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The Zen of Fireflies

June 25, 2012

So regularly, each summer, you might set your calender by their debut,

June’s first evening will rise the fireflies over lawns still warm from day as gloaming deepens into definite nightfall across our pleasant Maryland suburbs.

Day is done in my back yard. We are leaving this house soon. I am aware of witnessing for the last time my seasonal first-rising of fairy lights here. It felt nothing like taking down the Christmas tree because, in fact, we like the new place.

I just stand up on the deck, smelling my dry lawn in the still air, and watch June’s original fireflies mediating the light between present darkness and the stars yet to come.

Of course, at a distance, you cannot watch one firefly at a time because, by the time you focus on its ardent bio-green wink, it’s gone invisible again against the darkness. Another flash attracts your eye, but again you can only experience the same tantalizing failure to quite see what you’re looking for.

From this parable-like Elusiveness of Being, I deduce, smiling, that watching fireflies must indeed be a great spiritual discipline. Do you take me seriously? But ask yourself: What else can it be? And how do you succeed?

My answer is to de-focus my eyes. People usually notice only what is directly ahead, front and center. Actually, we of normal vision see much of a wrap-around panorama. So, by exploiting choiceless vision, I become aware of the whole gestalt, the “field of perception,” which tonight happens to contain the gentle mating ecstasy of luminous dots.

Blink blink. I just watch and watch, breathing according to an old chi-gung exercise somebody once showed me years ago. Blink blink. Gentle joy fills my heart. But under the same impulse my Western mind wakes up. Perhaps, I think, I am becoming a tiny bit too Asian, after all these years spent among so many powerful Korean and Chinese personalities.

Hmm. Nobody’s looking. Think I’ll take a leak off the deck and water the Zen.

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