Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Treetop experience

I'm having such a good time this year watching the treetops in the Lang courtyard step into Spring - wonders you'd never imagine from below.Behold the red bundles which recently exploded like fireworks! Now they are giving birth to the little green seed paddles with which they'll soon helicopter to the ground. Almost as if an afterthought, the actual leaves emerge from the top as from a flower bud - leaves which will fill the courtyard with cooling green for the next half year and then go out in a sustained blaze of color, a return to red. Red-in-green-in-red!

Incidentally, today's session of "Buddhism and Modern Thought" was devoted to Thich Nhat Hanh. Students read his poem "Please call me by my true names" and the elaboration of the Precepts he calls the Five Mindfulnesses, and watched most of the documentary "Colors of Compassion." We also ate a tangerine - something we did last class, as well. On Monday I read aloud his description, and distributed it to students to reread again before class today, but this time we mindfully ate our tangerines in silence. In part, Thich Nhat Hanh observes:

A person who practices mindfulness can see things in the tangerine that others are unable to see. An aware person can see the tangerine tree, the tangerine blossom in the spring, the sunlight and rain which nourished the tangerine. Looking deeply, one can see ten thousand things which have made the tangerine possible. Looking at a tangerine, a person who practices awareness can see all the wonders of the universe and how all things interact with one another. 

I can't report on the fruit of others' tangerining. I didn't get the ten thousand things but - having noticed that the Sunkist Smiles© clementines were from California - I did get the inland California sun, the migrant farm workers who work in the orchards, the water almost certainly from the Colorado, and the desert areas where the Colorado also, though ever more weakly, flows. And then, with the final section, a final burst of sweetness, interwoven with all this difficulty, which recalled lines from the poem:

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

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