It’s been three years and three weeks since my ordination, and I’m still figuring out what exactly I did that winter morning, and why. I had a feeling then that answering this question would take a lifetime, or what’s left of it anyway.
A daughter of two dyed-in-the-wool atheists, I was raised to be mistrustful of religion as the source of (or at least the excuse for) much conflict, persecution, and general woe. When I asked my parents whether there was a god, they duly answered, “If you believe there’s a god, then there is one.” A clever locution, and true as far as it goes, but it was too reminiscent of what they’d said about Santa, and we know how that turns out.
I don’t like groups, rules, labels, dogma, or hierarchy; even the mild-mannered word “community” makes me itchy. So how did I end up like this: a zen priest, with a credential paving the way to emptiness: no post or salary, just a life spent doing something hardly anyone (including me) understands, wearing an outfit that puts people in mind of a somber penguin?
I have only one ambition in life. I want to inspire, empower, cajole, provoke, and if all else fails, berate people into living the best lives they can: lives that bring the greatest joy with the least collateral damage to themselves and others.
I’d like to say I’ll use any means necessary, just because the phrasing sounds cool (I was very taken with Machiavelli in junior high), but the means turn out to be pretty straightforward as far as I can see: marshaling the beauty of words to express a version of the truth, being open to anyone I meet, considering the consequences of my actions, and trying not to contribute further bullshit to the existing totals.
It doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Or too elevated either. And yet it’s a job, and a full-time one at that. Time to get to work.
Sometimes I sit back and ask how did all this come to be? And, mostly I am grateful. Stumbling upon and trying my best to follow Buddha’s teachings has also given me a notion of how to be and what to do. I’m grateful you have chosen to write and share for our benefit!
How to be and what to do — the eternal questions! Continuing to ask over the course of a lifetime may be more useful than settling on any one answer, since the answer’s sure to change as we do. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jim!