When East becomes West and West becomes East   Leave a comment

When East is Not Always East and West is Not Always West

I think I made a mistake, a big mistake. An immature mistake that many warned me about.  I put away the memoir I had spent nearly three years writing, thinking, “That is an old story.  It is stale.  It is finished.  I will devote myself to writing the fresh story of the present me, the disabled me, so different from the me who was always careening about, having Important Adventures (rather like Rabbit, in Winnie the Pooh).”

I began this blog as a record of lemonade-production, since life appeared to have given me an unending supply of lemons.  I was making a lot of Self-Reflection lemonade.

But all of a sudden, what should appear on my doorstep but a grievous injustice!  I didn’t have to go anywhere looking for trouble; trouble, in the form of a Grievous Injustice came to me.

I am galvanized, the feelings of outrage like rocket thrusters beneath me.  I cannot keep quiet. I call a meeting of my nearest neighbors since I can’t attend meetings called by anyone else. Suddenly, I am five years old again, and my mother is banging on the radiators to summon neighbors to a meeting in the hallway outside our apartment.  This is winter in New York and there is no heat.  The neighbors yell in anger. Word comes that the landlord (“He should burn in hell!”) has showed up in his limo to bribe the super.  The meeting disperses so that neighbors with windows on the street can throw vegetables on the idiot in his homburg, while my mother gives me the phone to talk to the City Health Department. Trembling, I attempt to tell the lady on the phone what my mother is shouting at me in Yiddish.

So I don’t know if anger at injustice is inherent in our species, if it comes out of ideas about “rights”, or if it’s just how I was brought up.  In any case, it’s clear that disabled or not, I’m not done with it.  Looking back, I see that switching between accepting things as they are (or trying to) and fighting like hell to make them turn out the way I think they should be has been a dialectic (to use a fancy word) throughout my whole life.  The first, most important thing I did in my life was discover the East, that is the East of classical China and Japan.  I studied, I went, I practiced.  Zen, tea ceremony, flower arrangement.  Beautiful, wonderful activities.  But before very long, I was in rebellion:
“What are you doing on this mat uttering high-minded phrases in Chinese about ‘saving all beings’ when there is suffering out there you might actually do something about?”

I leave and I come back and I leave, etc., as if action and meditation were in conflict.  It’s thirty years since but I have a vivid visual memory of actually seeing, from a railway platform between London and West Sussex, the braiding of the tracks:  The train headed west switched and headed east, while the eastward bound train switched and headed west. Since I’ve done this so often myself and, looking around, see that we, collectively, seem to be doing this in countless different ways, I’ll venture to say it is a natural thing to do, a fine thing to do, following the Tao, in fact.  And that my life story, far from going out of fashion, is completely with it, and here I am, dusting it off.

Posted March 2, 2011 by judybloomgardener in Uncategorized

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