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Trouble in Heaven
And on Earth
The Method
The Fall
Symbols of Self
Hard Problems
Flesh of the Gods
Free Will
Ever Beginning
Never Ending

Chapter 13

It is worthy to tame the mind, which is difficult to contain and flighty;

rushing wherever it listeth. A tamed mind brings happiness.

                                                                        Dhammapada, 5th century BCE

The shattered rays of the morning sun oscillated in rhythmic patterns across the surface of the Charles River while Lovejoy watched.

Lovejoy sat and waited; stunned, hopeful and forlorn all at once.

He watched the runners, bikers and rollerbladers all very busy, up and down the banks of the river. They all seemed very certain about themselves. The rowers practicing on the river moved in unison to the single call of the coxswain. And so they glided smoothly across the waves.

"Is this what I should do?" thought Lovejoy to himself. "Give up my identity, follow the pace of a well-oiled organization in order to get somewhere efficiently?"

Lovejoy replayed his interviews that morning. First at a prestigious, and unnaturally intense, hospital. This was a Mecca of the new scientific religion. These were the temples where people placed their life and death trust. And these well trained and sometimes puffed up doctors were the new priests. He thought of Mindy's theory about muscles and the mind. Were these people strutting and barking because this reflected what they thought of themselves? Or were they forcing themselves into compliance with a demeanor they felt was necessary to survive in this competitive environment. This was a chicken-versus-egg question. Ultimately they would forget the reason why they started acting this way and they would become what they pretended to be.

Did he really have to go back into this rat race? The power and reputation that he would gain would be exciting, but was it worth the cost? It would change not just how he looked to others, but how he looked at the world. How he looked at himself.

His second interview was in a place much more down to earth. This urban clinic lived and breathed in the turmoil of a very rough district. His calculations took a distinct turn towards self-preservation. He would probably be safe here, he rationalized, as long as he parked close to the building and tried to leave before dark. But the problems of the people were overwhelming. He really didn't know how people in this neighborhood coped with every day life. In some ways they didn't cope. Violence, drugs and depression were widespread. Where did one start? He knew, eventually, he'd work at this clinic. He'd work one person at a time. That's what always brought him back to work on mornings when he didn't want to show up; thinking about the next patient he would see, and that he might have something to help them.

Lovejoy looked all around. People jogging. Parents pushing strollers and couples moving towards parenthood. There were people haughty and humble. He wanted to know what was passing through each of their minds. He tried to imagine, but knew that was a doubtful business. Venturing into the wide world after living in the monastery was more than a challenge. He needed to let himself change, to adapt, as if he was traveling to another culture with different mores. Yet, he must keep his principles. What else was he if he gave up these? It was the application of his principles which might be different in a new environment. But what were his core ideals? In the midst of all these people, he felt very lonesome.

"OK Jehovah. Where are you now? I need some friends, and maybe some luck. Or maybe you don't you do luck?" His thoughts continued as he waited. "You know I listen when you speak to me. Couldn't you return the favor? What would I ask God, if I really had the chance? Three questions, like a genie in the bottle. I guess it all boils down to what will make me happy. He, she, would probably give some completely non-specific answer. How about, 'Is there really any afterlife or do I just end it all right now?' Wow am I depressed! Rather, I'll just give up and let some terrible disease whisk me away. Then at least there will be sympathy. No, this is too cynical. Try another approach. What do I enjoy doing? Not just for the moment, but through and through. Now that's a question I can work on. I'll just observe myself. Pay attention to what gives me a sense of joy and satisfaction. Then enhance that.

Lovejoy paused. He tried to remember how he meditated back at the group. Surely he got something from that training. He sat up, shut his eyes, followed his breathing. Deep breathing lead to an acute awareness of various muscles that were tight. He relaxed them one by one. He wasn't sure, but it seemed as if each time he did so, a particular worry became less important. He would try to remember to tell Mindy.

As each worry died down, he started to enjoy the beautiful setting. The fluttering light behind his eyelids; the sounds of people, birds and waves lapping at the stone walls. He could even smell the grass again, this time, in the middle of a city.

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