When I'm not working, I'm able to pick our daughter up at school. It's been a longstanding habit of mine to go a little early and sit in the car and read. (Thus also avoiding the stress of trying to get a parking spot which can be a perilous endeavour nearer to 3 o'clock). I've often read Pema Chodron in the car...No Time To Lose used to live in my backseat. I now leave the pocket book (on the shelf above) in the car. And today I read this:
“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that's all that's happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness--life's painful aspect--softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody's eyes because you feel you haven't got anything to lose--you're just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We'd be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn't have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.”
- Pema Chödrön
It works for the life of the writer - because it is a lot like that - heavy on the wretchedness, and lighter on the gloriousness, for most of us anyway. It also helps me think about my approach at the library. How it's good to have known pain, loss, insofar as it helps me approach people who might be going through something. It's the softening, right, that she speaks of. Allows you to be more openhearted, open to the possibilities.
Anyway, it's been a while since I read Pema Chodron, and I find it's new again in certain ways. I think this is probably because of the last couple of years of working at the library (my second year anniversary at my current branch will be in April). I remember reading ages ago, can't remember where, that it's easy to be a buddhist when you're a hermit (though I do pine for those days, however short lived, when I managed not to work a day job). You don't come up against anything, or anyone, you don't have your beliefs tested in any way when you're a hermit in a cave, or in your study. I don't know that I'm even vaguely close to being buddhist, I'm not, but the practice of working at the public library is a good one for putting what I believe into practice. And I mean, so often, you fall short, it's inevitable I guess. One keeps practicing. To stay open, present, to be patient, and to listen well, to help, do no harm, to uncover the questions beneath the questions - and then combine this with a knowledge of e-readers, databases, circulation procedures, technology, reference, and reader's advisory skills...It's a good challenge. And part of the challenge, in whatever work a person happens to do, is to not become bored with the repetitive aspects. It's been helpful for me to re-read some of these texts that I once spent so much time with. The Dhammapada. No Time to Lose. etc. What I want to remember, in the back of my head somewhere, even in the smallest interactions, is the potential we all have for gloriousness and wretchedness.
Meanwhile, yes, bread, again. The random bread.