My family is unusual, which means it is very common. I try not to read into the fact that I traveled to see them on the "Twinkling Tinkerbelle" and returned on "Two Fresh Tears." It makes me wonder about the people who run Peter Pan bus line - if they have personal issues, if someday it will not be enough for them to mess with the omens other people may see in their lives.
Before, I think I would have marveled at the omens of the names and wondered what their portent would be in my life. I would have spent much brain power on seeking the proof of my interpretation of their meaning while dismissing anything that didn't pay by the rules I made. I have grown older and wiser. I do my best to live in reality. This means that where before I would have seen omen, now I see metaphor. Tinkerbelle and Fresh Tears were apt bookends for the journey.
I am not sure what bears the honor of being dubbed "meaningful coincidence," but I am starting to think that as we become more aware and focused on an aspect of our individual lives, we begin to see and hear it all around us. Immaturity takes the view that it is meaningful coincidence. I say immaturity because meaningful coincidence is based on the self assigned role of being the center or the universe. I have noticed that since the accident I have become markedly intolerant of those arrogant enough to assume themselves equal to God and the most important thing in all of existence. I think more it is that our shifting inner awareness changes what we focus on and take in. It is not that "suddenly everyone is talking about" whatever you are concerned with, it is that because it is your concern, you are more apt to notice who else is interested in it. Most likely, it was always there being noticed by someone else.
The role of meaningful coincidence lies not in personal direction from the heavens, but from the acquisition of a small part of the communal mind. That is my current take on it. I believe there are outside and inexplicable circumstances that may be created to get you somewhere in hopes you wake up and notice all the other people there too; but I think it inconceivable for one person to be dubbed catalyst. Jesus, had no one noticed him; would have still been God's son. Buddha says it is not the teacher that teaches the dhamma, but the student who becomes aware of it. Mohammed is not Allah; he was quite clear about that.
My family has all arrived at the same place, in the same year, but I am fairly certain it was on quite different buses. We are all at the point of awareness that, “It doesn’t matter what you do or believe, we all wind up in the same place.” By this I mean that we all have become sharply aware of our mortality and limited time left. It has given to us an odd sense of ease with each other and openness. Not, mind you, to look backward and seek explanations of anything in the past – although some of that does happen – but to look forward. It also made me realize something that I had been slowly edging around for the past few years.
If I want to see who I am, I only have to look at where I came from. In my family, I can see everything that I cherish as good about myself, all the things I judge bad, and examples of what I would like to bring to my life and what I hope never arrives. This is a new place to be. Generally, we tend to first blame, then avoid, then are satisfied with drawing boundaries of difference, settle into a kind of tense tolerance then bemoan the lack of resolution when death occurs. It is different to be in a place where you begin to see your family as people. People who have influenced you just as much as you have influenced them.
Cheng Yen said that there is a way in which you can tell if your practice is diseased; it is by looking at your family and friends. He was speaking about the necessity of having a teacher that you were in steady contact with to help guide you in meditation and spiritual practice so you didn’t use it to re-enforce wrong mindedness, selfishness and mental disorder. He cautioned to look at your family and friends – the ones you have kept for the longest – to see the effect that your commitment and practice had on them. It should, he says, have inspired them to pursue their own, if not your path. If, however, you have spent years in meditation and study, have gone on endless retreats and the effect is that your friends and family think you are odd – chances are that your practice is ill. Spirituality, even if it is not agreed upon in the specifics, should always serve as an inspiration in some form or another. One should not look at one’s peers as you are always beginning from a point of confirmation bias.
So I looked at my family in a different way this trip. I didn’t look to see how I inspired them; fortunately, I have seen a positive effect from my own life on their willingness to try meditation and to take on their own spiritual pursuits. I looked to see if I could find out how they inspired me.
And you know what? I found more ways than I thought possible. As contentious and awful as our relationships have been sometimes, I realized that they have each had a positive and beneficial influence on me and I had a feeling of respect for each of them. Respect, I will admit, was something I don’t think I even entertained when it came to thinking about family. In the past it has been a great deal more about who gets what blame.
I came home to discover that the mad kitten did not enjoy my few days away. She took down all the curtains and rods, wouldn’t look at me when I came in, and when I tried to go to sleep she went in the other room and paraded around and bitched. I even stopped at the café on the way home to get a small piece of ham to try and make peace.
Today, she finally deigned to climb in my lap and I think things are back to normal.
She is about to get introduced to the concept of diet food. I play GO. GO is played on a grid of 19x19 lines. It is a good sized board. It is a great game and a good way to measure your cat. It also would appear to be what I needed to see my fat cat laid out on to really see that she needs to drop a few pounds for her health.
She is…amply compensated for her presence in my life, too compensated. I will have to chase her fine furry self up and down the hallway more often in the morning too.