Just Be In It
Just be in It
How wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to improve the world.
When I first read these words from Anne Frank, they had a profound effect on me. I think I cried—the feeling people describe as being brought literally to their knees. Given what Anne Frank endured and what ultimately happened to her, her capacity for hope and her belief in humanity’s goodness astounded. All around us we can list off countless petty grievances people hold for or against one another, usually the most trivial (and often imaginary) stuff—somebody snubbed her, somebody cut him off, somebody offended him, he was right and someone else wrong—which, when laid out alongside the deathbed at the end of life always seem utterly meaningless. But by then it’s often too late. I think all that matters is being as good as we each can (we each know what that means for us), loving and living in the present.
“All we can do is be in it.”
Now every single moment, I am trying to live in the present. You see, there is a dog I love. (Well, three dogs really…well, all dogs.) But this dog I’ve had twelve years and she’s now 15 or 16, maybe older. Deaf, going blind, covered in more lumps and bumps than I’ve ever seen. And I have no words to say how much I love her. Her name is Chance, the oldest of my three. And I don’t want to miss a moment of what is left of our time together.
Two weeks before Christmas, I thought I would lose her. But she’s here, and what I learned was simply to be with her. There beside her, giving her the strength she needed to go on just a bit more. Or, the strength she needed if she was ready to leave. Jumping to a future with or without her did me no good. All I could do was be in it.
Somehow a love this strong puts all else in perspective. Maybe love always does that. And animals.
I remember thinking this on one pure day at the end of September that now, as the temperatures hover at twenty degrees, seems a far away place. I so wanted to record it in my journal or remember it in future years, but even then I thought: all we can do is be in it.
There was the lengthening light as the days quietly shortened unbeknownst to most. There was the warmth of that late-summer or early fall afternoon and the gentle breeze that kept us from getting hot. There were light clouds drifting across a blue sky and the fields we passed dotted with autumn’s yellow and gold.
It’s somewhere in me, even now as the woodstove burns and the frost turns he dried grass to glinting diamonds. With winter’s ascent the dogs and I, like the bear and like the turtle, slow down. I feel there is too much information and I want to take a quiet step back. I feel there is too much choice, too much fast-paced and (for me) meaningless technological change. Is it a quest for faster or for more? More information, which ultimately means knowledge?
Knowledge is great, and worthy of pursuit, but wisdom is better—for wisdom, which is born in the heart or at least outside of time, brings peace and with peace comes joy. The physical world is forever changing. We know that in terms of time a hundred years is but a day. We and all that’s around us are forever changing. I don’t know how much longer Chance has. But I know this: for the moment she’s good, and I know I’m in it with her. To quote the Buddha:
This existence of ours is as transient as autumn clouds.
To watch the birth and death of beings is like
looking at the movements of a dance.
A lifetime is like a flash of lightning in the sky,
rushing by like a torrent down a steep mountain.
And when she goes—as we’ll all go—I’ll still be with her.