I am always on guard in a group of people, but the gesture of an individual can move me to tears. Like in church in the old days, I shouldn’t mind words that much and pay more attention to gestures. Small gestures made unconsciously, without calculation: a father holding a little child’s hand or a grandma blowing kisses into a pram.
But sometimes words can make a difference, too.
I remember the night before one of my dogs was to be euthanized. It was the one dog that I had had since it was a puppy. I could literally read its mind. It was only eight years old and dying of cancer. That night I picked up the Tibetan Book of the Dead from my bookshelf and let it fall open arbitrarily.
I started reading to the dog:
Dazzling Bright Light
Be not fond of the dull, smoke-coloured light from Hell.
That is the path which opens out to receive you because of the power of accumulated evil karma from violent anger.
If you are attracted by it, you will fall into the Hell-Worlds; and, falling therein, you will dig yourself deep into the morass of unbearable misery, from where there is no certain time of getting out.
That is an obstruction on the Path of Liberation, look not at it; and avoid anger.
Be not attracted by it; be not weak.
Believe in the dazzling bright white rays of the Light.
I understood that these words weren’t meant for my dog. My dog was a playful, happy fox terrier who hadn’t known anger. It was a time during which I myself fed the malign wolf way, way more than the loving wolf.
Yes, it’s true: we live in a Universe that is ruled by the Law of Cause and Effect. But sometimes this Universe holds its breath to give way to the Grace of God. We wouldn’t stand a chance if it were otherwise.
In this bleak winter of existential loneliness (not a trace of the Big Painter, even the candles in the alcove of my mind have dimmed) there’s nothing I can do than sit by my window and wait for God to come by in the words and the melody of a song, a spring bird that lands on my windowsill or, yes, the small gesture of a grandpa scratching his head in amazement. Is that all there is to life in this world? It seems so. But it isn’t forbidden to keep dreaming of a Pure Land where God manifestly walks with us every single step of the way.
Whenever I get impatient with the imperfections of my species and myself, I try to remember what my old dad said: “Neither you nor the others have created yourselves. That is an advantage as well as an disadvantage. The clear advantage is that if humans were only slightly able to create themselves, they would have made of themselves unbearable, self-indulgent gods which wouldn’t allow imperfections neither from themselves nor from others. That’s the First Sin.
But we were driven out of the Garden and allowed to become human. We may make errors or may not make errors. We grow by our imperfections, the shadows cast in front of us. The disadvantage is that this growing takes a million reincarnations, over and over and over again, and a hundred thousand wars and famines. But we can’t have it all, you know. We can’t have freedom and perfection at the same time. Thank God there’s forgiveness.”