982: Rain

20231023 SD

982: Rain

Today’s episode is guest hosted by Shira Erlichman.


I’m Shira Erlichman and this is The Slowdown.

Life…is messy. “I’m sorry,” my dear friend A apologizes to me while she cries, “I’m falling apart,” she tells me. I take her hand as she fidgets, clearly uncomfortable with the influx of wild emotion. And recently, I learned that my friend K stepped out of his home into gorgeous weather only to have his foot run over by a car running a red. And the infant in the seat next to me on a three-hour plane ride reached operatic heights and nothing––nothing––this father tried hushed her. And while their new puppy made the neighbor’s kids vibrate with joy, I hear the new puppy also won’t stop shitting all over the house. “I don’t want to get too excited,” my beloved S says about a crush, “I don’t want to hope.” It’s as if he is intuiting that one of the ducks he’s finally gotten in a row is about to wander into oncoming traffic.

In one of her many dharma talks, the American Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön advises that the goal is to stop trying to get your ducks in a row. Your ducks will never be in a row.

‘No thanks,’ I immediately thought, ‘I’m working very hard to get all my ducks in a row. Is it going well? No. Will I stop trying? No.’ You know the ducks: the duck of work, the duck of relationship, the duck of kids, of money, of health, the duck of rest, the duck of enlightenment. I would very much like them all in a row. But I know she’s right. For every few minutes that they cha-cha-cha! in stride, there’s the next few minutes where 1 or 2 have gotten distracted, or worse, flattened by the grills of a mack truck.

Chödrön wants us to know that This is the human condition. Impermanence. Change. Ducks be duckin’. It’s not her personal theory. It’s not even the Buddha’s. Buddha simply said, Look around. It’s the truth. Our urge to get it together, to finally put things in their proper order, or to control chaos will be upended at every turn. Even if you attempt to super glue those cute little duck feet down, that’s not going to super glue the seasons, or your hairs from turning white, or the graveyard plot from being filled.

In true tough love fashion, Chödrön goes on to say, “Things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that.” We are at the whims of great forces, of giant winds. We are a part of the world, not its subduer. Life is not a filing cabinet to thumb hummingly. It’s a wilderness that swells and recedes according to its own nature.

Today’s short poem is by an extraordinary young monk, four-year-old Adrian Keith Smith. He may not be ordained, but he is a tremendously wise noticer. Like the Buddha, by simply observing the world around him, he grasps a mammoth truth that most adults struggle to accept.

by Adrian Keith Smith

The rain screws up its face
and falls to bits.
Then makes itself again.
Only the rain can make itself again.

"Rain" by Adrian Keith Smith from MIRACLES: POEMS BY CHILDREN OF THE ENGLISH SPEAKING WORLD © 1984 Richard Lewis. Used by permission of the Touchstone Center for Children