Ten Minutes of Summer
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Like most in the metropolis, the Urban Man expects a lot from summer vacation. I know the Buddha fasted six years and the Dalai Lama recommends disciplined meditation. But given the right reservations, I believe the Urban Man can achieve enlightenment and inner peace within eight days, even when two are lost to travel.
Like any great religion, one finds various schools of Summer Vacation. There's the School of the Three Mai Tais at Sunset, which believes that Nirvana can be found only on a westward-facing beach.
There's the School of the Hotel Balcony -- similar, but it claims you can achieve oneness with a spectacular view only while wearing a fluffy white bathrobe.
Then there's the Sect of the Expensive Activities, which advocates parasailing, jetskiing, and helicopter sightseeing.
Each has its great masters and traditions. Each promises much to its followers. Lately, I've joined the "Camping by a River" school of summer vacation. We hold that the right campsite by the right, pine-sheltered cascade inevitably leads to self-realization, inner truth, and a full understanding of the cosmos.
I like the camping school especially because it requires a lot of equipment. All year long, the acolyte can prepare his soul by visiting overpriced sporting goods stores or comparing lightweight cookware sets on the internet.
Indeed, by touching my camping equipment, cleaning it, and storing it properly through the year, I can anticipate transcendence again and again.
Never insult a man's sporting goods. Truly, as the sages say, "The garage should fill with gear as the heart fills with longing."
Okay, like any religion, summer vacation can sometimes be…disappointing. Your expectations can be raised too high by billboards and inexperience.
Me, I've learned the rule of the ten minutes. I know that, although Zen masters meditate for months, they often achieve only ten minutes of true enlightenment each year. So it is with summer vacation. You buy the laminated maps. You find the laughing, big-hearted river. But lo, you're lucky if you get ten true minutes of inner peace before you have to do laundry, untangle a fishing line, or argue about dinner.
That's okay. I know that in my later years, I will forget not only the jammed zippers and cans of Pringles, but many tedious months of my regular job, which will all run together in a blur.
Years from now, I may recall 2007 only for my ten minutes beside the laughing stream.
Just now, for example, it's late June, seven a.m., and the Urban Man finds himself camping by the Tuolomne River in Yosemite. The wife and kids still sleep, but I've made the coffee, and I think...this is it. I have passed each trial posed by my cult: the six-hour drive and the wrestling of the sleeping bags. Now I raise my eyes to the pristine forest, where I see snowmelt passing over granite boulders. Sure enough, like the redwoods overhead, the universe converges and for those ten precious minutes, I achieve oneness with all things.
Then a chainsaw buzzes. A trash truck passes through the campground. The kids awake and want their toasted oats.
The moment is gone, but I think, "I'll take some pictures. And yes, I still have plenty of equipment."
In fact, this year I bought an expensive, new, buff, lightweight tent -- and as the boys emerge, I revel in the sound of its zipper opening cleanly. Back in L.A., I will unroll this tent and smell the campfire like the faint scent of transcendence itself. Months from now, the nylon folds may still contain a few handfuls of mountain air.
Surely, that will be enough to get the Urban Man through another year.
Have a great summer.
Copryight © 2007 Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.
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