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Buddhadharma : Spring 2010
BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SPRING 2 0 10 96 An After-School Lesson KIMSCAFURO Sometimes a single unexpected incident can change our lives forever. One such event happened to me over a decade ago. It was a normal, sunny day in Phoenix, Arizona. I was picking up my daughter from kindergarten. My three-year-old son was holding my hand as we all walked back to the car. Few fathers picked up their children from school, so the mothers often gave me an encouraging smile. On this day, despite heavy traffic, I was determined to save a few seconds and make a left to go home, rather than take the easier right turn. To make this seemingly all important left, I went into a left turn lane at a traffic light, hoping to weasel my way into traffic from there. The light before me changed, stop- ping all traffic. This was not going to be easy. I heard a truck next to me honking, and I looked over to see the driver pointing at me. I immediately assumed he was upset about my stopping where he needed to be. Either way, I was there, he was not—too bad. My daughter said, “Daddy, he wants some- thing.” I knew what he wanted. I did what I thought was the best, or at least the most sat- isfying, way to handle the situation: I flipped him off. He shook his head and continued pointing at me. He didn’t seem to react to my posturing, which agitated me even more. I flipped him off again, this time mouthing an insult. He could not hear it, but I knew he could read my lips. Still he continued, point- ing again at me several times. By this time the light changed and he began to drive off, with a shake of his head, as if he were embarrassed for me. I felt victorious when he didn’t make the left turn I thought he had intended. I studied my children’s faces through the rearview mirror, looking I suppose for some kind of reassurance that I had done the right thing. My daughter was flicking her long hair back away from her face as a princess would do. My son was sucking his two middle fingers as he would do. Yes, they knew their dad was strong and wouldn’t take crap from anyone. This is what a father should teach his children. As I looked at my children’s faces, project- ing beaming pride in their eyes, I noticed my daughter’s pink backpack flying through the air behind the car. I had left it on top of the car when I was buckling them in the backseat. I pulled off to the side of the road to retrieve it, realizing what an embarrassing ass I had just been. Mr. Tough Guy flipping people off, mouthing obscenities, two kids in the back seat—and a pink backpack sitting on top of my car. I had been driven by ego, emotion, and a total lack of mindfulness, and the man in the truck was a compassionate, kind, atten- tive individual—a Zen master with a blunt keisaku, and I, his not so humble student. It was a turning point for me. Soon after, I began my journey into Buddhism and Zen. It turns out, I’ve learned, that everything is Zen. Each and every moment, the dharma is there whether we’re attuned to it or not. It was there that day in the car when I was flipping off the Zen master, and it’s here right now. The difference between then and now is merely awareness. An awareness that for me began develop- ing many years ago because of a single pink backpack flying off a car. CHRIS DUSCHIK is ordained in the Rinzai Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun. He lives in Tracy, Minnesota. Journeys By Chris Duschik