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Reflections on Simplicity
I’ve been wrestling with the concept of simplicity for a long, long time. I wonder if a shared cup of tea could be construed as an act of simplicity.
Let’s find out, “Dear cup of tea, do you have a teaching for me?’
At first glance a shared cup of tea seems to be the simplest of acts—a china pot, 2 cups, boiling water, black tea—then you see, hummmm, which pot should we use today? What size cup? Is the water pure? Which tea would be perfect, Scottish Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Pure Ceylon, Assam, and Earl Grey? And what of the tea—who picked it, were they poor, able bodied, children, or very old? Did they save enough tea to drink themselves on a cold winter’s morning? How did they brew it—did they favor a small copper pot or an old chipped porcelain one?
Was it grandmother who brewed the tea or was it father? Was tea time perfunctory or ritual? Was silence and tradition a part of this common moment or were intimate words spoken as partakers prepared for another long day of work? Did my ardent benefactors know I would be savoring this pot of exquisite tea months later in my tiny apartment in Alaska? Savoring with immense gratitude for their patient tending of the tea bush, their expertise in knowing just which leaves to gather, faithfulness in tending and stirring the leaves as they cured and dried in the hot sun?
Ah, this simple pot of tea, drunk with such gratitude, is no longer simple. Suddenly $7.99 a box seems a small price to pay for such a thorny pleasure! And we haven’t even talked about the tea buyer and the manufacturer, who put the leaves into tiny bags, or the printer, who designed and printed the box or the broker who purchased it or the shipper who brought it from India or Asia to England (in the case of Arrogate and Taylor) or the USA (in the case of Taso),
Or the wholesaler who sold it to New Sagaya, or the night clerk, who put it on the shelf, or the day clerk who processed my credit card last Saturday when I bought it, or the accounting techs who translated the charge to my bill, or husband Kris, who is making beds at Dancing Eagles B&B in Seldovia, who pays the bill! This simple pot of tea now takes on tremendous importance. Gratitude is soaring. I’m experiencing awe at the very thought of the inter-connectedness of the world. All the links, all the conspiring, and all the cooperation it took to get this leaf into my pot!
Good heavens, the POT! The pot sitting in front of me was made in England (Royal Albert) probably by expatriates from India or Asia or the Middle East. To complicate things more the tiny tea cup was made in Japan and was donated to the Good Will in Honolulu after god-only-knows how many cups of tea were drunk by host and guest alike, and then purchased by an aging Chaplain-intern with Pacific Health Ministries working at The Queen’s Medical Center!
Now this simple pot of tea and this humble cup take on the cloak of the greatest epic ever written! Homer and Dante’ have nothing over on my miraculous pot of tea. Suddenly I no longer want to sip in silence at 5:00 AM Alaska Time, suddenly I want to shout this monologue from the roof tops, or at least on NPR.
“I, Judith Lethin, am honored to have, to be gifted, this exquisite cup of tea, nectar of the gods, and fruit of many hands, purveyor of warmth and dignity and hospitality. And you know what? I’m not even worthy of such a gift! Mere money allows me to have it, but until now I was asleep to the enormous suffering it cost to bring it to me. Thank you.”
Thank you. “I am a stranger and you gave me a cup of tea. I am blessed by the work of your hands. I am humbled by your caring for me even though you may not know I know, and you may not think I care—and heaven knows, I didn’t until this very morning when I sat wrestling with the word “simplicity.” Somehow I thought this cup of tea represented an act of simplicity; now I see it embodies the most complex, profound act of human kind—sacrifice, a giving up of ones self for the other, and in this case, the stranger. Thank you.
Thank you, Jesus. It’s my following after the poor teacher and prophet from Galilee that helps me connect the drinking of a simple/or now, not so simple cup of tea to the greatest story of the inter-connectedness of all things and all people. It’s his love of me that allows me to weep for this gift, and to receive this gift in utter gratitude and mindfulness. A simple cup of tea has been my teacher this morning.
Thank you, Raboni. Thank you.
Beside The River of Your Delights*
Journal Entry August 10, 2007
“I’m lonely ,“
Said the woman as she sat amongst friends;
Sad eyes longing for understanding.
My head nods and I silently
Inventory my own angst and troubled spirit.
Conversation moves on to old timers
And concerts and sustainability.
We cover the territory as only friendships
Of 30 years can.
Laughter and stories and politics
Piled up like ripe strawberries
Covered with minted whipped cream.
Dreams ,sweetened by camaraderie,
Flow like lavender syrup drizzled over the sunset.
The pain of one quickly soothed
By the response of another.
The hopes and dreams of one
Met with offers of support.
“We help each other.”
Said the blue eyed grandfather smiling.
“That’s what friends are for.”
Waves of speculation about personality-sets
Roll over the evening and laughter and guessing rules:
Control-peace maker; creative-happy;
Control-creative; peace maker-happy;
Ways of being in the world that honor
And respect each one.
People safe in their centers,
Can let others see them.
People, rooted in traditions,
Can open the door to longing
And invite others into
The great transforming cauldron.
People planted by rivers of
Living water, can enter into the
Longing and suffering of others
And bear witness to the gold and
Ignore the dross.
“I’m lonely.“ “Yes.”
“I need people.” “Yes.”
“I want to
We all belong on this land
Where the setting sun
Splashes pure golden light on
Every wrinkle and tear.
We all belong to the unfolding
Story of this place;
And like steaming pots of nettle tea
We each receive what we need to survive
And thrive ,until our own bones at last
Become meal for the garden.
Beside the river of your delights,
We thank you, Lord, for it truly is in
Your light that we see light.