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Lions Roar : March 2013
the mind and the memory. There are many moments when my son delivers me directly back into my childhood, as the older sister of a wild, handsome boy. I, TOO, AM LIKE MY BROTHER, or he is like me. We have similarly passionate natures, which we love and with which we struggle. I am all the things that the holy texts of various faiths warn against being: selfish, quick to anger, lustful, slothful. It is amazing that I get anything done because I just want to post Facebook notices, read good books, and have two or three lovers to suit my various cultural leanings and musical tastes. It sounds like a joke, but I’m perfectly serious. Despite years of Christian and Buddhist study, I am never fully convinced that lust and laziness are really all that bad. Or at least all that bad for me. Other people, of course, should work hard and be good. My husband and I often discuss this very subject, how I secretly believe I am exempt from the human race and its wiser conven- tions. Unsurprisingly, my husband sometimes confuses my name with Timo’s. This makes us all laugh. Having a child has made me grow up, mostly, though I’ve always had good reason to never fully surrender to my appetites. To do so would be to join the other addicts in my family. Born into a tribe marked for chemical slavery, I have steered clear of certain poisons: alcohol, crack, heroin, more alcohol. To grow up with one parent and sev- eral siblings trapped in active addictions was to look directly into the face of murderous appetite and recognize that my hunger, unchecked, would eat me alive. Or maybe it wasn’t early wisdom that preserved me. I may have just been lucky, lacking a particular genetic predisposition or raised in more peaceful years than my siblings. It’s impossible to know. MY BROTHER AND I SHARE more than powerful appetites. Our appreciation for the absurd regularly saves us from ourselves. I have been luckier in being saved. David has often fought for his life: both to survive, literally, and to make his survival more than that, a true life. And, sometimes, he has succeeded. He is a journeyman carpenter, a gifted sculptor. He is one of the most charming, funny men I know. And other times, the dark side of his struggle has landed him in prison for long periods of time. Though I’m the one who studied Buddhism for years, often while living in a Buddhist country, my brother is the more skilled and patient meditator. Prison is an excellent place to practice. At roughly the same time we came to Vipassana meditation. Both of us already knew too much about dukkha—pain, stress, anxi- ety. This led us to appreciate the four noble truths, especially the first two, in which we have positively excelled: 1. Life is dukkha. 2. Through craving and desire, dukkha arises. It has proven more difficult to get a handle on the third and fourth noble truths: 3) The way to end dukkha is to relinquish one’s craving and desire (from the sea-monster deep of my ego: Oh, f--- off! Are you serious?) and 4) The way to alleviate dukkha is to follow the noble eightfold path (Do we always have to try to do the right thing? Every single day?!). Many years later, my brother and I are still at it, on opposite sides of the country, breathing in, breath- ing out, breathing in. And laughing. To live well in the world as it is, we have both culti- vated an ability to find humor in what would otherwise be heart- breaking and crazy- making. And we like the ground. Literally. We find joy and sol- ace in the dirt, in things that live in the dirt, among dried leaves and twigs. Trees and plants and flowers. Creatures of various sorts. My son shares these predilections. He is a lithe boy, quick on his legs, alive to earth and wind and smells in the air, a lover, like his mother, of spiders, pill bugs, centipedes, lizards, frogs. Sometimes, standing in the garden, he will lift his head and announce, “It’s going to rain.” Often he is right. He reminds me, as I’ve said, of my brother. But he also reminds me of a little wolf. ONE EVENING, AS THE BOY IS getting ready for bed— here’s the clean underwear, one leg at a time in the pajama pants, where is the story he wants to hear again?—he turns to me with that avid, wide-open expression. He will now ask a large or a small question involving, on the one hand, the uni- verse, or physics; on the other, ants, or the location of his first baby tooth (we lost it somehow, and not to the tooth fairy). It is strange to know someone so well that I can read his face this way before he speaks. This knowledge is a form and an act of love. There is also some dread in it. For there once was a time SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 72