WEI WU WEI
Today is one of those days I get to learn, once again, it’s not about me. Not even remotely. I have lived too long to believe days like this to be fraught with coincidence; rather it seems they are best spent close to home. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know this until one is out and about, committed as one might be to the tasks at hand.
Sun shining after a rainy night – morning crisp with vibrant hues – mossy greens, umber bark, azure sky; the interplay of shadows under the canopy of the giant monkeypod; punctuations of oranges, yuzu, lime; pink tecoma blossoms and stabs of heliconia. Silently I back my little car out of the drive and head two miles into town. It’s farmers market day – a time to restock for the week, but also to visit friends who gather under massive banyans to enjoy eclectic music while sampling the wares of farmers, bakers, tamale vendors and other culinary creators.
A delightful round-bodied woman from the South Pacific heads my way, face beaming. “Today I sell papaya!” We have in the past enjoyed conversation, yet I have not known her before as a vendor. I drop by her booth, but discover her fruit to be from the far end of the island. “I’m sorry,” I remark earnestly, “I really try and support local farmers in our own community.” The truth is that I prefer produce that is grown organically, for the liberal use of Roundup and other chemicals is fairly widespread among many farmers. Keeps the grass away from the garden, and is a convenient shortcut to weeding and other unsavory garden labors. For the first time since I’ve known this woman, her eyes visibly change. The smile remains constant, but is strained around the corners. I feel sad, for I know this will taint what we share in the future. Yet I am unwilling to strike the devil’s bargain for the sake of a few pieces of fruit I will end up throwing on the compost heap.
After gathering the long-sought-after lettuce, some kabocha squash, a big bag of fresh basil, some tomatoes, carrots, broccoli and organic papaya from trusted vendors; after hugs from friends and polite exchanges with children anxious to move on to the next thing, I head back to my car. Off-loading bags from shoulders tender from the weight, I slide into the driver’s seat. Brake on and car in reverse, I glance backward, only to discover a man with a vanload of kids double-parking behind me. I wait. And wait some more. Unsure of his motives, I attempt to pull forward a bit to try and back around him. It won’t work, so I sit tight. Then I spot him striding toward my window. “There are kids here – you just can’t be backing up like that when there are kids walking around!” he snarls.
No shit, Sherlock, I want to tell him. I’m not striving to run over your children. And by the way, who in the hell do you think you are, pulling up behind me when I clearly am on my way out of the parking lot? But this is not at all what I say. Instead, I simply mumble, “Unh-hunh,” while he saunters on back to the van to take his sweet time unloading kids, gear, and so on. Double-parked. I am always blindsided when these events occur, and it’s never wise to actually articulate what goes through my head.
Wei wu wei. Wei wu wei, my youngest would offer at such a time, as she circles her arms in front of her body like hands sweeping a clock. Pick your battles. Know how to proceed under difficult circumstances. Wikipedia offers, “As the planets revolve around the sun, they ‘do’ this revolving, but without ‘doing’ it. As trees grow, they simply grow without trying to grow. Thus knowing how and when to act is not knowledge in the sense that one would think, ‘now I should do this,’ but rather just doing it, doing the natural thing. The goal of spiritual practice for the human being is, according to Lao Zi, the attainment of this natural way of behaving.”
I struggle sometimes with what is natural. For there are always two perspectives that seem perfectly equal: one, my heart knows people have their own agendas, and there is not a bloody thing I can do to alter them, so why inflame the situation with my own impatience? And two, that patience quotient is too-often tried by the folly and ignorance of far too many fellow human beings.
I guess the best recourse is always humor, and it helps to recall the Seinfeld episode where the elder Mr. Constanza is attempting to temper his innate aggravation at small irritations by repeating, to an escalating vocal level, Serenity now. Most times it works. Today it feels as though that voice just keeps echoing in my own frustrated head.