As Lovely as a Kiss: A Small Zen Reflection on Ash Wednesday & Valentine’s Day

 

 

 

Somehow I love that this year the Christian holy day of Ash Wednesday and the semi-sort-of Christian holiday St Valentine’s Day fall on the same day. Basically. You’re going to die. And I love you.

Works for me.

I think a lot about love. What it is and what it is not. I’m particularly taken with the two assertions “God is love” and “Love is god.” I know people who rail at one assertion or the other, others who say they’re both true, and others, well… We are such a mixed up lot of people, if you can hypothesize a view, probably any view, and someone probably holds it with all her or his heart.

And with love, well, even more so. Love is such a mysterious thing. The Greeks only started the list when they claimed love includes our desires, our friendships, our families, and our sense of ultimacy.

 

In an Etymological dictionary I once owned, it claimed that the word love had some ancient Indi-European root. That root was “Lub” which was said to mean “desire.” That catches me up. As a Buddhist, I am awkwardly aware that the second noble truth is that the cause of our suffering, as opposed to pain, is our clinging to things that are passing. Sometimes that clinging is called desire. Messy. Messy.

So, love…

And, of course, there’s another aspect to our lives we cannot ignore. Any consideration of the great mess, that term I notice I increasingly prefer to signal the totality of our existence, must include in some way the conversation stopping fact of our mortality. All things composed of parts, the Buddha told us, will come apart. I’ve never seen anything that contradicts that observation. Wishful thinking yes. Convincing assertions, no.

I am more impressed by the suggestions of half life, of the continuity of our actions in many, some even mysterious ways. Memory is powerful. Memory is even something holy. But, the “I” thing continuing on after the dissolution of the body? No, it seems to me as plain as the nose on my face that like that nose, it has a expiration date.

So, death…

And, me, I look at the many things of the world. I look at my own life. I look at my loves. And, I realize the truth of the matter, the thing that joins Ash Wednesday, recalling that I come from dust and will return to dust, and St Valentine’s Day, of chocolate and hearts and the person I love more than any other person, and my gratitude and complex blend of emotions, are all caught up together.

Love and death…

There is for me, in this day, an invitation into something. That something is fully appreciating the passingness of all things, including me and the things, the people I love. And, that there is something that comes with attention, that I believe, genuinely believe is holy, is good, maybe even deserves the word God.

We find it as we turn our attention, as we turn our minds, as we turn our hearts to some matter.

And that is love. This attention is some gentle and, often not so gentle play of energy that gives life to the world. Is it excused from the inexorable law of change? How could it be? It is change, change itself.

Love as our human experience is found in our attention to change. It is our holding onto things as life itself. But, also, also, also it is our letting go when we must. Everything in its time.

Learn this secret. Let it all happen, birth, life, loss, death. What else can we do? But, with attention we find it is all those moments, and at the very same time, it is one thing. It is wild and connected, and the very substance of what is.

Give your heart to it, and you will be saved. Give your whole heart to it and the world is saved.

The whole great mess.

As lovely as a kiss…

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