Well, bearded dragon maintenance, but still. I’ve only read a portion of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and that was when I was in graduate school. I had no concept of Buddhist principles, and even if I had, I wasn’t in a place I could have applied them to my life. That’s not because of the drinking, either, which wasn’t out of control at that point. I just wasn’t able to receive the message. My journey hadn’t taken me to a place where I needed Eastern wisdom, as I do now.
Recently, my wife and I gave our oldest son an early Christmas gift: a bearded dragon he named Oscar.
I knew nothing about bearded dragons except that they made good pets as far as reptiles went. My wife would never sign off on having a snake, so we went with Oscar.
At first, I was hesitant to handle him, even though he’s quite docile and doesn’t seem to mind being held. He actually unnerved me a bit, which I’ve since gotten over. My son thinks he’s the bee’s knees, as does his little brother.
I’ve gotten in the habit of going into my son’s room and spending time with Oscar, simply watching him as he cocks his head and turns an eye toward me. Unless he’s zipping after a cricket, his movements are measured and fluid. Not as measured as, say, a chameleon’s, but…calm. Assured. As I watch him, I feel myself calming down. I can be fully present when I walk my dog (and sometimes when I pet our cats, though I’m usually watching TV), but there’s a different flow when I commune with Oscar. And that’s what it is, really: communing, meditating, and being with another creature.
This morning, I helped clean out his terrarium, giving him clean water and some pellets and meal worms to eat (blech). He watched me the whole time, and then I picked him up. I didn’t hold him long, but I studied him, as he studied me. It was a small but nice addition to my day.
*Info on Martin Buber’s philosophy, including I and Thou