Yesterday Laurel and I felt sorry for ourselves. You probably won’t feel sorry for us. But then, you’re not us. If you were us, pretty obviously you’d feel like just us. And even though you’re you and we are ourselves, I bet you’ve engaged in some similar feeling-sorryness that appears ridiculous to anyone else but you.
Here’s the deal: wanting knows no bounds. I realize this philosophically. The Buddha clearly explained how desire leads to suffering, and I’ve read my share of Buddhist books. But it isn’t until I’m face to face with a concrete example of how my wanting expands to fit the space available to it (which seemingly is infinite) that I really grasp what a trap I’m in. Laurel too. All of us, except the few with Buddha nature.
This is the view from the deck of the Camp Sherman cabin that we just came back from. We share ownership of the cabin with three other families. It sits on leased national forest service land on the banks of the Metolius River.
In 1997 we were fortunate to learn about a ¼ share of the cabin being put up for sale. At the time a Coldwell Banker realtor in Sisters told us that in the seven years he had been with the firm only one forest service cabin had been listed publicly, and he had never seen a partial share made available. These Metolius River cabins generally are passed down from generation to generation in a family, treasured assets that they are.
Laurel and I love the cabin. We love Camp Sherman. We love the Metolius River. And yet, we feel sorry for ourselves because we don’t have a direct view of the river like lots of other cabins do.
Whenever we walk to the cabin at the very end of the Metolius River trail, nearest to the head of the Metolius (which issues full-blown from a large spring), we envy the view those owners have from their deck. “They’re so lucky to have a view of the river,” we say. “We just look at trees. Poor us.”
I know, I know. This sounds ridiculous. It is ridiculous. But that’s how the human mind works: it always wants more, even when it has a lot.
Here’s a Calcutta street scene. I’m pretty sure most of the people who live in Calcutta wouldn't feel sorry for us if they knew that we have to look at just trees from inside the cabin rather than trees and the river. And yet, I’m willing to bet that if a Calcutta slum dweller were to be transplanted to our Camp Sherman cabin, within a few years he or she would be walking the river trail thinking just like us: “Oh, how nice it would be to have a better view.”
Well, I meditate every morning, as does Laurel. We await our enlightenments, the end of our never-ending wantings. For now, we make do with who we are.
I’ve taken to carrying a lounge chair the 100 feet or so from our cabin to the river, naturally feeling sorry for myself the whole way as I try to balance a chair and cushions in one hand, and a glass of juice, magazines, paperback book, and highlighter in the other. It’s a tough life.
I stagger with my load to the bank of the Metolius and settle in. Looking around, it’s a nice view. I can’t see it from our cabin—boo-hoo!—but they say that suffering is good for the soul.
I vow to endure, somehow, as I sip my cranberry juice and listen to the rushing water. Somewhere in Calcutta a street urchin is searching for food in a pile of trash. And I'm feeling sorry for myself.