In my dream I’m waiting by the side of the road:
I’m a half-eaten hotdog, flung out the window of a speeding car, lying in the gutter. I hope I won’t be picked up by a homeless person or a hungry child, since I don’t trust the man in the passenger seat who flung me here; and I don’t trust that a worthwhile future awaits me. Moisture is seeping into the bit of bun that encloses me, and I start worrying about agent orange (the Glyphosate in Roundup), washing into the gutter from misaligned sprinkler heads up the street. Strange what we worry about in the guise of stories that keep retelling themselves, day and night.
I imagine being picked up by a racoon, although an over-weight dog is more likely to nab me, as the man walking him checks his phone messages. Not that a racoon would give my life meaning as it grasps me in its claws, claws as sharp as Yama’s, as depicted in the Tibetan Wheel of Life, holding human beings, animals and hungry ghosts in his grip.
I’m noticing that there may be a self-esteem issue going on here. There must be a reason that half-eaten hotdogs are not the protagonists in epic poems or Shakespearean tragedies, but let me ask a question: “Are there moments when the act of waiting serves a useful purpose? Or is waiting a way to ignore what is happening and to justify holding back from engagement?
I realize that I need to edge into a wider perspective. Otherwise, I will simply have fallen into a negative state of mind for no real reason. Oh, there’s plenty to lament: what is happening to people, to the communities in which we live, and to the planet that is home for countless beings. But I am discovering that it is not a good use of my time to wait for things to get better. I sit here wishing I could influence the course of events and the circumstances that precipitate them, while telling myself that I can’t do anything until I acquire skills that would allow me to make things better. And then I wait for those skills to show up, which, in important ways, they never do.
If I was a complete hotdog when I entered this world, by now I’m far more than half eaten. So, I’m glad that I’m actually a human being and that I sometimes act like one. Most of the time, I am grateful that I am able to think and feel, make choices, and actively support the things that I most care about.
For instance, I wish I was more generous. But since—as with all the Paramitas–true Generosity is beyond my capacity to whole-heatedly manifest, I can still try to be generous, even though I secretly hope that others are noticing what a good person I am. I wish that my heart could deeply care about the pain of others but secretly I know that I really don’t think of their suffering very often. And somewhere in the recesses of my mind I know that I’m not really living when I stand on the sidelines waiting to care more deeply. I need to start practicing generosity and patience now, if I am to learn what they feel like. Then a deeper respect for a greater life may find a home in my gestures, just as new life returns to the branches that keep showing up through the long months of winter.