Table Manners

The full-page ads by big corporations proclaim peace on earth, when all they really want is another piece of the earth. But what does peace mean, anyway, in a world with so many inequities? Is maintaining the status quo peaceful? Is marching in the street?

Arab proverb: “One hour of justice is worth a hundred of prayer.”

I sinned in the usual ways. Met my deadline. Arranged words like flowers.

Writing is difficult, but so is life. Do I love life anyway? Well, sometimes; sometimes not.

I’m halfway up the Tower of Babel. My reputation is secure, but the elevator’s broken. Everywhere, men who look like me are crying. The words roll down their cheeks.

My grotesque eye, its huge appetite: for social justice, for beautiful women.

Dreamt last night that N. and I were in a motel. It was the sexiest dream I’ve had in months, and it was about my wife. Lucky man.

At the British Museum, do I see the great saga of history or the pillage of history? No one gave the British these statues, these priceless relics. This is what they brought back from the lands they conquered. It’s a thief’s den — only the thief is so powerful we don’t say thief, we say culture.

I say good morning to the homeless man, then feel embarrassed, as if cheerfulness is a luxury.

Never on vacation from this incarnation.

“Did Jesus really get angry?” someone asked the Hindu saint Neem Karoli. As Ram Dass recounts the incident in Miracle of Love, tears came to Neem Karoli’s eyes when he heard the name Jesus. He was sitting up when the question was asked, and he leaned over on his elbow and tapped his heart three times while his tears fell. There was silence for a moment. Then he said, “Christ never got angry. When he was crucified, he felt only love. Christ was never attached to anything. He even gave away his own body.”

Which is worse: to waste food in a hungry world or to waste time? I ignore the precious moment, while Death picks up his napkin, his knife and fork.

Instead of scattering my mother’s ashes, my sister wants to keep them. “Finally,” my sister says, “she gets to live with me.”

Is my mother closer to God now? Closer to my father? Are the dead more loyal to each other than they are to the living?

It’s hard to accept that my mother and I came together in this life to share something difficult; that our conflicts were as necessary as thunder and lightning on a summer afternoon; that our misunderstandings wore us down the way a mighty river wears down a rock wall, eventually creating something of great beauty and depth. Part of me still longs for a storybook mother, and another part of me knows that the bigger, more interesting story is the one we wrote: a story of love and loss, of two souls calling to each other from across the great divide of their seeming separateness.

This wonderful sadness. It asks nothing of me.