Two worlds

IMG_3677The city of Chicago puts a lot of effort and planning into their skyline. You’d think I’d put a picture of that up instead of this grainy shot of a smoke stack and old radio tower in Pilsen that I took while driving through downtown. I also love this skyline. I was reminded of this fact as I was driving home a couple weeks ago through Cleveland. Back in the early 90’s I used to drive between Chicago and Rochester NY often while I was in college at RIT (yet another reason why you should expect a better photograph, I have a degree in Photography from there) and I loved going right through Cleveland because on the north side of Interstate 90 are all the stadiums and downtown buildings and aquarium but to the south are a line of steel mills, still smoking then, beautiful in their own industrial way. There are polished and clean parts and the dirty, practical working parts and all parts in between.

IMG_3673As I was driving the 3 days home, I wondered how it would be to go from a very beautiful and equally remote and isolated environment to a rather large city with all it’s traffic and noise and people. The second night of my journey was spent in the Jamestown NY/Warren PA area watching a fireworks display with my cousin, her friends and a few thousand other people. I split my time between watching fireworks and the crowd. There were so many different types of people I feared that I would anger someone with my staring. How do I take the discipline I’ve developed and continue a practice when it’s not built into my daily schedule? How do I reconcile an eclectic and busy city life and practical, Catholic, Mid-western upbringing with this past year of Tibetan Buddhist Monastic boot camp?

The radio was great this trip. I’m guessing that either David Lee Roth is rejoining Van Halen or that they are putting out a box set of the old stuff and that Eddie Money has somehow stumbled back into the media because I heard a lot about both of them. But overall, I was able to listen to fresh and local radio and only heard that new Robyn Thicke song once      ( Look how fast I caught up on pop culture!!). The awesome radio luck ran out in western Ohio, which is no big surprise. A good 40% of the radio is Christian talk. The other 60% is IMG_3702Christian music, Country or classic rock. I usually steer way, way clear of Christian talk radio but for some reason I listened to this one station. It was a talk about Revelation, the ‘prophetic’ book of the Bible, a topic I know very little about. I don’t remember the name of the preacher but he started reading from the book of Revelation and it immediately reminded me of the Sadhanas and visualizations we would do bi-weekly at the Abbey. And then he started talking about ‘not making friends with your sin’ which reminded me of the advice that you can’t achieve enlightenment if you are still in love with Samsara. Next came talk of devotion and awareness. It was like I was listening to a teaching, with Jesus playing the role of a Buddhist patriarch.

It has been so great to come back to Chicago, to come back home. IMG_3695To see the friends and family who are not only unfailingly supportive but who have raised me and taught me and put me along this path. There is a temptation to label some experiences as good and bad or helpful and not-helpful. I am sure that if I hadn’t driven out of range, that the preacher on the radio would have said something that was reprehensible to me. I would have written him off completely. There was nothing he said that I could disagree with but one word on gay folk being the scourge of society and I would have forgotten every bit of it, written it all off. But there aren’t just the shiny parts of the city, there’s the dirty parts where a lot of the work is done too.


IMG_3629So I will take lessons from wherever they come, especially from the new friends who have come along.


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