Winter is coming, and as is the case with all natural cycles, you can see so much by paying close attention. I was at a church that assists homeless people today. I was not even sure exactly why I went. My deepest need is for love and to be treated with dignity, and this has not been too often the case when trying to get some support from churches or social service agencies. But I do need to eat.
In any case I was waiting for them to open their doors and a man mentioned that one day, God will take the sun away to punish humanity and it will be a cold night forever. Never mind that the earth will die as well.
As he was speaking I looked up at the sky and noticed how the sunlight this November morning was a bit softer and sadder then in Spring or Summer. I also noticed that the light was pouring through the branches of a tree and highlighting the delicate strings of a spiderweb.
I said “Hey, we might as well enjoy the sunlight now before God takes it away forever.”
At that very moment none of us were “homeless.” We were simply being. Or at least we had an opportunity to be. And there are countless opportunities to be.
I’m actually not sure if sunlight looks any sadder in the winter then in the summer, but we slow down as the days shorten. I suppose light becomes more precious by being scarcer. I mean, if a soft moment of noticing the transitory nature of daylight makes one a bit more sensitive to the constancy of things coming and going—if the shorter days make one sad—then there must be a deep well of loss right beneath our lives.
In fact, the spider web is actually some astonishing mixture of light and dark. It is so delicate in one way, if I were to just gently touch one of the webs it would have been utterly destroyed. It seems the epitome of gentleness and care. And yet its purpose is to capture, trap, and destroy any other living being unfortunate enough to get ensnared.
Homelessness is actually similar in a sense. Seeing so much suffering so publicly is both a gentle and sad reminder of how cruel this society is. It gives us all an opportunity to open our gentle hearts to those so wounded.
But it is also evidence of class, race, gender, and crimes committed against members of our human family. And it needs to be addressed ASAP. It is the result of endless betrayals and should bring us all to that very cold and dark place we fear.
Paying attention to the changing seasons allows us to see how our relations to our human nature betray the unparalleled quality of the natural world: Nature does not act in violation of its essential quality. The woods are the woods. They do not act in violation of their essential quality. The same is true with eagles and wolves. But humans act in contradiction to our humanity, harming other life. The inherent nature of our souls is negated when humans harm humans.
The spider and its web and the sunlight and the autumn breeze say so much. We can either embrace these sacred lessons or destroy the woods and insects and animals because really, we are invested in destroying ourselves.
Being is a risk, but it’s the best risk of all.
Jesse Mentken is a 57-year-old white Jewish Buddhist poet, yogi, survivor of incest, homelessness, solitary confinement, and years of psych hospitalization. He has lived in San Diego for 8 years but is about to hit the road and is hoping to create an economically sustainable creative life in a hyper-Capitalist society. Any donations at all will be acknowledged as energetic blessings and will also help him do the laundry. His Venmo is: @Jesse-Mentken.