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Lions Roar : January 2017
HOT OFF THE PRESS sailing. Won’t Dave be surprised?” A passing breeze wraps my shoulders, hug- like, as it moves along. Suddenly I catch myself and take a breath. I realize I’m not welcoming the impermanence of the voyage but clinging (once again) to my prefer- ences. I do in this moment like life here better than land. But I ought to be looking past my fleeting conceptualizations about both the sea and society. After all, my natu- ral habitat is land; my community is people. I breathe again and try to let my emotions and judg- ments about returning rise, exist, and disappear. Closer now to St. Thomas, I can see the lights on shore illuminate roads and buildings. An insight begins to percolate: the lights themselves are evidence of love—people laboring to offer kindness to one another. Society is imperfect but beautiful. We teach our children, care for our sick and elderly, protect the environ- ment, feed those who are hungry, create peace in the hearts of those who are troubled, and work for justice. There is formlessness in society. Yes, many people cling to their mispercep- tions and behave badly, but these actions are impermanent and there’s no need for them to ultimately define our species. Humankind is extraordinary and has given earth the gifts of literature, medicine, dance, science, and educa- tion. We make each other laugh for the joy of laughing. We create beautiful architecture and plant trees for future generations. As a species, we are both wearisome and inspiring, and the complexity makes the essence of our kind ultimately fluid, unknowable, and beyond description—like earth her- self. Society is not society, therefore it is society. Feeling this truth echo from my base- ball cap to my stocking feet, it dawns on me that society can turn on a dime. We are capable of greatness, and anything is possible because of the nature of imper- manence. I breathe for several minutes. Wild Hair hums evenly through gentle waves. There’s no difference between people and nature. We are born of earth; we are the stuff of earth; and we will return to earth. Humankind is impermanent. But somehow this realization isn’t sad or morbid. There is joy in the know- ing. We’re precious and fleeting—like the sweet smell of a baby’s breath, like fresh-cut flowers on a wedding day. And when we’re gone, something else miraculous (and equally fleeting) will take our place in a great continuum of arising and ceasing. JOHNBARNETT ➢ the village zendo year-end retreat with Roshi Enkyo O’Hara Garrison Institute, New York half retreat: December 26th – 29th, 2016 full retreat: December 26th, 2016– January 1st, 2017 A spacious and quiet Zen retreat with meditation, daily dharma talks, interview with Village Zendo teachers, and time to rest and walk along the Hudson River. For more information, please visit www.villagezendo.org LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2017 74