Monday, June 8, 2009

An Open Letter to a Man Who Is Somewhere Else

I cried for half an hour on the drive home from that apartment in Phoenix. I know that if you had seen me crying the way I did you would have launched into some speech or other on what Rumi has to say on the subject of attachment, and you would ask me what it was I thought I had lost, and tell me that it was all an illusion of the mind.
What you would not have done was to hold my hand and tell me it would be okay.
I do not know how you can read the things you read and see the things you see and yet be so callous to the depth and magnitude of other people’s pain. God, yes, it’s a construct of our minds—but it’s real to us; if you knew anything at all you would know that—you would know that hell is a place you can live an entire life. And your lectures and your attempts at detachment do nothing to make the world a better place for anybody but yourself, and I think perhaps make you cold to half the beauty around you—but I know I do not know your heart, so that last may be unfair to say.
It’s just as beautiful that I cried for half an hour in the dark to a cold, unplugged television set that lay pathetically in the passenger seat as it is that I watched an egret fly overhead and land on a red tile roof while the sun was setting, and it’s just as beautiful that you stood like stone with your hands in your pockets and watched me walk away from you as it is that I loved you for a long moment, standing beneath the cast iron fan that was rusted and immobile with ivy out under a desert nighttime full of meteorites. If you think I do not know this then you saw nothing of me at all.
I know you for what you are. I know you do not ask questions of anybody and that what you really want is for someone to listen to you; I know you are more comfortable with somebody who takes from you than somebody who gives; I know the reason you do not ask for what you want is because you are afraid of being refused. You think that because I choose to participate in this life that I have nothing more substantial than the shadows on the wall, and you think that because I do not carve out forty minutes a day to listen to God that I do not hear Him speaking at all. You think that because I know the strength of my own mind that I rely on that alone. In a year or two you will not remember my name.
You have been given everything, and then some, but you do not give back; instead you hesitate, and secure yourself against loss. You have such a heart, and such a mind, and such a voice—! But where are these and what are they doing to serve? Yesterday I put my hand down for a moment and accidentally produced exactly the thing you were looking for; but I put my heart down at your feet and you saw nothing in that at all. Yes, if you love nothing, you can lose nothing; but the loss is nothing, and the love everything. The heart renews itself, and there is nothing else that ever belonged to you to begin with.
And so I cried for half an hour last night, but this morning I watched the sun rise over a cup of coffee and an open patch of desert. Tonight I will go down to the lake where I saw the egret and sit with an Australian Shepherd named Hannah and my thoughts of a man who brought so much beauty into my life—but what will you be doing, love, and where is it you expect to find what you’re looking for?

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