ASPECT OF THE UNIVERSE'S WORK
I like the following examples
because they happened in the Western world, not in Africa.
Cosmosemantic phenomena happen everywhere:
things happened on Holy Thursday of 1996 while we were in the street
retreat led by Roshi Glassman, a Zen Buddhist monk who organizes
street retreats all over the world, including Nazi concentration
camps in Poland and Germany, to raise consciousness about suffering,
homelessness, AIDS, and violence. His ambition is to get participants
to ask themselves: "What is my personal role in these ills? And
what is my own next step toward healing these wounds of
That morning,, Daigu wanted to read the paper
and set off to buy one--Daigu is the Zen Buddhist name of Michael
O'Keefe, a Hollywood actor who is a fixation in the tv series:
"That's exactly the mindset I'm trying to
change," Glassman said, trying to stop him, and added: "You
want something, you buy it. Isn't there any other
Daigu did not want to hear that. "I
need to read the news," he said.
Fifteen minutes later, a
guy came to us with a stack of newspapers under his arm. He wished to
sell them for a quarter each but nobody wanted them, so he trotted
away. He came back five minutes later and just dropped them on the
bench, saying: "What the heck! You can have them all."
noon, as we were ready to go to the soup kitchen, Sarah who had been
sitting with us, said that she had cooked for us. We forgot about the
soup kitchen and ate her food instead right there in the park. A few
minutes later, I heard Rabbi Don Singer say that he was dying for a
cup of coffee and wanted to buy one across the street. Todd and Ahmed
Munir followed him. "Isn't there any other alternative?"
Roshi Glassman asked again. But nobody replied. Singer, Todd, and
Munir had not crossed the street before a nun appeared, inviting us
and the homeless people of Tompkins Park (New York City) to lunch at
a nearby church. "There's coffee and afterwards you'll get your
feet washed, just like Christ did after the Last Supper, and a new
pair of socks," I heard her say. We followed her. The caffe con
leche was delicious, made exactly as in Cuba or Puerto Rico. Walking
back to Tompkins Park, I heard another participant to the retreat,
Arnie, say: "I have never eaten this much and this good in my
own home," then he asked me: "Is it always like this on the
"This is holy week and the middle class is
atoning," I said. "Just imagine when there's no penitence
in the air."
These anecdotes in themselves offer nothing
remarkable (to a non-initiate). But these are the sort of things an
elder asks 13-year-old boys to pay attention to when he takes them to
a three-month-bush retreat before they are allowed to enter adult
There are three reactions possible when you call the
universe to the rescue. In the above anecdotes, the newspaper guy's
wish to sell his newspapers is a call to the universe. So is Daigu's
desire to read the news. The nun's plan to get people to come to her
church and share a meal with her society is a call to the universe,
so is Don Singer's desire for a cup of coffee. See how they meet and
how the concerned miss out.
Any want, desire, or even prayer
is a call to the universe. We send messages in all directions and
believe it or not, they are heard by a lot of creatures, people
included. Some run away from us, some stay put, some move toward us
to offer assistance and comfort. Isn't there any other alternative?
There always is. Every call to the universe brings millions of
alternatives. The Western mind is simply too one-tracked, and as
Herbert Marcuse wrote, "too unidimensional", to see
Pay attention to the cosmosemantic space/time. There
things happen ahead of their normal or natural schedule.