Thursday, November 1, 2012

Pure Love

Kim: We have my daughter's dog for a few days. I hugged her, and she was so warm, which felt good on this cool day--a furry warm dog. Very different from the idea of a dog or from seeing a dog across the street and thinking "dog."

Emma: Dogs are all about love. My ex, Chuck, and my two chocolate labs, Mollie and Sophie, live in Ohio. Chuck opened the door the other day to find a tiny kitten. Days old. He was about to go to work, so he put her in a box in his bedroom and shut the door. The labs were in the living room. When he got home, the dogs weren't at the door as usual. "Shit," he thought. He ran into the bedroom to find Mollie panting, standing watch over Sophie, who was lying on the bed with the kitten sleeping next to her. The kitten was sopping wet from the dogs' kisses.

I love that story. It's just pure love.

Kim: I was going to respond immediately. Your story reminded me of something I received yesterday as an email. It was a tiger, a lion, and a bear that all shacked up together in a cabin in the woods. They were the best of friends. Animals do seem to have hearts, don't they?

But I decided instead to take a nap, and then to make bread, and then to fill my tires with air. When I went into the bedroom, Maya, our temp dog, was already asleep by the bed on her cushion. She knew it was siesta time. There was something comforting about falling asleep hearing her faint breathing. Yesterday I was watching her sleep and wondering if she knew something that we don't know.

Emma: Dogs are eternally present, ever forgiving. I remember how much I loved Sophie when she was a teeny puppy. It was a heart-wrenching, self-obliterating, fierce and divine maternal love. It didn't feel like anthropomorphism. I loved her tininess, her innocence, her dog-ness. I loved how her dog intelligence allowed to her to express her dog-self every day without any other dog present. (Mollie didn't come along until later). I was astounded at how calm I was each time I found a shoe she'd torn to pieces. I was so clear it was my fault for forgetting to put them away, so clear there was nothing that needed to be changed about her. She was being herself, and doing it perfectly.

I hope I come close to seeing the people I care about that clearly. I think I sometimes do.

Kim: What is fascinating about this dialogue is the darkness that I'm trying to suppress surrounding dogs. I had to give Maya her flea medicine. It is a liquid that is supposed to go the skin on her back, but it was thick and went too much on her hair and now we can't touch her. I didn't get an A+ for that job. And then I was buying eggs at the grocery and had to decide between sad chicken eggs without hormones for $1.99 or happy no cages chicken eggs for $2.49. I imagined that the no-cage eggs were good because the chickens were happier. But I've never seen chickens express happiness.

Back to love. So love is like the liquid in a glass. There is also the air in the glass. We can see/taste/enjoy the liquid because it is scarce. Not everything is liquid. We are despondent and then we see something or hug something and feel joy and warmth and, against the background of the despondency (my word?), we feel love. It makes it way out, screaming, “Hey, look at me!”

Emma: Darkness and dogs. When I was addicted to painkillers, I decided late one night that I needed cigarettes. I concluded, with all of my addict logic, that it'd be fine for me to drive as long as I took the dogs.

Because God wouldn't kill the dogs.

I encouraged these beautiful creatures to get in the back of the car because I believed their innocence would keep me safe from my insanity.

Yup, I did that. And at the same time, I would've leapt under a bus to save them from harm. Both are true. I'm wondering if I can love the me who put those dogs in the car with as much compassion and clarity as I love the dogs. I just looked at that me. She's very little, a tiny little confused girl. Maybe it wasn't so much addict logic as it was child logic. I'm sitting here typing this and forgiving myself.

Do you think love is scarce? I think love is abundant. I think it's everywhere. We just walk around blocking it. There's a poem, "To Live in the Mercy of God" ( These lines make me shiver: Thus, not mild, not temperate, /God’s love for the world. Vast/ flood of mercy/flung on resistance.

I block love—sometimes with full body armor.

Kim: I told the sitting group this morning that we had a problem, that I wanted them to tell me whether love is scarce or abundant. Shirley said, "how about scarcely abundant or abundantly scarce?" I told her that didn't make sense. Then I sat for three periods of zazen and spent some of the time contemplating the issue. At first I concluded that love was abundant because, though we (in numbers) are limited, since we can make love out of anything or nothing, it is abundant.

Three periods of zazen later I wasn't so convinced. Maybe Shirley was right—that it was both abundant and scarce. Though we are able to create it anywhere and anytime, much of time we don't, or, as you say, we block it.

I remembered the Jataka tale of the Buddha sailing with the pirate who was going to kill everyone on the boat. The Buddha-to-be ends up killing the pirate out of love because he doesn't want the pirate to accumulate any bad karma from killing the passengers. In doing this, the Buddha took the chance of accumulating bad karma himself because of his love for the mean pirate.

Emma: I think the problem with that question is it's tossing us back in the land of ideas. I'm sitting here loving my friend, appreciating her strength and beauty, feeling my heart open and open and open in response to her. In the midst of loving her, in the experience of it, the love is without beginning and end. It is boundless. If we weren't having this conversation, it wouldn't even occur to me to look for how much love is there, to explore whether the supply is limited. It is infinite. Its limits only come into question when I'm disconnected from my love and love becomes an idea I'm talking about.

Even blocking love doesn't affect the amount of love there is. Being in a submarine doesn't change the ocean. It just changes my experience of it.

Kim: I asked my pilates teacher and one of her students whether love was abundant or scarce.
My teacher blurted out without hesitation, “Abundant.”
“Well, that settles that,” I said.
What you said about blocking love not reducing love did not feel right. Then I was sitting in the zendo and heard the wind against a window and realized, like the wind, love has an energy of its own. We live a little bit away from the main drag of our neighborhood.

I've been surrounded with a lot of love during my life. Some people haven't. It sometimes makes it hard to understand what the people who love me see. I'm continually struck with the love that continues even when I may not deserve it. Or is love something to deserve, anyway?

Emma: Yes, that's beautiful, Kim. Love has an energy of its own.