giorgio asked, “Do these domains of faith need to be in sync with each other?” Clearly yes, since that’s the way, perhaps the only way we can move forward during such dark and difficult times.
What does it mean to have faith in cosmic intelligence? It means holding the feeling that the evolution of brains such as ours, which have tremendous spiritual capacity, matters to the cosmic mind that imbues the universe. That is a completely different attitude than the old Christian idea that puts man at the center of the universe.
What does it mean to have faith in humanity? It means totally dispensing with the flipside idea that man is a plague on the earth, and that the planet would be better off if we became extinct. (“I love nature but I hate humanity,” a woman in town irrationally said to me recently.)
What does it mean to have faith in oneself as an individual? It means realizing that our personal lives are secondary, since each one of us is humanity in microcosm, and therefore have to take responsibility for humanity in macrocosm.
The misery of the man taking drugs to escape his suffering, and then ripping a branch off a beautiful oak sapling in his self-hatred, has been in me as well. Seeing its remnants in oneself, one feels compassion for everyone who suffers. That heals one and others.
True compassion is urgently needed in abundance, for it is the only thing that can heal humanity, and change our disastrous course.