Sunday, November 27, 2005


It's a truly spectacular Sunday here, Bush. The Santa Ana winds have pushed all the pollution back, or out, or wherever it pushes the particles that habitually hang around in our air, and the sky is a deep, clear blue. Reflecting it, the Pacific Ocean is steel blue, calm, serene, and the horizon line is as crisp as I ever saw it. The wind persists, though, lifting the heads of the eucalyptus and the palm trees, and sending the leaves and the dust and the rest of the natural detritus skittering along the ground. Ellie has been out there on the patio, sweeping leaves in a futile gesture to the neatness to which she customarily aspires; and the leaves drop from the trees by their thousands to make a mockery of her work.

This morning, an hour's sit in our "sangha"--our meditation group--and an hour of good, authentic, heartfelt talk to follow, with our fellow-sitters; each one of them speaking of their individual experience in words I could have used to speak about my own. It's a joy to be reminded that we humans are not so much different from each other, when you get down to the deep stuff, Bush. When you manage to bypass the trivia and get down to the important stuff of life. We hear that the teacher who comes to lead us in our practice once a month, and for special days of study in between, is to be honored in Thailand next month for his exemplary meditation practice and his teaching. A Westerner trained in the Thai Forest monk tradition, he is now the abbott of a monastery not too far from here, and he is to receive his recognition--something akin to a British knighthood, as we understand it--from the king. We are all delighted for him, and proud of our association with him. He has brought huge gifts into our lives with his patient answers to our questions and the wisdom of his thought.

All of which leads me to that familiar sense of wonder at the distance between this powerful practice and the peace of mind toward which it leads, and all those other things I choose to dwell on in these pages. It all looks like lunacy, Bush, in the light of the simple clarity and serenity that become available to the quiet mind. The kind of clarity, for example, that arises from asking simply whether my action will help or harm myself or others. The kind of serenity you can experience simply by sitting still and watching the mind perform its antics, or the heart go through its changes, without getting hung up on outcomes.

There's always the temptation to withdraw completely from the insanity of today's overpopulated, revved-up, competitive world, in which the poor, the sick, and the needy are constantly elbowed aside by those greedy for wealth, success, and the illusion of the good life. Sometimes I find myself so angry with you, Bush, and the things you do, that I wonder where the benefit of all those hours of meditation has disappeared to. I find myself unprofitably hooked on bad news, bad policy, the actions of venal politicians, the murderous callousness and evil of which we humans are too readily capable.

And yet... there seems to be something inside that forbids me to step back and ignore it all. Otherwise, perhaps, like our teacher, I'd be in a monastery. A good place to be, and one that I respect--but not, apparently, the place for me. I guess I'll just have to continue sweeping my leaves, even while the winds continue to blow, and more leaves fall.

So much for the Sunday sermon, Bush. See you in the coming week. I hear it said that you're working on a big speech about Iraq. Here's hoping you have some new thoughts to share with us, instead of just trotting the old ones out for yet another airing. We'll see.

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