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What if You’re Already There?

In my last post about Distant Neighbors, a forty-year conversation between Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder, I touched on the two men’s different religious frames of reference, i.e., Snyder, Buddhist, and Berry, Christian.

The irony for me is that I have spent much of my own life studying, wondering about, and often times struggling with the concepts these two religious traditions present. I did my undergraduate degree in religion and later completed a Master of Divinity before veering off into the study of law.

I’m not sure whether it is more accurate to say religion has haunted or fascinated me.

Over the last year, I have spent a great deal of time drilling into the study of Zen Buddhism, a small subset of Buddhism in general. I am learning the practice of meditation, what is sometimes referred to as “just sitting,” and have come up against one of the bedrock differences between the two traditions.

To Christians life is a linear journey from here to the promised land; to Zenites there is no journey because now is all there is. You don’t have to put yourself in the moment, you’re already there, and a second from now the place you are now is gone forever.

When this fundamental difference between the two approaches hit me, it made me realize how easy it is to devalue the present while we strain our necks to see what lies ahead.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

What if in fact we are already there?

I keep coming back to the notion that if now is all we have we should make the most of it, not in riotous living, but in never-ending compassion and kindness. We should pay attention to each other, seeking to connect with what is happening to our neighbors at the moment, rejoicing with those who rejoice, grieving with those who mourn.

So, there I go again, blending the two traditions, using one’s holy book to support the other philosophy’s point of view.

But that’s just where I am right now.

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