The old Zen instruction goes simply: chop wood, carry water. The occasional crisis notwithstanding, most of us live simply much of the time. In ancient times we were shepherds and farmers, busy herding and tilling, hoping the wolves stayed away. Now we go to work, hang with friends/family, cheer for our favorite teams, generally live a comfy, settled reality. Then, just when things seem sorta predictable, along comes something or someone to shake us up, challenge us, make us move out of our comfort zone, sometimes for love, curiosity, or adventure, and others kicking and screaming every step of denial along the way.
In this week’s reading we’re given the Marvel-worthy tale of a pesky younger brother, a dreamer, sure he’s the handsomest and smartest guy in the room. To make it worse, he’s foretelling upheaval and doom, the end of life as we know it.
The Joseph story is so wonderful because despite all the crap that’s done to him, it’s a story of survival and eventual triumph. His and maybe our own. He has amazing access and prescience, chaneling the signals, hints, and whispers that are all around us into the story of what’s coming, even if we can’t see it on our path.
He’s sold into slavery by his own brothers, narrowly escaping death. I see him lowered into the pit in the hands-up/don’t shoot position. Surrendering to a fate that no one would choose but is clearly his road. If you can foretell what follows, maybe it’s not so bad. if you’re the one in the pit, it must suck.
Biblical Hebrew has no tenses. It’s all a matter of interpretation. Was it then or is it now or will it become? Are you in the pit, climbing out, or does it loom ahead?
In real time our winter (like-a-bear-wants-to-be-hibernating) self is responding to all manner of December distractions. The go out/stay in rumblings fighting it out. And just as we officially declare the season of wood stoves, cocoa, and great books, the ratio of light to dark is shifting to brighter, a fraction of a day at a time. Pure cognitive dissonance. Are we trying to climb in or out?
There’s a great holiday in a couple months to celebrate “when the sap remembers to being to rise.” In the meantime, it’s still dreaming in the roots. The Joseph story says, this is the time to deeply listen. To become a little more prescient, to hear the secrets and portents the universe is whispering in your ear, about what is and will be, now and in times to come.
Use what you are told, so that when light shifts into spring you will emerge into your new, sappier, self. The one who spent winter listening, watching, cogitating, and ripening, letting all your guides and muses pour insight into your ears and soul. Be that you. The one who sees what’s coming as though it were now.
Because it’s all about tense. Past present future now. What the Buddhas and cosmologists tell us is true. Everything is present. Whether you’re a prince or in the pit can be a matter of perspective and attitude. And when it’s not, all the more reason to listen up and pay good attention.