Life and death are grave matters.
All things pass quickly away
Each of us must be completely alert:
Never neglectful, never indulgent.
This is a Zen saying, the evening message at many Zen sangha’s (communities).
To be awake, to be alert, to be attentive to our own inner state and to our surroundings is pretty much the foundation for all work, no matter what the work … work for social justice and human rights, work as a social worker, work as a writer, all good work seems to build on a foundation of awareness.
Anne Lamott has written at least seven novels, an award winning book on how to write (Bird by Bird), and she conducts writing workshops. One of her workshops was recorded and is available as an audio book: “Word by Word.” Early in that audio book, she talks about the importance of awareness. She tells the story of a young man walking through the desert. I would assume this is in California, because the east coast does not have deserts as far as I know (and I do live in New Jersey, spend a lot of time in Cape Cod, and I have visited my sister in North Carolina; so I have some first hand knowledge of the geography of the east coast.). Anyway, Lamott’s young man who is walking through the desert is actually a bit of a surfer dude, completely decked out in full body wet suit, goggles, snorkel, zinc oxide on the nose, swim fins over the shoulder; he is walking due west along the roadside. Eventually a car comes up, and pauses alongside him. The woman driving the car asks him if he is OK. Surfer Dude, says sure, he is heading to the ocean. The woman notes as how the ocean is 500 miles away. The Surfer says, “hey but look at this most amazing beach.”
Perspective. Awareness. Awe.