Neither Jocko nor Missy could recall the exact point where it began to go wrong. Certainly, once they moved in with each other things changed. Each became aware of some irritating habits of the other to which they had been blind, and yes, sometimes those habits spawned a hurricane, but Jocko and Missy always found a way to put the house back together again. But the anger was a curious thing in that even after they made up it always seemed to be simmering right beneath the surface. And then the day came when Missy demanded that Jocko marry her… to which Jocko tactlessly responded, “Why buy the whole cow if you can get the milk for free?” Instantly made incandescent with rage by the disrespect of his comment Missy retorted, “And why buy the whole damned pig just to get one little sausage?!” Doors were slammed, dishes were smashed, and that was the end of their experiment in living together.
Getting angry makes the helpless feel empowered. If one’s job or the lack of money or a problem in a relationship cause one to feel powerless anger can distract from that feeling. The problem with stoking anger, however, is that it can get away from us and stampede around in our life, causing all sorts of problems. Anger can cause us to choose a course of action which, upon reflection, proves to have been a mistake. Certainly no sane person deliberately sets out to make a mistake, but mistakes happen. So what do we do when that occurs? First of all, a mistake is not lost experience in that it can actually enable us to wake up, much like the good solid “whack” on the back administered by a Zen master to a disciple during meditation. A mistake can inform us that we went too far: we thought that the edge of the cliff was four more footsteps but just as we went over the edge we realized that it was three! So then, what to do with our heart’s wreckage once a mistake has occurred? How can our heart once again obtain a peace-filled equilibrium?
The architect Frank Geary, when asked what motivates him in his creative work, replied: “Making beauty out of the ordinary.” Because of the “celebrity culture” by which we are constantly bombarded the “ordinary” is very much undervalued! Everyone wants to be Someone! People yearn for their fifteen minutes of fame! For many of us the ordinary holds no allure… and yet the ordinary is really the only opportunity we have in which to be happy! Since contentment and happiness cannot be purchased they must be cultivated within that most ordinary of things: the heart. Happiness is found in reflecting upon and appreciating what we have, who we are and where we are… not in yearning for what we don’t have, who we aren’t or where we’re not! It seems that cultivating an appreciation for the ordinary is central to the peace that we seek, and that the world also needs, because without peace within ourselves there can be no peace in the world… despite governments, movements or theologies.
So how do we cultivate that appreciation? Taking ten minutes each day to just sit and observe what is around us will enable us to see our reality in a way not possible when we are automatically rushing through it! Catching ourselves when the habit of worrying comes along, and refusing to get into that car which would take us away from “here.” Taking the time to evaluate all that our heart yearns for, trying to discern the difference between what we need and what we want.
Architecture, painting, sculpture, and gardening can be ways of “making beauty out of the ordinary”, but so too can the interior cultivation of respect, compassion, and forgiveness! In all of the things that we might want, forget the cow, forget the pig… go for the heart!