Very hot weather—kept at bay by air conditioners and ample supplies of clean water— illustrates good fortune as well as anything else. The ability to elude temperatures climbing toward and above the century mark emphasizes why gratitude for the “little things” is so appropriate. Other niceties, like leather sofas and expensive kitchen gadgetry and marble flooring and money for travel and a thousand other unnecessary luxuries, pale in comparison to the basic components of good fortune: food, water, safety, and adequate comfort. Protections from hostile environments, whatever forms they take, are more than niceties; instead, they can define the difference between life and death. I do not want verification by experience that spending a night and a day on the streets, without food or water or shelter, is the antithesis of good fortune; I just know it. And I need to spend some time appreciating it with a rarely-felt intensity. All of us who live in unacknowledged luxury would do well to contemplate and express gratitude for our good fortune. It would not hurt to share some of it, as well.
Taking oneself or one’s philosophies too seriously can result in unplanned and unwelcome solitude. I can imagine that nothing would be more boring than spending a week listening to Karl Marx drone on about the merits of communism and the fatal flaws of capitalism. I would want to hear about his childhood, how he prefers cooking his eggs, his views on misogyny, and his favorite jokes. Yet, based on what I know of him, I suspect he might be unwilling to deviate from those topics so near and dear to his heart. And I doubt he would express any interest in me: my childhood, my egg preference, my attitudes about sexism or racism, or things that tickle my funny bone. I would find offensive and dull his well-intentioned exhortations, directed at me, to abandon “capitalistic” behaviors in favor of actions dedicated exclusively to the “collective.” One need not be so intensely single-minded as Marx to be annoying. But the closer one gets to being a one-issue thinker and talker, the closer one gets to self-made isolation. In years past, though, I have been accused of being sort of like that: somewhat two-dimensional, with my rather aggressive dismissal of team sports. I still have almost no interest in team sports, but at least now I acknowledge the legitimacy of others’ interest in them (though, for the life of me, I cannot understand just why team sports are such a draw to so many). Until not many years ago, though, I made it my mission to express a high level of disdain for team sports whenever the topic arose. Today, I try to restrain myself; to be at least tolerant of pastimes I find dull and uninteresting (unless sports is the only topic of conversation, in which case I remove myself from the discussion). Yet my interests can be singular and restrictive, too. Foods and flavors, for example, are among my passions. I am sure my posts about food and my tendency to elevate discussions of food to the level of worship can be boring. Yet like my dismissal of team sports and my tendency to remove myself from conversations about them when I find them boring, others can do the same when my actions are too food-focused to suit them. I could probably go on and on about taking oneself and/or one’s interests too seriously; but that would defeat the purpose of this paragraph, if there is one.
As I peer out my windows this morning, I notice that the light of the sun is full, but the illumination is not so bright as to require me to shield my eyes. Sometimes, morning sunlight is far brighter than it is today. Exploring this matter, I go close to the window and look up at the sky. It is blue, but with a very pale haze blocking some of the sun’s rays. And banks of soft, translucent white clouds appear in bands against the blue sky. The thin veil of haze is enough to dull the brightness, but not enough to really dim the light. For some reason, this level of illumination draws my attention to the whimsical statue of a frog, sitting in a Padmasana (Lotus) position. in which each of the bulging-eyed-frog’s feet is placed on the opposite thigh. The whimsical nature of the Buddha-Frog is amplified by the fact that it is sitting only a few feet from the figure of a goose that was carved from what I believe is the stump and roots of an Indonesian tree. I am incapable of sitting in a Padmasana position. I would have to restructure the bones in my hips and legs; and my tendons would have to be stretched, through months of exercise. In a process I call exercism. As opposed to exorcism.
In an ideal world, you would come to my house just as the night’s darkness begins to fade into the dim morning light. We would gather—many of us would—near a window and we would look outside, soaking in the changes taking place outdoors. We would call one another’s attention to the changes and would ask one another to describe them and to offer observations about what they might mean. Do they mean anything? Can transformations in light levels have meaning? Should we assign meaning to them?
I would provide coffee for everyone. Or tea, if that were the preference. Or water. I might offer oranges; domestic at the right time of year, imported at other times. Flavors and aromas can enhance experiences. Memories of fragrances can recall experiences from another time; visual scenes, completed by recollections of sounds, arise in one’s head. We would recount those memories, if we had them. There would be no pressure to recall, but if the scenes were there and you chose to share it, we would listen and watch it unfold with you.
The morning continues to unfold. It is now just after 7. I’ve been up for more than two hours. Darkness was beginning to slip away when I got out of bed; it was almost gone just a short time later. The rapidity of dawn makes me think I may need to set an alarm so I can experience more time watching through the windows, staring at the darkness. But, for now, I will stop and think about it all. Everything. I will renew my coffee and cut up some cantaloupe and wander into the day.