In the garden, a winged shadow passes over me and ripples low over the ground, the trees, and beyond. Vultures are not unusual or even unwelcome, often appearing overhead daily or several times a day. Such an enormous shadow would have given rise to fear and horror in past ages, and may still today. But the vulture is exempted by its pleasing flight, floating expertly on the slightest current with a minimum of effort. Nor should the vulture’s habits be a source of human disgust. Feeding vultures often remind me of a human banquet table, animal parts splayed about, torn and consumed greedily. Every creature has its place. None needs justification. It is, rather, for we humans — with our power, fears, and horrors — to understand all creatures, even while wondering what our own place is in the scheme of sentient beings.
An hour into morning and the full moon is a sad relic, a pasty disc barely adhering to the sky, disappearing. Where the stars are discrete and hide themselves away quickly, the moon lingers, embarrassing itself. Perhaps it cannot leave the stage, hoping for an encore. Perhaps there is still one more line to deliver, a line we did not know of and why we grow chagrined. Unable to form the words, the moon just lingers. With morning we salute the sun and, anticipating the new day, are grateful to have it. But for the moon we must be sad, though we are grateful to have had it.
The full moon at night illuminates the trees and makes phosphorescent plants and ground cover. I awaken at night from the moonlight streaming through an uncurtained window. How many sentiments has moonlight evoked in poets and composers over the ages. For this moment, however, utter silence is sufficient evocation. No analogies need substitute for reality. The finger pointing at the moon is gone. The moon watcher, too, is irrelevant.
A paradox of power is that while the hermit renounces power, the oppressed and exploited of the world might well seek power in order to redress their plight. Is it mocking their plight to counsel the renunciation of power? Some commentators have maintained that only those who would give up power are worthy to accept it. Plato wanted only philosophers as kings. Ashoka of India affected his generation but Marcus Aurelius could not. The Chinese tradition breaks through the Gordian knot — for some: serve the king when good, renounce and recluse when evil. For Confucius this was an on-going dilemma, but for Chuang-tzu there was no doubt whether the the king (i.e., the powerful) was good or not. The oppressed and exploited of the world know better than many that the renunciation of power is indeed the beginning of the resolution. But they do not seek power. Rather, they would want the powerful to renounce power on behalf of all of us.