When I was 8, I lived in London with my family; one of our favorite haunts was, of course, Hyde Park.
Well, one day I was doing cartwheels there, goofily, gaily, galloping head over heels, when smush! one hand landed in the center of a large pile of horse manure.
If you have been to Hyde Park, you know how large it is, how hard it can be to find a place to wash one’s soiled hand. If you’ve seen horse manure, you know how large that is, too. I felt utterly debased.
Such an episode does not bode well for me and the park, does it?
Or does it tell something about the nature of – well, nature? And life?
And then there was the time I was 6 and singing happy birthday to myself, just skipping along in glee, and a bee flew into my wide open mouth and stung the tender roof, flew out, and died.
I can still taste the flavor of that sting.
I am thinking now about all the precautionary measures we are warned to take to avoid pain and hurt and accidental demise with our children, ourselves – every thing posits a possible danger, it seems.
And also a possible treasure – a possible pleasure – a possible delight, no? Can you imagine if the headlines read, “Beware – that seemingly innocuous heap of leaves could mean an hour of thrilling crunching if you’re not careful – walk at your own risk”?
Perhaps the lesson is: Cartwheel and sing your song.
If you land in crap or eat a bee, you will recover.
Take delight where you find it. Scoop it up in big heaping handfulls. Don’t cut back out of fear. You’ll miss the fun – the drama – the story – don’t live a safe, dull life.
That reminds me of how one of my favorite poets, Frank O’Hara, died: In a dune buggy accident at a very young age. My first reaction on reading that was to think, “What an idiot!” (It’s always easier to think someone an idiot and thus make oneself immune to the very same outcome – I, of course, would never subject myself to such a silly expiration escapade, would I?) My second reaction was a sincere desire to go back in time as the Angel of the Future and warn Frank to avoid moving vehicles.
But seriously, he was living his life. Death is not strange. Pain is not aberrant. Poo and bees and dune buggys are part of the experience.
Sometimes, as the bumper sticker, shit happens. But I hate that bumper sticker, and it’s sister, “Life’s a bitch.” Sometimes, I want to say, just like I want to say to the Buddha: Okay, yeah, Life is suffering, sometimes. Maybe more or less depending on where you live and your personal outlook, but yeah, okay, but yeah, no, not totally.
Life includes suffering and joy, and we need to take both lightly, and fully, honoring both, for they make up who and what we are.
I wonder about that noble truth a lot.
The trees, of course, don’t need to wear bumper stickers.
They just extend to the sun, to the clouds, to the lightning. They don’t flinch. They are static cartwheels, grounded in the motion of being.