Two hours into a three-hour flight I looked up from my book: Some subtle scent had just whispered “Hawaii” to me. Thinking that maybe someone had just passed by in the aisle I looked in both directions, but everyone was seated. I continued reading and then again detected that subtle scent. Sitting still I tried to figure out what in the smell was reminding me of Hawaii, and suddenly realized that I was detecting tuberose, which for me is THE smell of Hawaii: Whenever I arrive in Hawaii my brother is waiting for me with a lei of double-tuberose which I wear for days until the blooms start browning. Having realized what the scent was that I was detecting I then tried to figure out where it was coming from. I leaned to the left, to the right, forward and backwards… it just seemed to subtly be everywhere. And then the light-bulb went on in my head: It was my cologne! After six hours all of the top-notes had worn off, enabling me to detect the previously unsuspected subtle presence of tuberose. It was like hearing Hawaii whispering my name. For the rest of the flight I closed my eyes and stayed with the scent.
What we love takes our life somewhere, sometimes for the better, but not always. Living down here in Georgia I once heard the saying: “A dog in the hunt doesn’t know that he has fleas.” This raises the question: Is it good for us to love what we love? Like the dog that is enjoying the hunt, the person who tries meth enjoys the sensation that it gives, but is blind to the fleas of addiction with which the experience is afflicting him. But what about loves other than drugs? I guess it boils down to: Is what I love helping me to deal with reality in a healthy way? Yes, perhaps the kitten evokes love from my heart, but what do the other 42 cats in my house say about my ability to sense when I am slipping away from reality?
The film producer Tom Kelly was once at our monastery filming for a week. In discussing the various people about whom he has made films he brought up Mother Theresa. To demonstrate her singleness of purpose he related how one day he said to her, “Mother, isn’t it a beautiful day?” To this she replied, “Yes, it is a beautiful day to be against abortion.” Tom said he was unsure what to say next. My point is: Does my involvement with even good things cause me to slip into the myopia of one-sidedness and possibly lose sight of the larger picture?
Sitting there in the plane with my eyes closed, focused on the subtle smell of tuberose, I prayed that the enjoyment that I was experiencing at that moment would flow out of me and into how I would relate to people once I landed in Dallas… even though I wished I was landing in Hawaii.