UNIVERSAL DHARMA

Because I Care ~ MORNING GLORY

BELOW IS A MOVING STORY I received not long ago from a new-old friend— a personal account which demonstrates that any situation may yield unexpected beauty; it is a matter of being aware and receptive. Again, it reinforces my idea that what we learn from an experience is more important than the experience itself, and that if we learn nothing, it is all such a waste.

This is a story about a moment in time, a great moment some 15 years ago. But to explain its significance, I have to go back even further.

My first trip to Australia was back in 1980. I was with my wife and first child. I was disappointed by not being able to find a proper job. A year later, we reluctantly decided to go back to Lebanon.

In Lebanon, I got a good job almost immediately, and was lucky enough to be able to re-rent the house we previously occupied. We loved that house. It was on a small hill overlooking all Beirut and the coast. Few people in Lebanon are lucky enough to live in houses with some land; most live in apartment blocks.

A few months later, specifically June 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. By then, we had a new baby. My wife and I decided to leave home and seek refuge at my parents’ place in Tripoli (north Lebanon, which was relatively safer).

After a few more months of turmoil and moving from one place to another, we finally went back home again. We were extremely delighted to go back.

Those were some of the most tormenting months in my life. Tripoli at that time was under the Muslim fundamentalists.

When my wife and I could see no end to this, we decided to leave Lebanon and go to Australia. To do that, we had to go to Beirut (which has the only airport in Lebanon). While we were there, we decided to go to our house on the hill and see how things were.

We were again very glad to see this house. We hadn’t been there for more than a year. The situation seemed peaceful enough. So we decided to soldier on and cancel the travel plans to Australia.

Within a couple of weeks, the civil war in Lebanon started to take another turn. The beautiful hill on which we lived and which was ‘safe’ turned into a battleground. We fled again, this time to Beirut, and rented a filthy, small, and very expensive furnished apartment. We lived there for nearly a year. When finally that particular part of Beirut turned into a battleground in February 1984, we had to flee to Tripoli again. At that time I lost my job. We stayed with my parents for 5 months.

Within a couple of weeks, the calm was broken by the occasional sounds of sniper bullets, followed by more frequent skirmishes with machine guns. Then the inevitable happened. Shells started falling, and we would run with our babies to a shelter. Luckily, most of the shelling was a bit distant. When I say distant, I am talking about a few hundred meters, not kilometers.

Until one day, as we were hiding in the shelter like worthless beings, a 120 mm mortar shell fell extremely close. We heard the shrapnel hitting the thick limestone walls of our shelter. Our next-door neighbors were all with us in our little shelter, as their house didn’t have one. Luckily, no one was hurt. It was late at night, and as the power had been cut, we couldn’t see much, except that all windows were broken.

The next morning, during a lull in the madness, we walked outside to see the aftermath. We found a huge hole in our neighbors’ ceiling (the same neighbors who were sheltering with us); there were fragments of the shell, broken glass, smashed flower-pots, and pieces of brick and rubble all over the place. The whole landscape was covered with dust. It was all the same color, the ugly color of dust. It was one of the most depressing scenes you could ever imagine.

In the midst of all this, as I was cleaning up somewhat, I beheld a scene which turned the whole picture around. Among the many plants we grew in our garden was a morning-glory plant. As you know, the morning-glory flowers open in the morning and close for the rest of the day. Totally indifferent to what had gone on around it the night before, the morning-glory plant had produced new, fresh, clean, bright, beautiful, and colorful flowers. In the middle of the filth and rubble, and while the leaves of the morning-glory plant were covered with dust too, those flowers were the only things with color.

My mood changed from extreme sadness to extreme joy. I showed those flowers to my wife and the whole neighborhood. To my wife, they meant hope. To others, they meant nothing at all. To me, they not only meant hope, they also meant that no matter what happens around you, no matter how much filth is thrown on you, keep doing the right thing and be beautiful. I then started to take a different look at the name of the flower (morning-glory) and the concept of "morning." What a glory did those flowers bring to that morning and every other morning. In most days, they go unnoticed, I thought. I then wondered, isn’t every morning a new beginning? Isn’t every morning glorious?

It was at that moment that we decided to stop clinging to Lebanon and our house and move on. A few days later, we were in Australia.

I took photographs of that scene, but they can never express the true meaning of that scene.

That morning-glory plant was one of my great Dharma teachers. Every time I see a morning-glory plant now, I look at it, smile and say thank you.

Some times, I get asked what made me come to Australia, and occasionally I say a morning-glory flower.

 

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