Some of us during this lockdown found ourselves wasting our time away. But not Rolland Smith, retired correspondent for both CBS News and MetroMedia Group. At home in Rifton, New York, Rolland hasn’t been wasting his time away. He’s been thinking his time away.
I have socially isolated. Having survived wars and riots in the course of my career, I do not want some microbe to be my undoing.
I live alone. I divide my solitary day into parts. Breakfast and chores, then mid-morning spent learning something new or at least remembering that I once knew it. Then lunch and a nap and finally, for a couple of hours in the afternoon, I ponder.
What do I ponder? Eclectic koans (a Buddhist practice), parables, and assumptive truths.
In one of my ponderings, I remembered a story I read years ago in Parabola magazine. It was called “A Crane at the Pond.” And it came from an ancient sacred poem of India.
As the story goes, there were five brothers, estranged princes from their native land. They are very thirsty and come upon a lake. The youngest rushes ahead to get a drink. The lake is guarded by a white crane who says to the young prince, “If you touch the water before answering my questions, you will die.”
He drank. He died.
The same thing happened to the next three brothers.
Finally, the oldest brother, grieving at the loss of his four siblings, agrees to answer before he drinks.
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In the original story there were several riddle questions, but the one that stands out in these pandemic times is this: “What is the most surprising thing in life?”
The eldest and only surviving brother replies, “That although we see people dying every day, we never think that we will die.”
Not to leave the ending there, the crane reveals that he’s a god, and satisfied with the answers, restores the other four brothers to life.
Not one of us likes to think about our demise, but we do in these troubled times. Communicating our wants and desires to family and friends is important.
In another pondering, I dreamed I was talking to God.
I asked, “Lord, have you got a few minutes for some questions?”
“I’ve got eternity,” was the gentle answer
“Why did you inflict humanity with this virus pandemic?”
“I didn’t,” he said, “I created the earth as a sacred place for souls to have choices to rapidly advance to the All That Is— the Oneness of the Universe.
“To blame me for your free-will choices and alterations to the environment belies the unconditional nonjudgemental love I have for all.
“Your planet is the only one I created where human souls have the choice to create good or bad.”
“What’s going to happen to us,” I asked.
“Oh, you’ll get through it, as you have in so many of the disasters and tragedies you’ve created throughout history, just don’t look to blame,” he said. “You have the collective gift of creation, it is powerful, but choices always have unintended consequences. Use the gift wisely with love, and you will find the peace you seek.”
“I hope so,” I said.
“I know so,” God said.
I awoke from my dream and made a drink.