Keeping Me Company
“The range of these between moments [emphasis in original] or intervals can be wide. Times of physical pain often take such a form, as can waiting in line for a driver’s license, and in general waiting for someone else to do something–for example, to sign a deal, to grant you a visa, to die [emphasis all mine, CDH], to fall in love with you, or to pass sentence on you.One of the virtues of meditation is that it allows you to tolerate or even enjoy such between moments, to befriend the material your mind throws to the surface when it is not otherwise occupied by chasing something or trying to improve its condition. There is a koan that encouraged me to examine such moments. The koan: ‘Count the stars in the sky.'” John Tarrant, Bring Me the Rhinoceros, p. 84-85
A friend asked me yesterday if I had emailed the physician’s assistant yet regarding what kinds of tests could be performed on Barry that wouldn’t be painful or invasive that might be helpful in treating his pain when he gets pain. I said no and wondered why. I figured it out today: I don’t want to get into hypothetical situations. What if…..? No. I want to email her when the situation is concrete, as in, “Barry is having a hard time swallowing (or is in pain or whatever). Do you have any suggestions of procedures that would be minimally invasive and minimally painful that might help to more specifically address the situation?”
In a few weeks, Barry will have a few doctor appointments and blood work done. Someone may say something that could change the conversation altogether. I am not pushing anything because that would make it all about me.
And so I wait. I never understood the concept of koans, but Bring Me The Rhinoceros has helped me to see the point. Tarrant talks about a koan choosing you. He also talks about them keeping you company. He says, “Koans unravel the world that we have thought up, and it is this unraveling that makes it possible for a different world to appear.”(p. 173) Being overly logical (not to mention cynical as hell), the point of koans always eluded me. Who gives a ____ about the sound of one hand clapping? But the idea of unraveling the pain story or of a question keeping me company in this time of lonesomeness greatly appeals to me. I’ll take what I can get.