Consider the car. Starting sometime in the 1950’s, with the expansion of car sales and highways and the on-the-road Keruoackian adventures that could be had, the car became a multi-purpose home away from home. It offered freedom, privacy, solitude, companionship depending on your mood and circumstance. It could be a drive-thru restaurant, a back-seat motel to explore the forbidden, a movie theater seat at the drive-in, a seat in the radio concert of your choice, a lecture hall, a ticket to the ballpark , a transport promising adventure or homecoming or escape, a monk’s cell to ponder one’s thoughts in solitude—at least until the cars behind you start honking because you didn’t notice the light changing.
This morning, I got into my car as usual and felt a welcome lightness spreading through the body. Probably the result of having finished my own concert last Saturday, the 100 elementary kids on Tuesday, the 90 Middle School kids on Thursday. Nothing more on my plate except the two-hour clean-up and re-organizing the music room, two 5-year old classes, a singing time, a 4th grade class, a preschool singing time, a Jewish Home singing time. Well, not exactly a “Yee-Haw—I’m done!!” scenario, but compared to the concerts, pretty light fare.
It was a chilly morning (come on, San Francisco, it’s May!), so I put the heat on and decided to listen to Brad Mehldau playing Bach and I suddenly felt so cozy and relaxed and soothed by the music. The moment grew a thickness to it that I can touch on those rare blessed occasions where I feel graced with being fully present in the moment. In short, my God (or gods) were in heaven and all was right with the world. And all of this was available dressed in a warm wool sweater instead of a hair shirt, enjoying the comfort of the car’s heater and the luxury of Bach at my fingertips instead of shivering seated on a stone floor, no sins to be expiated or privations to suffer to access the path to the Spirit, no guilt enjoying looking at women out the window, no cry of anguish to be redeemed from my exile. Just reveling in my Prius Monk’s Cell, grateful for the warm air circulating and the sounds caressing my ears and the clear knowledge that I certainly am no saint, but my dedication to bringing joy and pleasure to children, adults and elders alike should at least get me into the balcony section of heaven, if not the orchestra seating.
Generally, I go from one period of intensity directly to the next and believe me, the three remaining weeks of school will be no picnic. On top of closing out the classes and writing report forms, I’m throwing in an appearance at a camping trip, a Samba contest and then the usual ceremonial farewells in which I play a relatively large part. And after that are the six summer courses I will teach in Ghana, Madrid, Barcelona, San Francisco, Carmel Valley and Toronto. Not a lot of beach time, though there will be some for sure. And a good deal of it will be outside of cars, back to walking slowly and solidly on this earth. And some biking too.
But meanwhile, I’m grateful for my little Prius Monk’s Cell for at least 40 minutes a day as I commute back and forth. And all the creature comforts it offers. A few blogs ago, I complained about the 21st century. But hey, there are some pretty good perks as well!