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Lions Roar : July 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 77 3 The love of simple things—a wall, a chair. My ordinary thoughts can often have a cer- tain amount of refusal in them—I don’t like that chair, it doesn’t look comfortable. That refusal dis- appeared. The chair, the wall, the eyes of the super- market cashier are all monuments in a vast field. WHEN I WAS FIRST DIAGNOSED I noticed that I was attracted to archways, and found tunnels with their promise of an endless jour- ney, moving from twilight into deepest night, intensely appealing. Without thinking that there might be a connection, I bought a watch, bought time. I bought new luggage—for set- ting out. A winter coat and blankets—to keep me warm. Again without thinking about it, I found myself drinking pomegranate juice, the food of the underworld. Faced with any task, I thought, “Oh I can do this because I have can- cer.” Clean up the dogshit, spend hours help- ing my daughter with a project. Time is what I have an infinite amount of, since I don’t know when it will end. I can waste time, enjoy a raindrop soaking into the ground. 4 My own reactions have sunk further into a kind of stillness or darkness, as if a wind is blowing out of the depths. I was driving along looking for a vacuum cleaner store. I noticed a guy tailgating me and then stopped noticing him. I slowed, found the store, turned, and parked. Then a man drove up towards me in a Subaru. He and his dog were both looking at me. I turned the ignition back on and wound down the window. He yelled at me for driving like an old lady and some other stranger beings. He had driven round the block to do this. I didn’t go through the operation I sometimes do of explaining him to myself. I felt happy, and simple, as if honey had been poured over me. “Thank you,” I said, smiling radiantly. “Thank you.” He paused. He rolled up his window and drove away. MEANWHILE THE KOAN KEPT ME COMPANY, when I woke in the middle of the night, when I went to bed, when I taught retreats. “Master!” “Yes!” “Are you awake?” “Yes! Yes!” The koan feels autonomous—that it has a development beyond my thoughts about it. It gives me a sense that the timing of events is probably perfect, that everyone has conspired to make the tim- ing perfect. I can rest in uncertainty, held up by large forces mov- ing in the dark. “Don’t be fooled by others.” The others are me. I had a dream that went in this direction too. In the dream, I’m in the center of five or so very tall beings. They have wavy, thin bodies, and are about sixty feet high: they are spirit beings called Mimis, which are seen on rock paintings in northern Aus- tralia. The Mimis are interested in me and I keep seeing through the eyes of one of them. I see myself, the man below, dancing and moving about in connection with them. Because of this his movements don’t make sense in the day world. The Mimis might be able to heal. One stretches a long finger down toward me. They live in another realm that intersects with ours and mostly their purposes are not to do with ours, but sometimes they inter- sect and the Mimis are interested. That’s what’s happened here. Aboriginal people of western Arnhem Land say that their an- cient Mimi rock pictures were painted not by humans but by the Mimis themselves. The drawings, usually in red ochre, show elegant, graceful, extremely tall and slender human figures in action—run- ning, dancing, leaping, making love, hunting, fighting—the human things. Mimis live in the nooks and crannies of the rocky landscape, coming out at night. They are so thin and frail that they can come out from their hiding places only when there is no wind; otherwise they might be blown away. The Mimis are the Dreaming ancestors who taught people to paint, hunt, dance, and compose songs. It seemed good to have them interested in my case. 5 Cancer can be funny, like anything else. This is better than the alternative. A FRIEND, HERSELF A SURGEON, offered to come into the operating theater. “How is it watching someone you know get cut open?” I asked. Her eyes grew wide in appreciation the way they do when she A Casa (At Home), by Manuel Amorim, 1999, 59 x 59 inches. COURTESYZANEBENNETTCONTEMPORARYART