David Rynick, abbot of the Boundless Way Zen Temple in Worcester, Massachusetts, has written a new book called This Truth Never Fails: A Zen Memoir in Four Seasons, available from Wisdom Publications. We’re happy to share some excerpts with our readers — you can read another one, “Spiraling Toward God,” here.
It’s a little cool to be out on the back porch so early in the morning, but I can’t resist the green suffusion of this spring morning.
A blanket over my legs, I sit with my comforting cup of tea in the bouncy deck chair that used to belong to my grandmother. Birds squabble near the hanging feeder while the nearby prehistoric ferns seem to still long for the dinosaurs’ return.
And I wonder at the generosity of life.
The generosity of sight and smell — of imagination and locomotion. My fingers moving across the keyboard demonstrate a percussive intelligence that far outweighs these simple thoughts that leave their traces in these words on the screen. I recognize the flexible pinkish tubes as “mine,” yet I have no idea how each one knows the position and timing of its duty. Nor do I have any idea where and how the thoughts arise in me and how I choose one over another.
I would say that I am writing, yet the “I” who is writing and how he does it, is fully hidden from me.
I come back to my familiar suspicion that this one who I imagine myself to be is only the merest of coverings — a thin veneer self masquerading as prime mover.
I must again confess the embarrassing truth that I appear to myself as God: from this deck chair, unless I pay very close attention, I am quite sure it is all up to me. My job is to make sure everything goes right — to think and feel the right things, to make good choices that lead to good results, and to ensure the smooth function of the universe.
But this morning I catch a glimpse of the imposter and am relieved to step out of this weighty and impossible job.
With no plan the squirrels delight in the free seed scattered beneath the bird feeder. And in this moment, I appreciate that the plan of each finger and the arising of each thought comes for free from the mysterious source that gives life to all.