Lately it seems like everywhere I look I learn. I’m learning from the poems on the lists I subscribe to. I’m learning from the birds feeding on the deck (the much-maligned sparrows line up to take turns at their saucer of water). I’m learning (always) from my students. I’m thinking that’s what Buddhism means when it says that everyone we meet is a Buddha, teaching us.
And isn’t it also what Universalism means when it says that all beings will be ‘saved’?
When my elder son was little — 5 or 6 years old — he asked to go to religious school for a day w/ a friend. We lived in Saudi Arabia at the time, so ‘Sunday School’ was on Friday, the Sabbath in many Arab countries. I said sure, always glad we could have contact with other belief systems. He came home with a fistful of questions about hell, which we don’t believe in. The metaphor I met these questions with was one I used throughout the boys’ childhood, and one I still liek: the divine force is a house, with many rooms and doors and windows and sides. The child whose family believed we were all going to hell, if we didn’t believe as they did, were in another room . Or maybe outside…:)
Seriously? I wonder how much of my faith in the universality of all beliefs — that all lead to the same place, ideally, even the more outré of them — grows from my childhood. I went to Buddhist temple w/ our amahs, burning incense and bowing to the gilded image of the Lord Buddha. I watched as Chị Tám, the cook who ran the household, burned paper clothes for her dead ancestors on Tết, the Chinese New Year. I went to Catholic catechism w/ Jeannie Adams down the street, to synagogue w/ my sister’s best friend Sydney, to ecumenical Sunday School w/ the family. It all seemed much the same: offer something (from prayers to money) and try to be a better person.
Now? I see belief’s own teachers everywhere I turn. My journal is spilling over, its spine already cracking from quotes, poems, a cartoon, a picture. Each of which has something to teach me: Robert Frost on the dark night of the soul; a stencil from my niece, reminding me that love is often undeserved and all the more precious; a picture of a bubble, fragile and luminous; a hand-drawn thank-you from a dear friend’s granddaughter for a trinket. There are public transportation tickets, lists of things to buy & do, threads of poems I may or may not weave into something wearable… And each of them teaches me something different about faith, belief, what lies beneath the surface of my days.
So look around. Who — or what? — is trying to reach? To teach you? I know it sounds awfully New Age, but the world is a web — each of us connected to each other. Bee to honey to knife to mouth to me to breath to air to world to you… Each of us breathing in the air breathed by everyone and everything. Ever. It’s a lot to learn. But sweet.