Despite the high rhetoric of world-redeemers, saving the world is a one-person-at-a-time deal. And I remember a Zen poem: "Whenever the burden of saving all sentient beings becomes too great, I vow with all beings the breath in the grace of the morning star, and remember that they are saving me."
I was saved by two night clerks a a hotel in Jersey City. I had just returned from Japan and just had my girlfriend break up with me, was wondering if it had been worth it to come back, if there was anything on this continent worth staying for. That Saturday I went up to NYC for the annual black belt clinic; called around to find a hotel room, found one at place I'd stayed before, the Radison near the Journal Square PATH train stop. Caught the train after the welcome party, walked over to the hotel.
Two young ladies behind the counter, black girls, kind of rolly-polly (of course, for the first week or two after I got back from Japan, everybody in this country looked rolly-polly). And they were beautiful Americans, cheerfully giving directions to one guy on how to find a good local bar, joking with me about my name and "Swiss as in cheese or as in bank accounts?" In just a few minutes they redeemed America for me, made it worth coming back.
Developing a bit off of Sunday's exercise:
brutal machines tear through the green
but need it always be this way?
why not machines of loving grace?
(what's green and brown and red and goes a hundred miles and hour? a forest in a blender)
I envision sword and plow
guardian-gardeners of steel
to rebuild and protect the wild places
("oh eve, go tell adam, we got to build a new garden", pete seeger sings)
not just a garden but a forest
ecosystem's weaving tantra
trees and vines and birds and animals
web of life in all its messy glory
(the path where I go running goes through woods, not a garden; fallen trees, muddy holes, a rocky stream, nothing orderly)
I want to freely roam through forests
I want to walk in sacred mountains
(maybe we always think forest and mountain together because those were the hard ones to cut down, the only ones left now?)
the woods behind my grandfather's house -
are they still there?
so many trees cut down since I was a boy.
(I remember flying back into Baltimore
sitting next to a woman from Las Vegas
who bought me a drink and told me how green the East Coast was; I guess it's somewhat relative)
are we wise enough or are we
too clever yet not smart enough?
(Arthur Clarke reminds me that it has yet to be proven that intelligence has any long-term survival value for a species)
when plants first learned of photosynthesis
they could not know that it would change
the very air of which they breathed
and lead to evolution of
animals to feast upon them
(is there a lesson about climate change here for us?)
and so I hope for fast wisdom
an understanding that we all are one
with tree and sea and sky and land
and to poison them is to kill ourselves
(I am sentimental about humans and wish them well)