Hunger is the worst of diseases ~ the Buddha

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

With a Little Potluck: Gathering What Paul McCartney & Sharon Salzberg Know About Interdependence

A potluck wedding in our back field, two years ago today. 
I was looking for secret recipes, for someone with experience to tuck a cookie into my hand for the unknown.

I realize now I was trying to source wisdom, which is what I'm always doing: trying to source love for love to make more, which is the only way it really goes.

"Join Us": this is what I wrote on the evites.

I thought this was clever wedding wordplay. It's also what happened.
"No gifts, just bring something nourishing to share, something only you could make," I wrote. 

Maybe it takes a village to raise a child, but it takes a farm full of hands to raise a barn--or a second marriage, one with 5 kids and two former lives combined. All these hearts joined together--you know, the big red kind, with the slings and arrows of life drawn on them in inedible ink.

We themed the day with the Wings' song With a Little Luck, which seemed like planting more guidance, from one of our most trusted sources, Paul (and Linda) McCartney:

The willow turns his back on inclement weather;
And if he can do it, we can do it, just me and you

Since we live in Maryland (better known as the Armpit of the East Coast), this also seemed like a good fit, since perfectly dry, 81-degree back field wedding days in July simply can't be bought or made. And I can make pretty much anything.

We also planted a scraggly little willow tree for the ceremony because, let's face it, I needed the metaphor: the tenacious tree that can source water from anyplace, its limbs endlessly pliant, never breaking. 
I need the metaphor, but my husband actually is the metaphor--he never breaks.

The willow counters breakage with sway; something powerless--done to it, with something it can do, by embodiment: sway.
The only tree to my knowledge that, like the Buddha, keeps straightening and expanding upwards, while simultaneously touching the ground with one limb (or many limbs), eliminating doubt with that perfect circuit.
There's a lot of doubt with a second marriage--you feel it in your trunk.
And I loved the scientific backstory: The genus salix contains an element that was well-known to ancients to reduce inflammation, cool fever, save lives. Salicin is, in stable form, salicylic acid--common aspirin.
With all sorts of mixed-family blessings and unknown fevers running high prior to the wedding, on many nights it seemed wise to plant two and call back in the morning. 
My meditation was walking off frustration in the back field, chanting my steps. Looking up at the sky's vast blue balm by day, trying to locate the north star by night. Giving up my questions to some bigger back field of awareness: Will this work out? Can I take this risk? What do I do? A July wedding in such heat?--all variations of my favorite storyline: Am I crazy?

Well, you dig yourself holes, and you plant new things. And you sweat, and you plan, and you brace against the worst--and no matter what you do, it never turns out like you think anyway. With happiness, headaches, and heat, you can't plan or predict the degrees with any accuracy.

One moment you're afraid and alone and the next, your friends are all there in your back field, bearing the subtlest gifts. Feeding and reading you morsels of Rumi and Rilke, Wendell Berry and Kahlil Gibran (yes, people still read The Prophet at weddings), in regular, soft speaking voices, barefoot under a cloudless blue sky that is capable of both holding and amplifying every word. 

With a little luck, we can help it out.
We can make this whole damn thing work out.

Each person, just being there and saying whatever arises in a Quaker-Buddhist inspired-sometimes-silence where you marry yourselves by agreeing, pretty basically, to keep being there no matter what comes up.
No matter what arises.

By the way, we didn't know too many fancy Buddhist terms back then: like "dependent arising." I didn't think of silence or of my cooking-to-get-free methods as contemplative, in those exact terms, though that's just what it is--and you don't have to either. You don't have to take on any special terms including mine to be happy and get a little bit freer. 

What you need is the paradox of a little luck, which is not luck at all: it's interdependence--the state of being where you potluck-out. 

I don't think anyone understands the concept of interdependence better than Paul McCartney. That everything--and everyone--rests in relationship to all else. 

A little luck, however,  turns out to rest on a lot of skill: cultivating love so that you can extract love from yourself, so that you can feed yourself and others: 

With a little love, we can lay it down.
Cant you feel the town exploding?
There is no end to what we can do together.
There is no end, there is no end.

I couldn't have written the story that is my actual life, which is better, juicier, thornier, and plumper than any mythical berry I've ever spied in those bushes--and I sure as heck can't quibble with Sir Paul and think I could write The End.

But I can tell you a bit about the middle parts and the Middle Way of it:

You might stop in the middle part of the joining and just observe, survey, look around and see people, perched on the rounds of an ancient cherry tree that went down by natural causes in your old life when the truth came out (I cannot tell a lie: this happened), upcycled into perfectly wide, flat stump-seating. You might see very clearly that these people are happy. 

I've started thinking about happiness as a communal meal and process, which transcends any particular ingredient.

That it's not just you and your happiness on some mythical day. Not just you happy, and you didn't do it, but you helped, and so did they--create the environment of happiness.

The palpable, interdependently delicious state of happiness.

Nobody brought that potluck ingredient, by the way, "happiness": they brought salty-sweet mouth-aching molasses cookies,
and life-is-a-bowl of beautiful Ranier cherries, and homemade, soft German pretzels,
35 pounds of hand-pulled barbecue (thanks, Mom), and simple syrups of clementine and rhubarb for Italian sodas.

Nope, no happiness--and yet, it was very clearly on the table. 

Happiness also has to transcend outcomes, for which there are always conditions (most of which are out of our control).

The figures (original 1960s Beatles Wilton toppers) may go sliding off the cake but they probably won't break--it may even be only Ringo, who was pretty stable, being seated, and in two parts (drum set separate).
There are causes for every outcome. If, say, you're really smitten with and dedicated to spice cake and cream cheese icing in July, then the consistency of your icing may change--but consistently, according to the laws of the universe. (Instead of the "The Haters Always Hate," I'm going to make a dharmabumper sticker with lovingkindness that says, "The Causes Always Cause.")

Stuff breaks and slides, straps slip--usually five minutes to showtime; it's an endless loop. Real Happiness must transcend the constant slippage of the moment. If you can remember that there's nothing all that special or showy about any moment in time, then you can relax into it (I wasn't nervous at all on our wedding day), and access the skills you already have inside.
If you can keep your cool and get some space to thread the eye of this uber-useful fisherman's needle you keep on hand with some dental floss (cinnamon-scented is nice, for calming), you can actually stop, breathe, gather your attention together, sew it up, and keep heading down the back field--go forward and marry the moment.
Thank you, Sharon Salzberg, for the simple phrase "gather your attention" and for just that particular soft way you say it in guided meditation--for inspiring me to remember that gathering attention just like fabric in a potential crisis is a very useful life-skill. A push off the shore. 

With a little push, we could set it off.
We can send it rocketing skywards.
With a little love, we could shake it up.
Don't you feel the comet exploding?

Just me and you: me-allofus and you-allofus, and the moment that really really wants to marry us.

It's not luck, friends, it's fortune. The path of the willow: a good fortune.
Watch the video-especially the interdependent interplay of every person in it. 
It's such good fun and such a good song. I wonder what would happen if people made it a practice to listen every day?

PS: Deepest love and thanks to my dear husband, for joining me--joining Us.

PPS: Speaking of interdependence, we got the chance to see Marianne Elliott and Sharon Salzberg speak together at Buddhafest--a trifecta/sweet confecta experience! Human story is more than the sum of its speakers--or its ingredients. Each of these three are beautiful resources for inner resourcing.

1 comment:

  1. :) Love and blessings on your Anniversary