Sunday, August 26, 2007

Letter to a Friend

I've been ill the last several weeks, and in the hospital for eight days of it. It will be some time before I've fully recovered. While I was hospitalized, I got a phone call from a friend I have only known through the internet. I had seen pictures of him, but this was the first time I'd ever heard his voice. As soon as I got home, I wrote the following letter to him.

Letter to a friend:

I am back home again, and what a joy it is! I can eat better, with the good food Steve has made for me today. I am still very weak, but things are looking up. I think getting out of that place was the best thing for my health. Yes, I needed them, but now it is time to heal.

I wish I knew how to express to you that my illness is not what defines me, that I don't feel sorry for myself, or like a victim of bad luck (although my neurologist's associate, who was covering for him, said that if I didn't have bad luck, I'd have no luck at all- shows what he knows!!) I've already given you a list of things I have to be thankful for, so I won't do that again. I got a lot closer to God while I was there, and nothing is better than that, even if it didn't feel good while it was happening. So don't feel too sorry for me.

It was great hearing your voice. A voice, like eyes, tells a lot about a person. Yours sounded very kind, and caring, but sad. I wish I knew what to say to give you some happiness, and a realization that when bad things happen that are unavoidable, like illness, There is no point in feeling like a victim. These things are just a part of life, and through them, it we allow it, we grow in wisdom and endurance. Its when we fight them, that we become miserable. That's an idea in both Christianity and Buddhism. The book of Jonah is a good example. Its when we try to run from the inevitable, that we become miserable. There is no escape from sickness and death, and the sooner we learn that and accept each moment for what it is that there is peace inside. In Buddhism, it is the central idea- the cause of real suffering is wanting things to be different than they are. Or as it is usually translated, craving. I wrote about this in another letter, but in a different way. If instead of accepting and giving everything to God, I fight-- in bargaining, in denial, in anger or frustration, all I do is make myself and everyone around me miserable. I'm not perfect at that, but I try pretty hard with God's help. You heard some serious frustration in that telephone call. So now you you know I'm human, but working hard to extinguish the desire for things to be other than they are.

I just had a thought- maybe that was what Jesus was talking about when he said to think about the lilies of the field-they don't worry about what they can't change. Either the rain falls or it doesn't. But while they live, they are beautiful indeed. I can try, with God's help, to be more like that. Every day, as long as I live, is a chance to grow more beautiful inside no matter what happens outside, like the unfolding of a lily. With little rain, they may wilt for a while, or even die. Those that die held their beauty in secret. But when a dry lily is watered, it revives, and once open, they last a long time, and bring us joy with the sweetness of their scent and the beauty of the flower.

There's your homily for the day- sorry. It just seemed to want to come out. I hope it means something to you. And not that its one thing for me to think like this because it is me, but that its a way we all can choose to think.

I have been praying for happiness for you. You were made for it. You are a good man, despite all you have said, and all it takes is noticing that the holy is all around you and in you all the time. That is where true joy lies, not in our trip to India, or in health, or in riches, or security. It is right in your room with you now.

I love you dearly. I've missed you very much. I love your wry humor, and you're not so dumb as you seem to think. I don't know where you got that idea, unless you have a family like mine with mega brains all around- comparing yourself to people that are almost another species. I grew up thinking I wasn't an intellectual because I couldn't follow the conversation of world famous poets and writers in our house. That didn't make me dumb, it just meant I wasn't among the super geniuses I was comparing myself to. It sounds to me like you came from a family of the not so dumb yourself. Not hearing doesn't help. Give all that up, and just be who you are, my wonderful friend in the East. The one who makes me laugh out loud, and reads fun and interesting books, and builds trains. Who even made me my very own green!!! coffee shop. You are a treasure I can't believe turned up on the internet. I'm toasting you with a cup of Uprising, which you accurately said was the best. To ya!

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