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The Bittersweet Symphony

It’s a bittersweet symphony this life…  The Verve, Urban Hymns


I was reminded of a favorite Zen koan recently –

A young Buddhist acolyte, new to the monastery, approaches the master and asks for the benefit of his wisdom and enlightment.

“Have you eaten?” asks the master.

“Yes,” replies the acolyte.

“Then wash your dishes.”

That simple solution to understanding and appreciating the world came to me again during a twilight bike ride through my neighborho0d:  Wash your dishes.   Be where you are, intentional in action,  fully present, conscious and aware. 

And suddenly the evening opened up to me:

The warm moist summer air on my skin –

A jet tracing a white slash across the paling sky –

Bats flitting above the treetops, darting on silent wings about the streetlights –

A wall of black cumulous clouds beyond the lake, backlit sharply by the setting sun –

The play of waning sunlight on leaves and branches arching overhead –

The rising trill of frogs and crickets and evening birdsong –

A cadence of music and conversation caught on the wind as I passed a home where people sat outside together in the lengthening shadows–

The lives of friends and neighbors illuminated by turns in kitchen and living room windows as I pedaled past, became a zoetrope of human life flickering in house after house.  A black cat slipped across a shadowed sidewalk and appeared again upon my return, casting a yellow glance in my direction before gliding in the bushes.  Everything seemed crisp, vivid, palpable, personal; every breath intimate and life giving.

What began as a simple outing to get out of the house became instead an opportunity to become part of the world, to rejoin life.

Life is, indeed, a bittersweet symphony.  We live, we work, we wash the dishes; we ponder, we create, we recreate, we procreate and then we die. But first and foremost we live.   Every step, every action, every sight and sound, every breath drawn, is a chance to live fully and deeply.   

Every dish washed, is a moment alive.


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