I was visiting with some friends who are self-described Jews-for-Vedanta. We were discussing meditation practice, and Borscht Belt humor. “I’ve got a good one,” one said. “Tell it!” we urged.
Meditators are like that—light-hearted, impulsive, bubbly. Good meditators, that is. You can tell a poor practitioner by his heaviness. He pushes his impulses down, rather than stirring his life-stuff into a pleasant effervescence.
It’s like a story about the Mullah, Nasruddin. He’s carrying a bowl of yogurt along a path in the woods. A wood-cutter looks up from his chopping. “Mullah! Where are you going with that bowl?!” “A spoonful of this stuff can change a gallon to yogurt,” replied the Mullah. “With this bowl I am going to transform a lake!”
But back to the hook-nosed navel-gazers. The joker continued: “So, when I meditate I repeat the original mantra, the primordial sound, ‘The secret chord that David played, and it pleased the Lord.’ And when it really gets going I feel hot, like I’m sitting on a stovetop. So…what do you call that?”
The meditators looked around at each other. “Ok, what is it?”
“It’s…OM on the Range!”
But the meditators leave our story here. As Rumi sang, If you throw dust at someone’s head, nothing will happen. If you throw water, nothing. But combine them into a lump. That marriage of water and dirt cracks open the head, and afterwards there are other marriages.
There’s a story about King Solomon and some gnats that came to log a complaint against the wind. Their claim was mistreatment, disregard, and precipitous buffeting. The king heard their grievance and said, “To judge this case fairly I must hear both sides. Summon the wind!” But when the wind arrived, the gnats were nowhere to be found.
So it is with complaining. Gnats are tiny metaphors for the voices that whine prettily in our minds.
My three-year-old son, named Ezra, which means “helper” in the language of our people, said “Let’s go home.” “What is home?” I questioned, obnoxiously. “It’s our house, Dad!” “What else?” I pressed. “It’s where our family is together,” he said with a smile of recognition.
There are levels of meaning in every word. The prophet Mohammed says precisely seven, but I haven’t been able to verify this. I have verified that everything I see, touch, suffer, and say has a hologram of meanings. They aren’t just piled on top of each other like a stack of turtles. The meanings open upward in relationship to everything else, like interdimensional funnels.
My other son, Asher, which means “beneficent phallus” in the language of the ancient Assyrians (and “happy” in the language of our people), and I were looking at a fire we were tending in the yard. The fire had been at the center of a shamanic ceremony in which the assembled friends had burned prepared prayer offerings—despachos. The fire was enriched by our intentions and attention.
“The fire is really blazing,” Asher said, enunciating carefully, trying on the word like a new garment. “The fire is a family,” I commented. “Wood, air, and their child—flame.” He pushed at the burning branches and red coals with a stick. “It needs all three,” he concluded.
The past and the present and the future. / Faith and Hope and Charity, / The heart and the brain and the body / Give you three as a magic number.
We are cooking in a magical soup. The stewing draws out our flavor and puts some back, enriched with the essence of the broth. We are at the same time the cook and the soup. And this moment is the place where the ingredients are combined. If we have the eyes to see, ears to hear, voice and hands to respond, the stuff of our life will be a tasty repast on the tongues of angels.