Days of 2021 [“At the Height of the Pandemic”]


A man called my wife a cunt today. She was jogging in the park when she pulled down her mask to take a breather. She wasn’t the only one pulling down her mask, but she guesses she was oldest. Her gray hair, she guesses, made her an easy target. I said, “He fears the asymptomatic carrier.” She said, “He can’t bear the thought of a woman rule breaker.” I said, “If I could, I would have a word with him.” She said, “Why can’t you listen to what happened without wanting to punch someone?” “I’m not punching anyone,” I said. It was at the heart of the pandemic.

The Buddha sent his disciples into the forest to meditate for a lengthy period, months maybe, when complaining tree spirits set out to unnerve each neophyte. Why must invisible forces behave like this? Buddha’s response: the design of a ritual, metta, to spread loving kindness. You sit in silence as if for meditation, but instead of focusing on your breath or envisioning a tree in said forest or a moon hanging in its branches, you speak within yourself, audibly to yourself, wishing for yourself good health and prosperity and safe passage. Say the same for your spouse and for those closest to you, mother, father, brother, sister. Say it next for your friends’ sake and next to those you don’t know as well but for whom you have an affinity. Spread it to people less familiar and those less familiar still, and on and on like this, that you may reach even the strangers of far distant rings, those most odious to you and abstract, who remain indifferent not only to yours but also to the well being of the masses. As I write this I am reminded of Father Finley. He speaks of grace as openness to the possibility that you could suddenly fall in love with everyone in the world. I used to think about this on crowded buses. I think about it now, in our time of pandemic, with empty buses passing.