Bella Levenshteyn You Summon My Stream of Consciousness
by Mark Chmiel
How did you learn to respond when big burly vets spit on you, as if you’re Jane Fonda, only 40-something years younger?
Have you ever been like Carla, failing at metta? Maybe after the 7th time, you started to calm down and could transform—just like the teachers say!— your suffering and reactivity and vengeful fantasies—and you—ta-daaa!— drop the story line.
Bella, you have compassion for these old geezers, however mean their gestures and swear words. The vets said they hate you because—50 years after the war—you care for the “yellow-skinned bastards.” You see the vets as … wounded … stuck still in 1967 or 1970 and who can’t let it go, can’t move on, can’t get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Bella, was your father in the military? No, I imagine not. But isn’t it in Russian Jewish DNA to avoid military service, all those Jewish boys “drafted” into the czar’s army.
You don’t hate the vets—I marvel at how still you are with them. OK, maybe a little of it has to do with you being 5’10” and being accomplished in wushu, but they don’t know your proficiency in martial arts.
I think it’s way more your inner strength stance style—you aren’t threatening to them, you don’t escalate with your words, you don’t fight.
That’s the beauty of it, the you to behold!
Bella, how’d you get to be like this? No one is neurotic in your family, not two people? A miracle that is!
I love how you stand still
How your mind does’t get agitated
Most of us would leap into the fray with fists or turn and run home to Stoli and Netflix.
Bella, are you afraid of anything? Or are you without fear when four vets surround you and think you deserve a piece of their foul minds?
The thing is, I know what you’re thinking—
“Perry, I’m so nothing special, anybody can do it
It’s only a matter of seeing that these men
Are just like us
And while I’m not going to focus on spending 20 hours a week with them
If I need to listen to and absorb their pain while I’m doing the work the sangha is committed to
Well, then, being with angry vets is just one more part of the practice.”
OK, Bella, but have you noticed that most of the ever-growing sangha—here and elsewhere—
never comes to these vigils or direct actions at the corporate offices?
I think they’re a little afraid and it’s not just of the vets’ counter-protest.
Bella, I could write a hundred pages to you
And I suppose I will if I live long enough
See, I’ll tell you (What don’t I tell you?)
There’s something wrong with my blood
I can’t even pronounce the word for it, it’s so long—
Not as long as that German word you sent me—
Anyway the doctor visits have been another bell of mindfulness—
We can’t beat Impermanence!
Bella, I wish I was more serene and unflappable like you.
–novel-in-progress, Our Heroic and Ceaseless 24/7 Struggle against Tsuris