Thursday, November 4, 2010

Small Bodies

Wood duck chicks
Wood Duck Hen With Chicks



Small Bodies


It is almost summer. In the pond
the pickerel leap,
and the delicate teal have brought forth
their many charming young,
and the turtle is ravenous.
It is hard sometimes, oh Lord,
to be faithful.
I am more boldly made
than the little ducks, paddling and laughing.
But not so bold
as the turtle
with his greasy mouth.
I know you know everything—
I rely on this.
Still, there are so many small bodies in the world,
for which I am afraid.

- Mary Oliver


Buddhist teachings say we may rely on this, "There is suffering."  Little bodies will get trashed, and even the fierce tortoise with her protective shell, gets  mashed in our roads.  Now, tell me again, how might we rely on this truth?  Perhaps because death and tragedy is reality, and there is much of which to be afraid.  But who wants to go through the day embodying this knowing?

 Instead of living a life based on  the suffering before us, the left hemisphere of our brain gains dominance.  The processes there do not wish to give into the emotions that the right side of our  brain is processing from our fear center - the amygdala in the limbic system.  Instead we tell stories that there "should not be suffering" and do our best to end the suffering, or perhaps more often, end our discomfort over witnessing it.  We might say that it must be someone's fault that baby ducks get eaten by voracious fish and tortured by kids at the city pond.  Or we forget that ducks fear, feel, and know pain and loneliness, and don't recall how hard their lives are in the brutal farms in which we as a species cage them until slaughter. 


Foie Gras Duck Farm


Don't get me wrong.  I make tragic choices all the time that result in suffering - mine and others.  I forget the beauty that gets swept away by the disdainful and painful, or I forget the hurt in favor of beauty.  How can I know everything and hold both poles of this tension?

I don't have an answer, but I do believe that I have a choice; we can lived based on the fear that won't go away, or live based on the beauty and love, that too, won't go away.


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