Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ocean of circumstance.

Buddhists say, if you tossed a wooden ring into the ocean, it is as likely that a turtle swimming beneath the water would, in surfacing for air, put his head through that ring as it is that a soul would attain human birth. At one point in this visit the kids got a sense of the chance of their own existence.

In addition to taking the kids to Port Jefferson where they began to get a sense of the Sound and the sea I took them to Stony Brook University where I went to college and we drove through the campus getting a sense for the size of it. Later I'd show them my kindergarten and elementary school, and my mom took us by the first house I lived in. I remember being fascinated by my parents' histories and the story of my birth. I also took the boys to see the place where their parents met (the Borders Books in Stony Brook).

The boys' mother is from South Dakota and had come to LI for a nanny job as a chance to live in New York. The family she worked for lived in Miller Place virtually around the corner from my mother's house, where I grew up. The nanny family had a neighbor her age, who she became friends with. He is a singer and had studied voice with my stepdad. I didn't live in that area anymore so it's odd we met completely outside of these connections. I lived an hour West. I'd driven to Borders that afternoon to meet my friend who was playing music in the cafe. He had just met the boys' mom there and introduced us.

When we went to Borders (which ended up being a chance for the kids not just to learn about their personal histories but to ask me to buy them shit) Ezra at one point wondered aloud about what he would look like if his mom hadn't met me that day and had met someone else instead. I reminded him if that were the case he would not exist. I could see that sinking in. When people meet by chance instead of through mutual relationships and later have kids, the meaning behind that Buddhist maxim seems especially poignant. Part of the meaning, anyway.

In the context of other Buddhist ideas the real purpose of the example is to remind people to celebrate their lives, and to realize the opportunity not just to have a great time while they're in this world but leave it a better place. As I watched my kids playing beside the ocean this week, however, I found it hard not to think they were meant to be.

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