Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Left of zero?

I was watching a movie the other night and a character said the Catholic grace before meals. It struck me as interesting that I still recall all the words of this little ditty. We spoke the prayer often enough to be deeply committed to memory. Then, I was reminded how Catholic I still must be.

Being a Catholic meant little to me until I became an Altar Boy, in the fourth grade, I think. The Mass was in Latin in those days and many a young boy, like myself, had memorized almost all of it. The attraction was simple. We were part of the action. We had close up positions when the priest said the magic words which turned the cardboard-tasking communion wafer into the Hairy Thunderer Himself. I was there for the miracle and with my friends we spoke part of the Latin mojo that made it so. To top it all, we got to wear liturgical costumes which served to further separate us from the unwashed mob in the wooden pews. It was cool. Eventually, I graduated from the 8th grade and because I had to change schools, I could no longer be an altar boy.

This may seem a small obstacle, but it was a BFD for me and I felt a part of my life change and just pass me by. I expected getting older to have some perks, but this was the first time I felt that getting older cost me something.

Obviously it is a loss I still recall.

Then, another memory came to me.

My best friend was David and we spent a lot of time trying to be tough, cussing, smoking cigarettes and laughing. Pig Latin was mastered so we could cuss to each other in a form of code. We spent many days deep in the woods down by the river where we mastered the arts of the young male experience…and we laughed more. The air was thick, humid and smelled like the color green. We watched, with awe, the thunderstorms roll inland from the Gulf and we experienced the change in the electrical ions. My first buzz. This was the real deal. The woods were beyond magic. You could smell it, you could taste it and damned…you could even pee on it. It was completely ours. Since David lived down the street we spent a lot of time together. After graduating from high school, we went in other directions and rarely saw each other. About a year later, I was leaving my parents house and had a girlfriend in my car when David drove up. Both our cars were stopped in the street and David had his soon-to-be wife in the car with him. I cannot recall our conversation but I expect the talk was more awkward than normal. As I drove off it hit me…Something important was over. My best friend and I had parted ways and another magical aspect of my life was gone.

After experiencing these memories again, I first thought that I was measuring life in terms of losses. Now, after going through the process of recording these memories, I realize that I am tracking my life in terms of changes and lessons.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Master's Dog

A Zen master visiting New York City goes up to a hot dog vendor and says, "Make me one with everything."

The hot dog vendor fixes a hot dog and hands it to the Zen master, who pays with a $20 bill.

The vendor puts the bill in the cash box and closes it. "Excuse me, but where’s my change?" asks the Zen master.

The vendor responds, "Change must come from within."