I was approached by two gentlemen as I was coming out of a pizza place after dinner one evening. They said they were hungry, so I offered to buy them a meal. I explained that I was vegan, and that the meal would be vegan.
One of the two men understood and was okay with a vegan meal.
The other one seemed to struggle with the idea of a meal that didn’t include meat. He rubbed his belly as he asked himself (and me) how he could possibly fill up on just vegetables. The idea of a meal that didn’t include meat seemed completely foreign to him. He reasoned and argued with me, even suggesting that I could pay and then leave, so I wouldn’t have to see the meat.
In the end, I wound up saying, “Sorry, I can’t,” and walked away.
I was thinking as I drove home that I am not that different from the man who insisted that I pay for his meat dinner.
Imagine being adrift for longer than you can remember in a broken boat, getting tossed this way and that by the movement of the sea.
After many years, someone in a seaworthy craft comes along and throws you a life preserver and offers to pull you to his ship and take you home.
Your broken boat is filled with things that you’ve become extremely attached to over your many years adrift. You want to bring all of this stuff back home with you.
But your rescuer explains that he can take only you, not your stuff. You’ll have to leave your things behind. This is actually not a big deal, because, as foreign as the idea seems to you, you won’t need all this stuff after you leave your broken boat.
But you can’t imagine life without these things. So, you argue and reason with your rescuer about ways to bring all your stuff along. He explains to you, kindly and in so many different ways, that it’s just not possible. But you can’t let go. You keep wheedling: what about this and what about that – not unlike our friend outside the pizza restaurant.
In the end, your would-be rescuer says, “Sorry, I can’t,” and he sails away.
I don’t know what the man outside the restaurant thought after I left, and whether he got to eat what he wanted, or whether he encountered other crazy vegans that evening.
But let’s put ourselves in that not so imaginary broken boat. Unlike an offer of a meal, which may come through many individuals, what is the likelihood of our getting an offer of rescue? Forget many rescue boats – what are the chances of encountering even a single rescue boat?
And yet here we are – we have encountered such a rescuer. Incredibly, despite our whining, he hasn’t sailed away.
But what if he did? How would we feel? What import would all of our demands and conditions hold as we watched his ship slowly disappear from our view? Perhaps a better question is: how foolish might all that we are holding on to seem?
Again, thankfully, he’s not sailing away. He reasons with us. He patiently explains to us what we must do. He even pleads with us – yes, the rescuer pleads with the one he is rescuing! How many of us would even think to plead with the gentleman outside the restaurant to accept our offer? How many of us would just give up and walk away?
But yes, our rescuer begs us to let go of our stuff and allow him to save us. He uses the analogy of seeing us drowning in the ocean, throwing us a life preserver and feeling helpless because we refuse to grab on. All we have to do is let go of our broken boat and grab hold of the life preserver he’s thrown to us. All we have to do is grab hold of that life preserver he calls meditation, and we get to go home.
The choice is ours. What do we want? Do we want to go home? Or do we want to remain on our broken boat, holding on to our broken stuff?