Seeing things as they are, the mantra of Zen practice, can lead to unexpected outcomes. As I’ve reported in recent posts, my efforts to be present and to see clearly have focused on my relationship with my two brothers and their spouses during my current stay in Germany. I now admit that I have very little in common with them and that I barely like being in their company. It was my older brother who told me, during a heated argument 25 years ago, that “if we weren’t brother, we’d not hang out together.” At the time, I thought it a hasty and hurtful assessment and set out to make every effort to prove him wrong.
Over the ensuing years I’ve travelled annually to learn and appreciate his idiosyncratic ways. I’ve made it my practice to watch my projections and to see our relationship for what it is. My sense today is that we are — at best — familiar strangers who share few values and rarely agree on anything. The remaining thing that binds us is a document saying that we were born of the same parents. As one of the young-ones told me today, “at that’s taken you, what, 50 years to figure out!?”
I was about to write “sad conclusion” but find that there’s neither sadness nor regret. Instead, a weight of this self-imposed ‘duty to like’ has lifted as I see us clearly as separate men — separate not only geographically but, more significantly, in our attitudes towards things we consider vitally important.