April 22, 2012.
Mirror Mirror on Stillness’s wall which Sunday is the truest of them all?
Last Sunday I was swimming in the lakes of nostalgia for certain places and this Sunday the present is all I could ever hope for.
Nostalgia, I hope you like the caricature we have created of you, a doodle of escapism framed in fad.
When I am nostalgic about certain places and times, it is without longing to “go back” unless I am desirous of being imaginative and want to go “back in time” to a period in which I was never born or participated. My nostalgia is more an impromptu tribute to all things for which there are no photos or words.
This Sunday New York City is overcast and my father can’t rejoice enough about the weather. I ask my mother if he keeps saying “this is so glorious” because he knows I wish for the sun, you know to just tease my attachment. He overhears and replies, “No, no, no! Not at all! One must be grateful for rain! It is so divine, even if just from a geological and climatological perspective. A constant reminder of how things are working from rivers to clouds.”
My parents are here for the weekend, resting after their trip in Turkey and before their return home to the village farmhouse in California. Yes, a divine Sunday.
I ask my mother for a synonym for the word divine that is not in the dictionary. Why? she wants to know. Because if I use the word divine it just doesn’t look right. She stares at me like I am still eight and asking for a different colored crayon. Nature, nature is another word for divine, she says confidently.
It is a very natural Sunday. It is unprocessed and ordinary. It is instinctive and intuitive. It would almost leave you to consdier that love was not made or caused by humankind but by some supernatural force.
When I meet people and they ask me why I write on Sunday mornings, despite all the whys I have articulated in all the previous Sundays, all I can offer is, “There is just something about a Sunday morning, no?”
This is usually followed by, “Will this exchange be part of the upcoming Sunday?” I always reply, “I am not a reporter. It all depends on the exchange and how long it takes for me to process serendipity and synchronicity and then there is the task after the processing packaging it all in the right words.” And there is no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to words. And there is no telling what all gathers through stillness. I am as surprised when I am done writing and every Saturday night I don’t think I will be writing anything the following morning.
This Sunday morning I really didn’t want to write anything. I wanted to just talk with my mother instead. She suggested why don’t I transcribe part of our chatting over tea.
Here I offer the exchange:
How did you like visiting Turkey?
I am impressed when in any culture all three generations or more can be found together. We saw this in Spain and Italy as well. This means each generation is learning something from the other. Because when we disconnect people of different ages they all have a tendency to feel lost.
But I just wrote last Sunday that loneliness is not a disease like everyone has made it to be?
Being lost is different than feeling lonely from time to time, and as you well know lonely and alone are not the one and same. What I mean is that when you have so many generations in such close proximity, then one has to learn to be patient, caring, etc. What we have now is adults in nursing homes, children with baby sitters or in day cares, and the middle group believes they are entitled to few responsibilities.
What do you mean?
What I am saying is that we want this illusion of freedom without realizing that freedom is not without responsibilities. So I observed a lot of mutual respect for one another regardless of age when I was in Turkey. I saw people helping one another on many occasions. Here we volunteer time at homeless shelters, soup kitchens, nursing homes, terminal hospices, but we are not willing to take responsibilities for day to day affairs for anybody.
A persistent belief exists that what makes America and other countries following in the footsteps of America so great is that without these extended responsibilities one can achieve so much more when it comes to personal, individual goals. What do you say about that?
But at the end of the night when this high achiever is finally by him or herself he or she feels incomplete. Part of being human is being connected. Truly, genuienly, connected. That requires time and effort. Balance is necessary, of course, and that demands real conversations. And sometimes one conversation is not enough and sometimes the dialogues are challenging.
What if couples or families just can’t communicate? There is no tolerance to even have a real conversation?
People have to invest time. And if there are members who are not willing to do so then that is practice for tolerance. It requires courage and effort to find other resources to make sense of situations that one has very little control over.
Any other observations about Turkey?
I also observed that couples in Turkey seemed to be very bonded with one another. Of course I didn’t get a chance to speak to many because language barrier was a big challenge. That was the difficult part about traveling there. Most of the locals don’t speak English unless you spoke with someone in the tourism industry. But still you can make plenty of accurate observations. I did get a chance to speak to two different couples and they both said the same thing. Once you have decided to be with someone, you have decided. There is no wishful thinking for some ‘other’. I am sure there might be dysfunctional exceptions to this but in my observations I have never come across more content couples. There are no dowry or prenuptial pressures as found in South Africa and Egypt on the men and Pakistan and India for the women. Both sides pitch in depending on their resources. And if the families have the resources they help the couple significantly.
Limit to childbearing is encouraged by the government. I am not sure to what extent, if at all, it is regulated but it is certainly a frequent reminder I was told. Most families do prefer 3 or less children. So basically it is a very mindful decision.
And we found it very humorous that every other man’s response was, “I have to ask my boss,” while we were in the middle of making bookings for anything. Finally your father began inquiring, “Who is your boss? Like a manager? I thought you were the owner?” And the response was always the same, “Oh, my wife. She is a great boss.”
You mean their wives were running or managing the businesses with them?
Oh no, no. Just that in their ‘free time’ while at work, they were occupied having conversations with their significant other.
Any final thoughts?
I was surprised by the amount of smoking. 12 to 80, men and women, chain smoking and coughing their lungs out. And I worry about the young generation, a lot of 14 to 20-year-olds are hooked on Facebook no different than the cigarettes. Here in the United States we are having conversations about what does it mean when we have the instant urge to share and in other parts of the world the social media epidemic is only beginning.
I watch my mother get up and go to the kitchen to help my father fix omelets for brunch. I am moved to tears by their love. For one another. For the world. And for making sure that we know by example that love is an action, it is more than a feeling.
There are moments like today when I don’t know how to offer my gratitude to the Universe or even “pay it forward” for having this much abundance of an ever-evolving love. There were times while growing up, despite plenty of love, my relationship with my parents was quite tumultuous. I don’t know why we assume loving means some perfection. I believe the purpose (one of them anyway) of love is harmony not some state of perfection.
I think about the conversation in the car with my father last night about Oscar Wilde, I think about the conversation with my mother in the afternoon about the purpose of a fight in a relationship: to strengthen loose ends in a relationship, not to assert one’s ego, and I am delirious with joy for the time with them. This doesn’t mean I am not annoyed that my father insists I use the GPS that “speaks aloud to me” while driving and he remains unnecessarily worried about candles in my apartment because of his fear that I may forget to blow them out before stepping out.
I believe majority of the people are good people because of my parents. I know this is not true every day because majority of the time I come across people who are self-absorbed. But I still hope for such people because of my parents. Man is nothing without hope and hope demands we risk failure for our dreams.
Today on Earth Day I remain attached to the hope that if those who care don’t give up in their small efforts to live more authentically—and without attachment to how many people know about them living authentically!—we can still make our blue marble a better home for all of us.
Good People by W.S. Merwin
From the kindness of my parents
I suppose it was that I held
that belief about suffering
imagining that if only
it could come to the attention
of any person with normal
feelings certainly anyone
literate who might have gone
to college they would comprehend
pain when it went on before them
and would do something about it
whenever they saw it happen
in the time of pain the present
they would try to stop the bleeding
for example with their own hands
but it escapes their attention
or there may be reasons for it
the victims under the blankets
the meat counters the maimed children
the animals the animals
staring from the end of the world
Source: Poetry (December 1999)
All Sundays are true.