Thursday, October 3, 2013

Wash your bowl and make your bed

The other night I was watching the quite amazing television show, "The Bridge,"  an adaptation of a Danish/Swedish show, set on the Mexican/Texas border.  The Bridge is fairly violent, but never shies away from the heart-crushing effects of violence on human beings.  Please be warned, the violence on the Bridge feels more real than in most television programs, and can be quite shocking to watch.  I am lucky enough to know, whenever I watch television or a movie, that the people doing the violence are actors, on sets, speaking lines, enacting stage directions.  Show me a news report about Syria, or Kenya, or a football game, and I have to look away...I have no capacity for watching real violence.

One of the heroes of The Bridge is an El Paso police detective, Sonya (played by Diane Kruger), a woman with difficulties relating to others, who may or may not be on the autism spectrum, still coping with the brutal death of her sister many years ago.  Her Mexican partner, Marco (played by Demian Bichir), is grieving his son's recent murder by a serial killer.   Sonya is barely capable of friendship or real relationship, but she and Marco have learned to function well as a team, and Sonya is also devoted to her boss, Hank, who treats her with respect and as much affection (very little) as she can tolerate.  Hank has encouraged her to reach out to Marco in his grief.

Marco has been holed up in his Juarez home for a month, deserted by his wife and other children, sleeping, drinking and growing a very admirable beard. After rescuing him from a bar the night before, putting him to bed, and then cooking him eggs for breakfast, Sonya asks him, "Did you make your bed?"  Marco responds, "What are you, my mother?" And Sonya says, "When my sister died I stayed with Hank and his wife for a while.  Carmen had one rule for me:  'Always get up and make your bed.'  No matter how bad I felt, I had to face the day."

Many people know the koan, case 7 in the Gateless Gate,  where a young monk comes to study with the great Chinese teacher Zhaozhou, who,  in response to his request for teaching, asks "have you eaten your rice gruel?"  When the monk says yes, Zhaozhou says, "Wash your bowl."

Life is full of difficulty and suffering, and the discursive mind loves to figure out what to do, to interfere and make theories.  But the life of the heart is deeply and simply connected to the life of everyday activities.  Fully engaged in moving along, no matter how we feel, facing the day -- this is what is required.  So simple.  So healing. So human.

Wash your bowl.  Make your bed.  Stay connected.


  1. Melissa, Love the show, love the koan, love you putting the two together! Many blessings!

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