I still don't know what to write, so I'm randomly choosing an emoji a day and writing 200 words about it. Another one of my writing slump cheats. Today's emoji is 🔥:
I definitely didn't expect to be sitting around a bonfire with Buddhist monks on the night of New Year's Eve. This was turning out to be an unexpected new year for sure. The community was supposed to be in the meditation hall, partaking in food and festivities to celebrate the coming of the new year. Yes, Buddhist monks do that too, excluding the alcohol and partying. But as the night wore on, I got restless, or maybe tired from socialising. So I left the hall and walked around the monastic grounds. It's a full moon night, quiet as countrysides are quiet.
As luck would have it, I chanced upon a bonfire. A camp fire of sorts. A bunch of monks had sneaked away to have their own little gathering here, and being the most friendly, compassionate, open folks I'd ever known, they welcomed me to the group easily. It was really lovely to sit by the fire, shielding us against the night chill. It was after all, still winter in this part of French wine country. There were some small talk, but mostly, we stared at the fire like some outdoor television. Crackling, burning, illuminating. Then, some of the older monks broke into song, in Vietnamese. These were not the songs of practice that I heard before as part of meditation practice here in this monastery. Instead, there sounded like folk songs that Vietnamese people would sing, back in their homeland, when sitting around fires like this.
It was so beautiful to hear.
One monk sang, the others would join in for short verses. I mostly didn't understand the songs, but I could hear from their tone, their emotion, that these were songs one sang when one was homesick. I could feel it reverberate in my heart. Songs of longing, tinged with a touch of melancholy. It was beautiful to witness such vulnerability and authenticity. Day in, day out, these monks display so much mindful composure that it's easy to start seeing them like faultless, perfect saints. Tonight, I saw fellow human beings, longing to see their homeland on a day that brings out such homesickness. It's touching to witness, and instead of taking away, it added to my admiration of them as shining examples of a loving, open spiritual life.
In the imperfection and brokenness of human vulnerability is where a perfect spiritual life found.