Contemplating the clear moon
Reflecting a mind empty as the open sky —
Drawn by its beauty,
I lose myself
In the shadow it casts.
~ Dogen ~
There is something about the simple, thought-provoking quotes I find in my little anthology of Zen-influenced quotations that can help calm a day that seems headed toward tumult. If I can just still the ripples in the pond, I feel more confident in my ability to get through a day without cracking wide open. Not a day goes by that I don’t have at least one tearful meltdown as I think of my life with my wife. But starting the day out with at least an effort toward serenity helps. I am more in control than I once was. And I sometimes look toward the future with something other than dread. Of course, I try to focus on now, but practicality insists on looking ahead, followed by a moon shadow.
For reasons I do not fully understand, I (and, I think, most of the U.S. population) have not been especially aware of or interested in China’s space exploration program. I only vaguely remember news about the country’s successful moon landings (unmanned, but still…) in areas on the “dark side” that the U.S. has not explored. And I have paid little attention to the fact that China is planning to land a Mars rover on the red planet sometime within the next several days. The U.S., when we landed the Perseverance rover on Mars that began sending back photos and when we launched a helicopter from Perseverance, touted the accomplishment with great fanfare. The Chinese endeavor has received scant attention in comparison. That difference in celebratory news is understandable to some extent; we celebrate our own accomplishments more vocally and visibly than we celebrate the achievements of countries we have been indoctrinated to believe are our sworn enemies. But I would think such stunning technical successes would be acknowledged more broadly, regardless of who attained them. None of this is to say that news of the Chinese effort is ignored by U.S. media; it is just not announced as visibly as I might have expected.
I realize, of course, that neither the U.S. nor the Chinese space programs are universally supported and endorsed; many believe the investments in the programs would have been better spent on humanitarian efforts to improve the lives of people on Earth. But ignoring the philosophical differences, I am a little surprised at the relative degree of ignorance I think exists among the American population about both the American and the Chinese endeavors. Especially the Chinese efforts taking place now.
In my opinion, one key reason we do not know much about, or think about, the Chinese program is likely to be deliberate propaganda. In this case, though, the propaganda does not necessarily feed information to the public. Instead, in this form of propaganda, governmental discouragement of the release of information may be responsible. And that discouragement may well be disguised; a lack of notice by key officials might be taken by news organizations as a suggestion that the “news” is not really newsworthy. So, we do not hear much about it unless we take steps to keep abreast of world news outside our own rather limited media bubble. For example, I periodically scan the online English-language version of China Daily at chinadaily.com. There, the news about the Mars landing is front and center and lauded by Chinese governmental officials.
I had placed “road trip” on my calendar for next week, hoping to get away for at least a few days. For a variety of reasons, I’ve put that on hold. I may (or may not) try again the first or second week in June. As I contemplate my eventual trip, it occurs to me that the friends (a couple) in Dallas who have offered to let me stay with them are the only people in Dallas I would feel comfortable asking to put me up for a few days. And if I were to go “way” back to Chicago, there’s only one couple I might be willing to ask; and that would be an uncomfortable request, as we were never really close. Fortunately, I think my family will put me up when I eventually visit them, but it strikes me that I have so few non-family connections who I would feel comfortable asking. And that, of course, makes me wonder how I would feel about returning to Hot Springs Village for a visit if I were to move away. How many people would I feel comfortable asking to host me for a few days? The answer to that question, I think, is the gage of where along the spectrum of friendship my relationships with people fall. It’s possible, of course, that there are more people who would be willing to host me in various places, but the issues is my comfort in asking. How close do I feel to them (and how close do others feel to me) in the context of offering or asking for a place to stay? Interestingly, I know from experience that I am willing to host many people who I would not feel comfortable in asking to host me. Odd, that. Maybe I’m just overly-conscious of and concerned about “putting someone out.” Someone mentioned to me recently that she overthinks things. Bingo! I tend to do that.
It’s Saturday, the day I plan to smoke some pork and have neighbors over to share it. These are the same neighbors who so generously have me over for dinner on a pretty frequent basis. It’s about time I reciprocate. I have done it before, but my hosting does not compare to theirs. I bought a 1.5 litre bottle of one of their favorite wines to accompany dinner. I would have planned to prepare a couple of side dishes, as well, but my neighbor said she plans to make some, so I will defer to her. My sister-in-law, who knows my neighbors pretty well, will join us for the gathering. I am much less formal than my neighbors, but I will try to upgrade my formality just a tad so they will feel more comfortable. It’s good to have such genuinely good people as neighbors; people who, I believe, would do anything in their power to help me if I needed it. I’m grateful for them.
Once again, for the past several hours, my dreams mingled with my waking consciousness. In one scene from the dream, my wife was extraordinarily upset with a coworker, to the point that she was crying and screaming at him for interfering with her efforts to get her work done. I was angry with the coworker for upsetting my wife, but felt constrained against confronting him. Then, apparently in the same dream, she and a different coworker invited me to join them for lunch. But when we finally got through a cafeteria line, the three of us sat at different tables; I could not understand why she would not sit with me. And in another scene, the same coworker and my wife and I entered a badly disorganized office, where we intended to fax a lunch order, but the fax machine was tied up with an enormously long incoming fax. The entire episode was filled with interruptions and angry phone calls. We finally left the office and entered an old elevator, the inside of which was covered with graffiti. Between these scenes, and in some cases in the middle of them, I awoke and was aware of the dreams and the fact that my wife is dead, but my consciousness seemed to slip in and out of the dreams. I felt the sheets on the bed, I even uttered a few words aloud (regarding the dream), but I then returned to the dream…while partly awake and aware that I was dreaming. During this lengthy dream-wake state, I spoke aloud several times, telling myself I was dreaming and that I should stop. This started sometime shortly after 2:00 a.m. and continued, off and on, until about 4:45 a.m., when I got up. I was, and remain, exhausted from the dream’s emotional impact. I have to get over that exhaustion, though, so I can do a tolerable job of smoking some meat for dinner.
For those who took the time and made the effort to tell me why you read my blog, thank you. I appreciate the feedback. And I am grateful that you read what I write, in spite of its jangled, tangled nature, which reflects how I think.