Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Brian’s Reflection: Thursday, August 25, 2011

True affluence is not needing anything.

Gary Snyder, American poet, writer,

This is like a little koan ….. not surprising, since Gary lived in Japan in a Zen monastery for some years. So, like my Reflections (say I defensively), it’s not meant to encompass “all truth” and voice every aspect of an issue. It’s meant to get one thinking.

I’ve trained myself on the Principle of Non-Need ….. and “Need” is what essentially Gary is talking about. My friends chuckle about all my stuff, from piles of elegant Limoges china to 19th C antique Italian carnelian intaglio rings to an iPad, iTouch, and MacBook. Perhaps my 15 years in a monastic order guided me in this. I’ve collected all sorts of things ….. and I’ve given them away, or sold them when I moved, or exchanged them for something else ….. or for nothing. And I have enjoyed every single thing I’ve had, used it, and appreciated it. And delighted in knowing that someone else was enjoying them when they were gone.

But I don’t need them, and I certainly don’t need them in order to be “happy”. We’re not talking here about the basic things that all human beings need and should have, like a place to live and enough to eat and appropriate clothing ….. and I would add the ability to enjoy the wonders and beauty of creation, and a community. It’s the “accessories” I’m talking about. I can be as delighted by a good toasted bagel with real butter as a fabulous lunch at Benoit in Paris.

“Affluence” implies contentment. “Need” connotes dissatisfaction. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the basics (and more at times!). But on the whole, I can be as delighted and charmed by a meadow full of California poppies as I can by an elegant hotel on the Amalfi Coast.

Knowing what’s important is the key. I’ve found that pursuing perceived needs usually leads to an aching kind of poverty. Appreciating whatever comes along brings the peace of simplicity.


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