Zinnia/Traffic Light

Zinnia/Traffic Light

At the Buddhist temple open house, a monk stepped to the side of the podium, and instead of saying anything, held up a zinnia, a burnt orange one, and just stood there. Not a word. Like a theater performance of 4’ 33” by John Cage, but actually, an allusion to Siddhārtha Gautama, the first Buddha, who once held up a white lotus instead of delivering a sermon. One man at the back understood: the monk’s gesture meant there would be no joy if the Amazon package he had been waiting for finally arrives just when an aneurysm kicks in; nothing is gained if he hits the lottery while lying home alone, scratching off, and his heart chokes. He won’t lament the next episode of CSI or Jeopardy or the cafeteria special Friday at work, or beg to wander in the Metaverse for one more day if, while pinned to the bed, he realizes the song sparrow outside his window singing on a tree branch might be the last thing he ever sees. It would be that bird, the dark streaks on its chest, one blotch like a heart, and its song as well as the branch, whatever leaves cling to it, and sequins of sky peeking through, regardless of the weather, that he would want more of at that moment more than anything else. In fact, he would be grateful for any bird, a squirrel, or an emerald ash borer, the brick coffee shop next door or for that matter, the blinking traffic light across the street that he would suddenly see, as if for the first time, and want to keep seeing, the yellow signal pleading with cars on all sides to slow down before he comes to a complete stop, and let him get a better look at what is right in front of him, how inexplicably glorious a traffic light is, for instance, and even more so, a sparrow, or a lotus blossom, or a zinnia.

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