This morning I was walking with Abandon to the Metro-North train on 125th Street to go for my Wednesday hike in Connecticut with my brother and our dogs. Abandon usually goes to the bathroom somewhere on the way and then she rests on the train to Connecticut at my feet, curled in a ball with an empty bowel.
She will only poop on grass, or a piece of newspaper, or a plastic bag, or even a few shards of broken glass. For whatever reason, she seems to consider pooping on pavement as undignified as sitting one’s bare ass on a urine-soaked Starbuck’s bathroom seat and will withhold her poo until she finds a more suitable dumping site.
I saw a patch of grass on the sidewalk surrounded by an 8″ high metal gate that implies without a sign KEEP YOUR DOG OUT OF HERE and told her, “Jump,” which was code for, “This is a clean and comfy place to do your business.” On my command she jumped over the barrier with the grace of a horse doing Dressage.
A black woman sitting on the edge of the gate facing the street saw Abandon suddenly nearby and sprung to her feet in a rush that wasn’t quite panic but definitely with haste. “I’m scared of dogs,” she said with a slightly embarrassed but warm smile. “I was bitten by a dog when I was younger.”
I paused and looked at her. Suddenly “i” disappeared and through me came a message from the other place. “A man once pushed me, but I’m not afraid of men. A woman once broke my heart, but I’m not afraid of women.” These words flowed from my mouth like a parable, clean and pure without the need of water to wine parlor tricks to give it authority, because “i” was not there monitoring my mouth like a perfectionist; without the FCC to define what is smut or not, everything is pure unadulterated entertainment.
We shared ten seconds of eye contact where I tried to enter the path to her soul to help her start the process of releasing her fear. And then I started on my way. I knew it was her faith that would heal her and a healing miracle would happen when she was ready to embrace it, if ever. The job was done and “i” returned, feeling like Jesus after the Sermon on the Mount when he turned to Peter and said, “Dude, I killed it out there!”
And then came the heckler. He wore a Mexican wool poncho and looked like he was from down under, meaning South America. “She never saw your dog,” he said with an attitude and facial expression that indicated that not only did he think I needed an explanation for her fear but that my parable was somehow flawed. It was as if Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor” and someone stood up in the back and shouted, “FUCK THE POOR!”
“Brother, I’m just helping her to reflect,” I responded as I continued to walk to my destination, he receiving my slight annoyance which was really directed at a world that won’t just let me enjoy a moment of reflection of Heaven on a smooth lake’s surface without having to throw a stone into it and cause ripples that shatter it like glass.
The question of why this woman started walking the path of fear was not my focus–but only if she wanted to continue to walk it. I had thrown my seeds in the air and had hoped one would land on fertile soil in her heart, in contrast to the one that landed on pavement and was trampled by the man in the wool poncho.
Whether she nurtured the seed or not was not my business nor affair, as her path was her own and I would never have the opportunity to see her mustard tree. I was just giving her a flashlight, as sometimes we remain walking a dark path because we have lost our way and don’t have a light to help us back, or a voice to ask for help.
I’m reminded of when I used to slam poetry once a month at an open mic in a black bookstore in Harlem. In the entire eight months that I attended there hadn’t accumulated enough white people to make a basketball team. But almost always being the only white person present never phased me, as I considered poetry undiscerning and myself an ambassador of soul and not skin; until I saw that while poetry might be colorblind, people certainly weren’t.
There was one middle-aged man whose poetry was as simplistic as his lessons. He said, “When you see another black man or woman, look into their eyes and smile.” Having spent a lifetime capturing way too many flies in my open mouth, I couldn’t keep it shut around this fecal teaching and offered an addendum to his lesson plan.
“Why only smile at another black person? There are countless opportunities that present themselves for us to share our eyes and smiles with anyone and everyone, regardless of the color of their skin. Why be so miserly with our hearts?” Needless to say, over the next several months he and I seemed to develop an adversarial relationship, where the lack of support from the bookstore staff and participants finally led me to take my poetry and my curriculum elsewhere.
His lesson to the audience was not entirely useless but it was a second grade teaching and there comes a time to put down the crayons and wooden blocks with the letters of the alphabet stamped on their sides and start teaching adult material. Yes, kids are safe handcuffed to their classroom seats but while holding them back from playing in the playground might prevent them from getting minor cuts and scrapes and the occasional red rubber ball blast to the face, it only makes them fat and lazy. Keeping an adult from the playground of life makes them retarded.
What is a little scary is that often the teachers of these children are standing at the front of the room with a big load of crap in their diaper while they talk about the importance of having a clean ass to people who would already be potty trained if they were only allow the chance to use the big boys’ room. I teach graduate school spirituality, partly because I don’t like the smell of shit whether it comes from a bull or a human and find that much of the teaching falls on adults wearing diapers.
I realized that there was a defect in my teaching, not in the words or in its presentation, but in my heart. For Love is to be given freely and whether it is accepted or rejected is not the issue of the lover. Impatience and frustration are an indication that one’s aperture is not fully open and without this total opening you will never have enough light to capture the perfect form of Love that has been exposed to your lens directly from the heavens but at best only catch a fleeting lake reflection. The former will forever change you and the way you look through your camera. The latter will keep you and your vision the same, as you stare at pictures of your life always with a nagging sense of dissatisfaction.
You give Love because you love and if the little one doesn’t choose to play with the “train set” you have gifted there are no thoughts of, “I shouldn’t have given him that” or “He didn’t deserve such a gift” because, in a way “you” didn’t give the gift but Love Herself did. You give to your lover not just because of his request but because when you do “you” is absent and only Love remains; Love fills you when he is happy because the childish “you” is not there to kick over his blocks.
Everything else is an act based on a desire to live the scriptures that we “should” because we have been told that they are sacred in our church or yoga class–despite feeling completely separate from them. We are told to “Love your enemy,” when in the back of our mind–if not in the front of it–we feel justified in hating him. The other reason we give our congested drippings of love and not the Divine Flow is to get something back in return for our love, which makes us a prostitute and not a lover.
On further reflection, I realized that I do not reside solely in one camp or the other, that when I love I am Love but that the simplest trigger can quickly close my aperture until Love disappears and only “i” remains. When I shared with the woman my lesson, I was a graduate school professor opening a portal to Love inside of me so that my student could see the same blinding light that I did, instead of a cheap scholarly description of photons, and to taste for herself something greater than any classroom lesson.
When I was frustrated with my “brother,” I was back in the 2nd Grade classroom, upset because he had kicked over my blocks. My mistake was thinking they were ever my blocks. If I understood that these were his blocks as much as mine then I could have seen his kicking it over as his current expression of God…which was just as perfect as mine.
“And even really bad [people]…are alive in the same world, they are with God just like you, you see. But they’ve maybe got some things to learn but you can’t teach it to them without loving them. You can’t teach anybody anything without being happy with them. And you can’t be happy with anybody else unless you are happy with them. [You] can’t always wait for them to do something to make you happy, you see. You have got to make people happy.”
-Adi Da Samraj, Remember The Mystery In Which You Live, a talk given October 28, 1978 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxHD6nEFCcc)