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One Hand

My friend Steve is dying of cancer. He doesn’t think of it that way – he believes that he’s surviving. But he’s lost 50 pounds, is in constant pain, and is going in for major surgery that is going to permanently disfigure his face. The chances of recurrence in the next two years are above 80%.

I’ve bought a lot of art from him over the period. Some of the other artists on the Art Walk in Santa Barbara get testy about it. I explain that Steve has this magical ability to paint my love for the world.

We got into a long text dialog yesterday about Ezekiel. He had read that passage about Ezekiel’s vision of God, and offered that while there was “wisdom” in the Bible, if it was published to day it would be in the Science Fiction section. I tried to correct him, explaining that Ezekiel wasn’t describing a physical manifestation, but rather sharing his perception of a spiritual community.

This led into observations that he’s put his faith in a mechanical process of healing under the control of medical doctors, and surrendered his responsibility for the psychic aspect that I have been telling him is critical to his recovery. His last life ended in a mass hanging of an Native American tribe. He finally testified that he was unable to forgive himself and the perpetrators.

Himself. That was helpful, and I shared my perception that forgiveness is critical to the flow of love, because until vengeance and judgment are foregone, the power it offers to us will certainly be turned to creation of more victims. But as in every case when I’ve raised this, he ran away from it, saying that he needed “a guide” – to which I responded that his heart was the only guide worth following.

The day ended with a long series of texts in which he deflected the insights I had offered.

The famous Zen koan reads:

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

On the human scale, the answer is obviously “silence.” The teaching is that we have meaning only in relation. So how am I supposed to feel about the fact that I have no one to share my faith with? Christians reject me because I use science to understand the Bible, scientists reject me because I see proof of scripture in their theories.

I could go on, but the point is that I’m not alone. The sound made by my one hand is the wind in the air, the sunlight on the leaves, the rain on the waters.

People confuse themselves with their inflated self-importance. At root, we have only two choices: to testify as to the presence of love in the world, or the have our expressions swallowed up in the noise of the mob. Choose the latter and be inconsequential; choose the former, and become a leader of things that need our understanding to guide them into the embrace of God.

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