Thursday, September 24, 2009

If you meet the Buddha in your lunchbox, kill him!

You may remember that I learned some lessons from the Joker episode. Well, I figured that the Thing fruit salad over here would be safe to travel when I cemented it in tapioca pudding. The Thing is cantaloupe scored to look like rocks. The "crash" and his mouth are carved apple. He's got ever-lovin' blueberry eyes and the debris is blueberries, grapes and maraschino cherries with strawberry-leather bricks. I even shook this one around a little bit to see how it held up. I didn't go nuts, but I figured it would survive a short walk. It might have, but it didn't make it through being dropped upside-down onto the car floor and stepped on on the way out of the car seat. I went ahead and surveyed the damage right there on the hood. It was, in insurance parlance, totaled.
I'm about to wax philosophical, so unless you are the sort of person who has tiny "Thinker" bookends somewhere in your house, have stopped to watch a street-mime dig a hole, are high and without access to your copy of "2001," are manually verifying a computer word-count (you know, just to be sure,) or think this might be the time I mention you by name, you might want to skip the coming lavender text. Feel free to bail in the middle, too. It will certainly be moving slowly enough.
I was reading a bento blog recently - not this one, which I think is really great and need to acknowledge - and I saw a post about not understanding how people could spend so much time on something that a kid is going to mess up in seconds. The trite response is: "you must not have kids, because that describes everything included in and including your life once you do." That doesn't really answer a valid question, though.
When I was in college, Tibetan monks visited our campus on a mandala-making tour. Over the course of several days, they painstakingly constructed this intricate work of art from sand and then, presumably, destroyed it (I wasn't there for that part, but, with sand mandalas, it's what one does.) My gut reaction was that it was a crazy way to spend time, but as I really thought about it, the zen started to seep in. If this thing was going to be gone forever in a few days, I was lucky to have seen it. Lucky to have been present at this tiny sliver of time when the fruits of these days of labor preceded by years of experience were borne. But that would make people who missed it unlucky, or me unlucky for missing something else to see the mandala. So, not so much fortunate to be at that particular place at that particular time as fortunate to appreciate it - to really be present in a moment. And sometimes it takes something dramatic to remind you that every experience is one that will soon be gone forever, to be replaced by another that will soon be gone forever. And it's worth pondering which moments to remember or anticipate at the expense of the present.
So there are these chunks of time, usually after he's asleep, where I shut other things out and my mind narrows and narrows its focus. From a scene, to a character to a detail, the extraneous falls away and what is left expands to fill my world. It's meditation. At least sometimes. And when I'm done, there's this hyper-transitory artifact that, by its very nature, can't be appreciated fully by more than one person. Anyone who isn't eating it stops short. But it can, in theory, be more fully appreciated than so many other things because it's food. It can be smelled, touched, seen, heard and tasted. It's an opportunity for what was once my complete focus to become his complete focus. But it turns out he doesn't like tapioca pudding, so this particular fruit salad cannot be his daijo.
Okay, why spend so much time on something a kid will mess up? Because I enjoy doing it, I enjoy the thought that he might enjoy it, it's for him and nobody else and he might, in fact, enjoy it. Even if what he enjoys is messing it up. Which it isn't, because as I repacked his lunchbox and told him that I was sorry that his lunch didn't look like the Thing anymore. He waited a second and said: "Daddy, maybe you should carry my lunchbox on surprise lunch days."
I will, if he wants me to. But if you're going to do your creating in sand, you can't get your saffron robes in a bunch when the tide comes in.


  1. Great post! My daughter will be going to school next year and I know she would be so excited to see any effort put into her lunch. Your son is lucky!

  2. Kai, after reading this post I felt like someone had opened a door. Truly, the zen of being a Dad is well spoken here. I am humbled by knowing you. Thank you.