September 24, 2003

Too Many Tables

My life is a mess – a literal mess. I am living in the middle of disorder which I have caused. I came home yesterday to a big hole cut in the side of my house. My contractor will soon slide a wonderful fireplace into that hole, but it was disconcerting nevertheless. I do not like holes in my house and I do not like holes in my life.

We are doing a little remodeling, turning two rooms into one. In order to do this magic trick, two rooms of furniture and the contents of three closets have to disappear. But, they do not really disappear. They are just redistributed to already full rooms. The new additions to my office are two couches, two chairs, seven lamps, eighty four tables, and six hundred and thirty three priceless framed objects of art. I hardly notice they are here, if I close my eyes.

As I opened my birthday presents this morning, I realized the disorder in my life is not limited to the construction project. My birthday was six days ago. But my wife and I have not had time to sit down together to open the presents. We have been in the midst of moving her mother from her home into assisted living. And last week a day trip with family to Cape Cod was detoured to an emergency room and five days for her father in intensive care.

Reality has intervened. in my life. Sometimes I schedule it, but it is the unscheduled realities that cause me the most trouble. Just when I think I have aligned the stars correctly, reality intervenes. The joke on me is that each time I am surprised. In "The World According to Jim," life is supposed to be smooth without hidden speed bumps. All of my planning is based on this. But reality is never smooth. If it were smooth, it would not be reality.

Faith has always been an important matter to me. I have searched over the last few years for my definition of faith. The traditional Christian definition, “belief and trust in a good and gracious God, as know through Jesus Christ,” just does not work for me. With a little bit of help from Pure Land Buddhism, I came up with my own definition: “I entrust myself to reality as is.”

My faith is being tested. I really do not want reality as is. I want reality as created and controlled by me. I do not want five thousand nine hundred seventy seven end tables in my office. I do not want parents to age and be sick. I do not want to age.

I want order in my life. I want to line up the nice little piles on my desk. I want to carefully arrange the furniture of my life. No one and no thing should move them. Then life would be peaceful.

Ken Wilber says that we all want peace and our vision of serenity is floating on a smooth ocean. But he says that our vision is wrong. Serenity is learning to surf. Well, I have learned what causes those damned waves. It is reality, dreaded reality. I am trying to learn to surf, but lately it has been one helluva storm. Sometimes I would like to get down off my coffee table and take a nap. If only the couches were not piled up to the ceiling!