“Compassion is not something to keep locked inside yourself. It is something to express in action. This compassion must persist beyond the thought, ‘If only their suffering would come to an end.’ If we focus too long on wishing for something that we never pursue and that never happens, we run the risk of falling into a depression ourselves. When compassion arises, it is the time to act.” ~The 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje
We have five cats, all rescued from various shelters.
The oldest, Melody, was named by my wife, Mona, who wanted something musical. Mona plays the guitar, drums, keyboard, and xylophone, and carries a tambourine in her car to play along with the radio.
Melody is a beautiful tortoise cat, and if she were human she would probably be placed somewhere on the autism scale. She demands that life proceed in a certain order, and if something is done out of sequence she panics and freaks out. We accommodate her as best we can. I think it is hard, being her.
The next oldest is a tuxedo cat named Lucy. I named her that so that when I came home I could say, in my best Ricky Ricardo voice, “Lucy! I’m home!”
When we were looking at cats at the shelter, Mona told me that if I set down the cat carrier and Lucy went into it, we could take her home. I sat the carrier down, opened the door, and she marched right in and laid down to take a nap. Unknowingly, she had just changed her entire life for the better.
Next in line is Joey, named after my favorite singer, Joe Cocker. He looks like a Russian Blue at first, but he isn’t. His eyes aren’t the right color. He was a discount cat, marked down because he was no longer a kitten.
He is extremely friendly and affectionate. At the shelter he immediately wanted hugs and crushed into us. He was irresistibly charming. Still is.
Then come the babies, Lori and Links.
Lori is a tabby, probably. Her pattern is more pronounced than a typical tabby. The pattern on the side of her face looks like Mike Tyson’s tattoo.
She was named after a close childhood friend. When I was five, our family moved into a suburb in Ohio. The little girl next door, Lori, ran up to me and asked, “Do you want to be friends?” I said yes, and that sealed the contract. It was that simple at that age.
Lori’s best friend, Links, looks like a black long-hair, but she isn’t really black. If you see her in the sunlight, you’ll see she’s actually a beautiful calico blend of black, dark brown, and rust.
She’s the most playful and active of the quintet. Everything amazes and delights her. She doesn’t sit still long enough for much affection, but she’s still little. I think she’ll be more loving when she gets a little older.
“Do you want to let yourself be defined by your possessions or by your job? I mean this as a serious question, because you could identify yourself with your job or your money or your possessions. Or you could identify yourself with your inner qualities and with happiness. It really is up to you.” The 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, in The Heart Is Noble: Changing the World from the Inside Out, ©2013
I used to divide people into “young” and “old” by how they responded when I asked them to tell me about themselves. If they replied with a job title, they were “old”; if they talked about music or art or literally anything else, they were still “young.”
There are very few “young” people any more, and the ones I do know are (ironically) rather old.
It does seem like we’re being led constantly from one outrage to another. Maybe the first step towards clearing the muddy water is to stop agitating it.
Or, as Thich Nhat Hanh put it:
We do so much, we run so quickly, the situation is difficult, and many people say, “Don’t just sit there, do something.” But doing more things may make the situation worse. So you should say, “Don’t just do something, sit there.” Sit there, stop, be yourself first, and begin from there.
“Whatever work you undertake to do in your lifetime, it is very important that first you have a passion for it– you know, get excited about it– and second, that you have fun with it. That’s important. Otherwise, you see, your work becomes nothing but an idle chore. Then, you hate the life you live.” ~physicist Julius Sumner Miller
“Wherever you go you will find your teacher, as long as you have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.” ~Shunryu Suzuki
“Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal.” ~Rumi
When he sings, “Everyone I know goes away, in the end,” he shows a photograph of his mother. That’s a detail I hadn’t noticed before.
Full lyrics HERE.
As an aside, when he and June were filming this video they went outside to a nearby bus stop during one of their breaks to talk with people on their way to work. I always wondered if anyone believed them.
“Guess who I saw at the bus stop today? Johnny Cash!”
“Uh-huh. Was June there with him?”
“Well, as a matter of fact…”
By Kwame Anthony Appiah, in May 5, 2019 issue of The New York Times Magazine:
The 18th-century Hasidic rabbi Zusha is supposed to have said that when he died and appeared before the heavenly court, they could ask him, “Why were you not as great as Abraham?” and he wouldn’t be afraid; after all, he wasn’t given Abraham’s intellectual gifts. They could ask him, “Why weren’t you Moses?” and he wouldn’t be afraid; he didn’t have Moses’ skills as a leader. The question that frightened him was this: “Why weren’t you Zusha?”