Outside our little house, in our tiny Chinese Village, is a tree.
There are a few trees in the small yard.
Most of them fruit trees.
This particular one, a Percemon.
During summer, we picked from it the most juicy orange fruit.
Enough to eat.
Enough to make into jars and jars of jam.
Enough to give away to neighbours and friends.
Enough for flocks of birds to feed, their excited chatter the soundtrack on early summer’s mornings as they visit our little yard to feast for breakfast.
Enough to fall and rot and feed the soil in which it sunk its roots a long time ago.
Towards the end of summer there were still fat orange spots to see, in high up branches, as other trees already began to shed their leaves with autumn’s approach.
And eventually this tree too gave way to the rhythm of time, dry leaves falling, revealing naked branches and grey bark, where once there was only green and orange.
Looking at it this morning, as I sip on coffee and contemplate winter, it looks like nothing.
Ready to be chopped down and given a final opportunity to bring happiness to this place, as its dry branches feed a fire to bring warmth or cook a meal.
Yet, I am aware, to chop it down would be foolish.
For I have seen trees before and know, the rhythm of seasons.
What is lush and scrumptious in summer is often pale and bare in winter.
The hibernation of colder months, vital, not only to survival, but also to eliminate pests and gather consistency for a new summer, when leaves will grow and buds will bloom, calling fresh fruit to life, for many to enjoy again.
The tree unable to command the weather or the seasons, yet comfortably existing amidst it all, unaware that each season brings what it must, in an exquisite order, drawing forward and upward in a cycle of fruit and rest, which demands no effort other than that it is, sinking roots, growing leaves, drinking sun and water, with fruit as consequence.
The order of it all beautiful and bountiful.
So often we are impatient, with ourselves and the beings we meet or share life with.
Expecting fruit all year long, as we imagine our value and the value of others to reside in their and our performance and production and achievement.
In something which could be ‘picked’ and ‘sold’ and ‘consumed’.
Unaware that our value is to be found in an entirely different place.
In our existence.
Our immutable existence.
For we come into being, not by our own will, but by the intentional and intricate willing of another.
Our Source, Who is always our Sourceror too.
Who do not only call us to life, but also provide us with sustenance, as we live and are and become and grow.
And since we are from One Who has no beginning or end, we too exist into eternity.
Inside an ordered realm, with rhythm and limit, which does not restrict, but enables and protects.
Incomprehensible to us, as we live within the seasons.
The Sun should not be on earth.
The Ocean should not be where forests and lakes reign.
And we, in all our tremendous synergy of Wind and earth, we should not be anywhere else, than here, inside the limitation of an order which is gifted to us, in more than the physicality of day and night or hunger and the need to rest, but undeniably manifested, for us to know, as we see it too, with other eyes, in who we are and how we live, hoping to grow in love, happiness and peace.
A word offen used by an ancient North-African Philosopher, as he contemplates ‘The order’ of things and ‘Free Will’, in works produced in sequential unison many centuries ago, when books were written by hand and considered more precious than gold.
This lover of wisdom, or seeker thereof, consistently convinced, that ‘happiness’ is the one desire which is shared by all humanity, often saying that ‘if you are unhappy, you cannot be happy and if you are happy, you cannot be unhappy’, the one expelling the other with certainty.
“Therefore, consider as best you can what a great good is existence itself”, he is made to speak English in one of the translations of his ancient language, “in as much as both the unhappy and the happy want it.”
“If you consider this thoroughly, you will realize that the degree of your unhappiness is commensurate with your distance from that which is the highest degree.”
(For him, I think our Source and understanding of the order in which we have been called into being)
And then he offers this advice on receiving the gift of happiness: “If you want to avoid unhappiness, love the will to exist which is in you. If more and more, you desire to be, you will approach that which is in the highest degree. If you add gradually to this beginning, that is, to your will to exist, little by little you will rise and build toward that which is the highest degree. And when (we begin) to exist perfectly in (our) own class [in suo genere], (we) will not be unhappy.”
We will be happy.
As we understand the seasons.
And see the Source of them.
And see the beautiful gift of it’s limitless provision, inside limiting ordination.
I cannot change the seasons.
Even if I will and try and reach with everything I am and have, I cannot make it be summer, when it is meant to be winter.
I cannot bring day and sun, when it is night in the light of the moon.
I cannot make high tide subside.
I cannot overcome the limitation of time and space, defying ageing or being in two places at once.
And when I deny hunger, eventually I starve.
And when I deny thirst, eventually I dehydrate and die.
And when I deny my body the gift of rest, I lose my mind and succumb to sleep against my will.
But inside of it all, I do have will.
I can choose to embrace my existence and placement in this world.
I can choose to move and be and do, inside the safe providential frame, which is gifted by our Source and Sourceror.
Unhappiness overwhelming me, exactly when I push against it, denying it or trying to transcend what is not meant to be transcended.
And, as that North-Afrrcan Philosopher explains, ” … (our) soul is urged to (reach) to the One who aids it towards perfection, whom it recognizes as its Creator. Thus He Becomes dearer to our soul; for, not merely, through its own power, but through the goodness and mercy of Him who is the Source of its being, it is raised to happiness.”
Moving, willing, inside the order of things.
Aided through the goodness and mercy of our Source.
Raised to happiness.
Doing more than accepting that summer is always replaced by winter, in a gradual rhythm through autumn, always reaching forward to spring again, as it calls summer into being.
And coming to rest in it.
Coming to rest in the beauty of the reality that I do not need to bear fruit in winter.
I do not need to perform or achieve or provide, in order for my existence to be of value or valued.
I do not need to transcend the limitless providence of this limiting reality.
I can embrace being, inside of it all, at peace that it is where I should be.
Perhaps, when we push against it, against the rhythm of the seasons, of day and night, of the need for food and rest, of being present in one place and one place only at any given time – perhaps in our pushing against it, we deny ourselves something?
Perhaps, as we are angry about what we do not have or have not achieved, or about where we are not and where we are as a place we do not want to be, in geography and heart, career and relationship – perhaps in our pushing against it, we refuse to unwrap the gift of our existence, as it is given, by our Source, in our existence, so providential and without want.
For if we are, if we ‘exist perfectly in our own class, we are without want.
Without want of being what we are not meant to be.
Without want of achieving or performing what is beyond the winter of our content.
Without want of having what is out of season, for this moment.
And to be without want, is to see our at-one-ment with the One Who is our Source.
Who is not delighted when they accomplish a goal?
Who is not defeated and unhappy, when every effort and every endeavor, fails completely and consistently, as we doom ourselves to fail, when we attempt to dissolve the limits of an order created to our benefit, inside which we may rest, as summer brings fruit and winter recuperation?
We cannot deny the order.
It does not dissipate.
And in us as we are earth and Wind.
In all which is from our Source.
We can receive.
The exquisite beauty.
And aided by our Source, we could relax into the flow of it all, trusting our Source.
That winter is good, in its place and time.
And summer, for a while.
And we can love the will to exist which is in us.
We can desire to be.
This we can.
Approaching that which is at the limit of everything.
Little by little.
Rising, while being raised to happiness.
For if I am unhappy, I cannot be happy.
And if I resist the flow, I cannot be drawn to the Limit.
But, in receiving this gift, unwrapping it with the aid of the Giver Who is the Gift, we rise, until there comes the day when we know we are not unhappy anymore.
The day we know we are, as our Source is.
And all of this could easily be construed to be nothing but beautiful meaningless theory, words which seem to inspire, yet do not carry real weight in a real world.
Doubtable in a sense, as it fails to touch what is from day to day.
A few days ago, we talk – my son and I – about being where we do not want to be, about children being powerless in choosing so many things, victims even of the winds that take their parents to a specific place at a specific time. My son, along with his three sisters, now residing for a while in China, with me and Zuko, as we receive, inside the limits of limitless providence, the opportunity to experience this world and teach and study. Something Zuko and I embrace, but which they, our children, might not have chosen, had they the power to belay the limits of the order of things, choosing rather to remain rooted in the soil of their birth, in the familiarity of Africa, with clear blue oceans and lush green forests their backyard.
Before the sun rises, we talk, as he is getting ready for bed and I am getting ready to make my way to the city.
And I say: “We can choose. There are things we cannot change. But inside of it, we can choose to optimize what we have in our hand, or we can choose to feel cheated, to resist it and soaked in our rebellion, we lose the maximum and the fullness of the moment, reaching only, immersed in discontent, for that ‘other’ we would prefer. Then we cheat ourselves. Like someone who receives a precious gift, but never opens it. But when we come to peace with what that Ancient North-African Philosopher calls ‘order’, when we come to peace with what I call ‘Our Source’s Limitless Providential Limiting’, we open the gift and receive what we never imagined we would have, what our heart desires from the first moment it beats in our mother’s womb, what we were created to have and be, when our Origin took little bits of ‘earth’ and gave Their Life to it, exquisitely weaving us into existence. Happiness. Unfailing inconquarable happiness.”
And then I’m off to work.
Training at Beijing Foreign Studies University, as I anticipate to be placed at a Campus, to teach.
My hope, that it would be near my home, the Campus where I am placed and that, even though I will needlessly have to travel a while, taking bus and subway to get there, that it would not be too much of a journey, perhaps the shortest possible journey, at the Campus closest to my home, for I have a deep desire to spend as much as possible time in intimate proximity to the members of my Tribe, aware that time is the most precious gift we receive and that we have no guarantee of tomorrow, and that there is nothing which can substitute it.
This the most valued gift of our being in China, the past two years, that I have more time, to be, near them and with them, enjoying their presence, before the older three of our children (our son is 16, our two eldest daughters 14 and 13) head off into adulthood, and giving them of myself. Them. And Zuko. And our little Maddi, just 4 years old, giving her too, my time, as much as possible and more than I could, before, as she navigates being a toddler.
And I complete my training, passing all the tests and measurements, gaining the gift of being allowed to teach on behalf of this institution, in thos very foreign country.
And I am placed.
At a Campus, not as far as it could have been, but further away from home than what I had hoped, in the heart of this massive city’s centre.
And as the young woman who had been overseeing my training-progress shares the news with my, with much excitement I may add, I am overwhelmed with sudden dissapointment, loaded with immense discontent.
I smile off course.
I say I am grateful, for having successfully completed the training and being allowed to teach on their behalf, but inside my being a rebellion explodes.
A rebellion threatening to consume my happiness.
And I am powerless.
I am incapable of slaying this dragon in this moment.
This moment, for ever to be remembered by the stench of discontent.
And as I walk to Guogongzhuan Subway Station, and as I ride amongst 1 million other commuters, from subway-line to subway-line to subway-line, riding line after line from its first station to its last, the wisdom of ancient times, which just days before I tried to share with my son, attempts to push against the dragon.
And I come home to my gregarious Tribe.
And we eat and drink.
The kitchen warm with love.
Everyone mocking me playfully as my discontent is impossible to hide.
Me, pkaying along, anouncing at 10 pm, that it was lovely, but I have to get ready for my long and arduous journey to work.
And as I lay my head down to sleep, I am aided.
By our Source Who quietly does Their Sourcory, in the embrace of my Tribe and the words of a long forgotten African Philosopher,
And I know, the limit is limitless providence.
I am convinced by Their quiet whisper, that this too, this limit is not by chance, it is not malicious and it did not come about without the influence of our Origin who lovingly brought me into being and carefully provided my way, all the way, into this moment.
And this morning I rise.
And I head off inside the ‘order’ of things, grateful that I do not have to command day and night, but can relax into the rhytm of seasons, secure that I have no want, for our Source and Origin, is.
My happiness deepened.
A little more invincible, as, little by little, I embrace the will to be.