The news from Gaza disturbs me. My immediate reaction is to take sides with the civilian underdogs. I want to crawl inside of myself and hide there from the bombs.* But then, on the radio … Papageno’s aria from Mozart’s Zauberflöte brings me back into the open. Seemingly unrelated events are suddenly connected: Gaza and Salzburg, now and then, mayhem and music.
Things happen beyond my control; they come and they go. What matters is what’s right in front of me: e-mails waiting for replies, a walk along the ocean on Dallas Road, and then to work at hospice. Gaza will still be there, the killing and posturing will continue, and so will the music. Separate events—yet all part of my experience. “Whether we realize it or not,” writes Kosho Uchiyama (1912-1999),
… we are always living out life that is connected to everything in the universe. … The life that runs through everything is me. I don’t mean me as an ego, I mean my self in the true sense, the universal self. It is the foundation of all life experiences. … This self is not some fixed body; it’s constantly changing. Every time we take a breath, we are changing. Our consciousness is constantly changing, too. All the chemical and physical processes in our body are always constantly changing. And yet, everything temporarily takes a form. This is our true self (jiko in Japanese).
“This is the real or universal self, or the reality of life, as I like to call it. Whatever way you put it, I am here only because my world is here. When I took my first breath, my world was born with me. When I die, my world dies with me. In other words, I wasn’t born into a world that was already here before me, I do not live simply as one individual among millions of individuals and I do not leave everything behind to live on after me. … Actually, I bring my own world into existence, live it out, and take it with me when I die” (emphasis added).
source: Uchiyama, K. (2004). Opening the hand of thought: foundations of Buddhist practice. Translated and edited by Tom Wright, Jisho Warner, and Shohaku Okumura. Boston: Wisdom Publications, pp. 14-15.
*Post-traumatic stress: I was born in 1943, two years before the end of WWII. My 1000-year old hometown was largely destroyed by Allied bombings, including a firestorm that wiped out its medieval quarter.