Sunday, May 15, 2005

Looking for the Sweet One

One of my favorite fables - but I don't tell it much because I'm not totally sure what it means. Actually, I am sure what it means - but that meaning is elastic and mutable, and depends mostly on the state of my heart.

My one true successful retelling was to an Indian Psychiatrist, from whom I was attempting to elicit an obscenely large prescription of anti-depressants. I told him the story, and he gave me a smile and then a true laugh, all rounded at the edges. He was still chuckling as he signed his name.


A man (okay, a hu-man -- Do you think this is short for "Hubris Man"...never fear, HUBRIS MAN is here, and all that?) sought wisdom from a master who was known throughout the land as a keeper of the secrets of life. This truth-seeking pilgrim had traveled many dangerous months to visit the master - over deserts of distraction, oceans of meaninglessness, mountains of heartbreak - and now he stood in a vast stone hall, seeking audience.

At the far end of the hall, the master sat on a simple cushion, behind a huge pile of bright, hot peppers, stuffing them one-by-one into his mouth, and sobbing. The pilgrim could hear the hiss and hitch of the master's pain, yet he approached and kneeled before him, touching his forehead to the cold stone floor.

"Master," he began, "master, these peppers are causing you such pain. Why do you continue to eat them?"

The master paused, pepper in his right hand, with his left he gestured toward the pilgrim, to bless or to quiet. The master was red from crying and from heat; tears and snot covered his face, soaked his collar, dripped down his chest.

"My child, I am looking for the sweet one."


So...Here are the meanings I come up with:

Life is pain. Anyone who tells you differently is selling something.
Yet, it is our role, our human role to keep going despite it. Despite the heat, despite the pain, despite the humiliation. Pain overwhelms at times, rolls over you like an insistent wave, disoriented and curled on yourself, you only see the path to breathe after you've hit your head on the sand. And, people see you at your worst - stupid, desperate, and with snot rolling down your face - and yet you meet them again at work, over a counter, across a pillow. It is the hero's journey to keep going nonetheless.


The master is telling us not to believe in the fantasy we create.
Why, in god's name, would we continue to believe that there is some possibility that the next pepper could be sweet? In the same way that the next toy will finally make us happy, that the next relationship will heal our chapped, oozing soul, that the hour on the treadmill will make us more desirable to others, to ourselves. Is it this desperate lie that keeps us from giving up? Does this ability to create make us human or divine?