"No Windows, No Walls"
- Outside the Desert Retreat House -
It's always pretty quiet at our home in the desert, but when I woke up this morning I realized how utterly silent everything seemed - a far cry from the past week when our house was filled with the sounds of our family here visiting for my birthday and for the Thanksgiving holiday (even our kids and grandkids from back east flew across the country so that we could all be together for the week.)
Throughout the past seven days I was emerged in a beautiful cacophony of sounds - a baby grandson laughing, a toddler running through the house chasing after a barking dog and I discovered once again how much fun it could be to play with toy cars and bulldozers. It was a wonderful time together as we took walks into the wilderness, sat in restaurants and shared Thanksgiving dinner at our family table.
Yesterday after we said our tearful goodbye at the airport, I realized that none of us were were the same persons we had been before they all came to visit. It also struck me that this is what happens whenever any of us encounters one another, that’s the way our humanity works. In every contact we have with anyone, we are always changed, fashioned into a newer, different person.
This morning as the the sounds of silence lingered in our house, I walked into our dining room and sat there, quietly touching the wooden table that we have had in our family for over 30 years. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by a powerful sense of “relationship.” I thought about the hundreds of people who had sat around that table over the many past years - my spouse, our kids and now our grandchildren. I thought about all the meals shared with friends and acquaintances, meals with strangers and sometimes even with enemies who also sat around that table. We had shared times of profound joy and deep sorrow, times of pain and frustration, even times of confrontation and disagreement. Over the years we had wept together, laughed together, lamented together, sometimes even shouted together while sitting there at that table.
This morning as I silently touched that old table, it also struck me that some of the very DNA of all those many people who had sat at the table in the past might have somehow rubbed off and clung to a crevice or crack in the wood and I realized that, while I was all alone in the room, all the people of my life were sitting there at that table with me. Over the years anyone who sat there had contributed something of their “self” and become someone new when they left to go their separate ways. Every time we say hello we are always different by the time we say goodbye.
Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, once asked:
You are me and I am you,
isn’t it obvious that we inter are?
It is indeed “obvious” to me that we “inter are.”
The the very idea of a separated “ego” isolated from others is nothing but a “delusion.” Our “true self” is our relationship with all other beings - we “are” one another. My wife and I certainly miss our family being here in this house but they are still here with us and we are with them because we “inter are.”
The Sufi poet, Rumi also asked:
They say there is a window from one heart to another,
but how can there be a window where there are no walls?
As I look out into the vast wilderness area around our house, I see that there are no windows and no walls - a beautiful icon of our human existence.