Facebook knows the 20 biggest moments of my life in 2012. Yes, it does.
Complete with a photo montage in which various photos morph into others. You know, the kind of thing people project onto a screen at bar/bat mitzvahs, weddings and memorial services. Which I can share with all of my Facebook friends, because what are Facebook friends for?
The mind — my mind at least — boggles. What exactly does Facebook think it’s doing? Is there anyone who says “Thank you, Facebook! Now I know the 20 biggest moments of my life in 2012! What will the 20 biggest moments of 2013 will be? Facebook will tell me!”
But then again, my mind boggles at the notion of the 20 biggest moments of my life in 2012, no matter who is deciding which moments qualify.
Consider, for example, weddings. A friend of mine (in both the real and Facebook sense) had one in 2012 — I hope Facebook noticed — but of course the wedding was only the last step in a long process of plans, messed up plans, new and improved plans, carrying out of plans, all of which involved not just the future bride and groom but folks to help plan; cater; photograph; provide flowers, dresses and tuxes; not to mention the folks running the bed and breakfast where the wedding took place and the rabbi who performed the ceremony.
In all of that, which is the moment that qualifies?
“If there is even one hair’s breadth, heaven and earth are separate,” said the sixth century Chinese Zen master Seng Ts’an. How can we separate one moment from another, when each depends on all the moments that came before and shapes all the moments that come after?
The quote from Seng Ts’an comes from a poem which begins “The great way is not difficult. Just don’t pick and choose.” Big moment, small moment — it’s only our perception that picks out one moment instead of another.
Two people argue over how to cook spaghetti; one of them forgets about the argument, and the other broods, can’t let it go, and ends up filing for divorce.
Which is the big moment: the argument or the divorce? We can’t distinguish one from the other. They are too intertwined.
A couple of summers ago I did a 90-day solo retreat in the mountains of southern Colorado. There were no big moments. There were no small moments. There were many hours of Zen practice at the same times every day, birds and insects, trees and flowers, cooking and cleaning, and sleep. There was the cabin, the outhouse, the shower house, and the various paths among them. There were plenty of deluded moments, some moments of clarity, moments of attention, and moments of inattention. The moments kept coming, one after the other, and when it was time to go I packed up, got in the car, and left.
That’s our lives, folks: moments coming, one after the other, until it’s time to go.