Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Masked and Unmasked

Priest and friend, masked and unmasked

 It's been a long time since I posted anything beyond news of events at the Temple.  Something about the times we've been living through have left me "taking the backward step" as Dogen says, rather than reaching out to people through this blog.  But I've made a new commitment, and, in the way of all such plans, while I am fairly sure that this post will happen, I can only hope and trust that I'll continue to post more regularly.

The photo above is from a billboard in front of our local Roman Catholic church, about a national giving campaign.   I love the look on the face of our old friend white Jesus, happily unmasked and looking over the shoulder of one of his priests.  There's something about the two of them that points us all to finding a way to our common ground as human beings in the middle of a pandemic.  I've been practicing with my reactivity to people who don't wear masks, figuring that, on some level, they don't believe in the pandemic.  While the emotional-cognitive reaction I have is based on delusion, since I don't really know why people out in public aren't wearing masks (did they forget? are they having trouble breathing?  are they angels, bodhisattvas or saints appearing among us to show us the way?) it provides an opportunity to look deeply into my own tendency to create reality out of a partial understanding of what's happening at any time, anywhere.  

Zen teachings point us to the opportunity to meet everything as fully as we possibly can, to engage directly with the world we perceive and to be suspicious of the conclusions we draw.  The guideline is to be curious about everything.  I will probably never know why the people I meet during my daily walk are masked or unmasked, but I do know that they are probably human beings like me, struggling to figure out how to live in a challenging world.  This allows a more spacious internal experience, and I am then free to greet them sincerely, with a hidden, masked smile, as another companion on the path.  


  1. Hi Melissa, All these masks are like a poem: Am I, "really", masked without a mask,,, or unmasked behind a mask? Can't, really, tell!