"Flower and Thorns"
- in my meditation garden -
While reading two juxtaposed stories in the newspaper this morning I had a sudden flash of insight.
The first story offered another very heavy dose of vile rhetoric and hate-filled judgment as Mr. Trump stepped even lower than usual during a rally in which President Obama was vilified as being a Muslim who wasn’t even an American - Trump vowed that, if elected, he would cleanse this country of all trace of Muslims and unwanted foreigners. The story next to this one reported Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the United States and how the Pope plans to visit a prison in Philadelphia and spend time with the poor and needy to help raise them up to a place of dignity.
My flash of insight this morning came when I realized that while I was reading the “Trump” story I felt as if I had just eaten some bad food that was making me sick; whereas the “Pope Francis” story seemed like an antidote to the poison, a curative remedy to the garbage I had been consuming.
This reminds me of a time back several years ago just after the 9/11 terrorism attacks on New York City. For several days, my wife and I found ourselves glued to the TV, constantly watching the continuous coverage - story after story about death and destruction, heart-rending stories about families torn apart, pledges of retribution and vengeance against those who perpetrated the atrocities.
After almost a week of this constant media consumption my wife became violently ill, severe headaches, body pains and nausea - in fact she had all the symptoms of “food poisoning.” When we went to the doctor he asked a few question and quickly determined that her problem was that she was consuming too many “terror images” and “terror stories” in the media. It was poisoning her soul. The doctor told us that he had been seeing many patients come to him over the past days exhibiting these exact same symptoms and he advised my wife to lay off the TV and put down the papers for a while. She did so and in a matter of a few days she was feeling much better.
My flash of insight while reading the paper this morning was that I think a lot of people nowadays may be suffering from “soul poisoning” as they consume the kind of garbage we are being fed in stories like the one about an unrestrained narcissist who wants to be president by promising to ethnically cleanse the nation of foreigners.
The Buddha once said:
I play with flowers and their fragrance clings to my clothes.
I find great wisdom in this saying. If I spend my days sitting in the garbage, the smell will stick to me. If I spend my time with flowers their fragrance will cling to my clothes.
I will continue to read papers and watch the news and in doing so I am well aware that I will be barraged by the strident rhetoric and ugly stories that sell papers and boost ratings; but I also realize that I need to be very careful not to get sucked down into the pit into which these stories lead me – maybe I need to watch a lot less news in this season of petty politics.
At the very least I need to feed my soul with things of beauty. I need to be careful to spend time consuming the beauty of the desert where I live, to take the time to watch the sun rise and set and to gaze each night at the brilliant stars of cosmos. I need to be careful to ingest beautiful poetry, read inspiring stories, watch uplifting movies and listen to soul-healing music.
As I see it, we all need to consume more beauty nowadays if we want the fragrance of flowers to cling to our clothes.
I am reminded of an old familiar Native American wisdom tale about a “life-lesson” a grandfather offers his inquiring young grandson:
Grandfather, I have two wolves fighting in my heart.
One is vengeful, fearful, envious, resentful, deceitful,
the other wolf is loving, compassionate, generous, truthful and serene.
Which wolf will win the fight?
The grandfather answers, ‘the one you feed.’