I ran into Beatrix and Kerner on my way home at the end of a long day.
Kerner is the puppy I took care of for a couple of weeks when Beatrix my annulled wife decided not to know me any more, took up with the Beverly Hills doctor, and went traveling weekends off from school.
She began crossing the street, saw me standing on the sidewalk on the opposite side, turned quickly around and went back they way she came. I called out,
- Kerner and Beatrix!
She hurried on. Turned into the alley behind Wilshire Blvd., ducked into the hotel parking lot. I continued slowly after her. I was not exactly sure it was them. Kerner is one and an half years old now, last seen as a puppy of 6 weeks. Beatrix too I've not seen for the same period. Baseball cap worn low, eyes in shadow, no affection showed to the dog. It's puzzling. It is not the Beatrix I know. Yet I know it must be her, because half way down the street towards Wilshire she and dog reappear out from the alley and come my way, but seeing me Beatrix again rapidly turns around, rushes to the corner at Wilshire. I get there in time to see them slip into the hotel parking entrance.
I consider what to do. I am afraid of her. It hurts that she is avoiding me. And I don't want to displease her by doing what she doesn't want. An old habit. I don't know what I should do, how important here it is to do anything at all. I love telling stories, teaching myself through them, and love this story of Beatrix and Kerner and me that now may possibly continue. Obviously one party doesn't want any future developments. What should I do? How can I claim in writing my stories I know something about life? Can't think, can't act....
I go over to the drug store to be among people. Red wine on special for two dollars. When the clerk asks me how I am today I answer honestly, knowing full well that almost no one who works in this place understands much more than the numbers in English.
- I am bad. I just saw my kind-of wife walking her dog, haven't seen them for a year and a half, and she ran away from me. Really I'm not even sure it's her.
- Maybe it's a mistake. It's not her. The dog frightens people so she turns when someone is on the street. I've seen that.
- No, she turned many times, and turned into even busier streets. And I recognize the dog anyway.
- What breed?
- Boxer mix, with retriever. He has short dense light brown hair, his body blocky and compact.
- Everything is for the best.
- How is it for the best? Look at the woman back there. She was waiting in line behind me, now she is running away too. Alright, probably she just got tired of waiting while we talked.
The sales clerk gives me my change, removes the key from the cash register and goes off.
- And you're running away from me too!
- Hope you have a nice day!
It wouldn't be too much to say that Beatrix left because of my failure to work out this kind of difficulty of not knowing how to profit from my knowledge. I could make stories and think things through, but where did it get me? Holding a bottle of wine in a bag, as sales clerks, impatient customers, wife and dog flee in all directions....
Beatrix said she'd lost respect for me. At the same time, she admired these little stories I write and other exemplary little things I did. In other words, she understood I could teach better than I can do. Her running away because of it forces an explanation from me, as follows.
A teacher in perfect health has no trouble teaching others how to keep fit so long as they aren't far off from their goal. Even if students can't understand a word, they still might imitate the habits of their teacher and can't help but benefit somewhat. The best teaching though is done by fighters of their own battles in the subject, who've lived to say how they did it. Those who've always been mentally clear and bodily strong can tell you how to hold onto what you have. But when you begin to lose either strength, you'll need the help of the other kind of teacher. The more risk you take with your life, the more you break conventions and seek the best way, not merely the good enough, the more you will need this kind of help.
But when you know opposing principles very well, for example, how to concentrate on doing things to perfection, and how to enjoy doing nothing, the knowledge of these two different things, each individually clear to you, confuse you in their joined application. You need to know when is the right time for each. Until you do, uncertainty gets in the way of both things you might otherwise be doing if you weren't so bothered by answering the question of which to do now. With too much questioning you accomplish nothing. Good at teaching, bad in action.
Ideally, the problem would be only occasional, so you'd have the best of both worlds: able to see the problem and able to benefit from learning the solution. Sick one day, the next get better completely, and for all days following be the perfect teacher.
The best teachers then are the ones who at one stage were injured or faced great opposition of principles, then recovered and understood and applied their understanding, no longer needing to ask such extreme questions.
So there I was on the sidewalk not knowing whether to enjoy my sad thoughts or do something, standing still watching Beatrix and Kerner take evasive action, finally to disappear around a corner.
I was asking myself if I needed continue the story. If I love and remember my love, wasn't that enough? What kind of teacher on these subjects was I, when I couldn't act on these ideas when I had to? I love stories, I love understanding, I'm doing nothing, losing both story and understanding. A typical case.
The truth was the meeting with Kerner and Beatrix made me awfully sad. I had been thinking that a meeting between us would change the world, change my story, make life better and mean more. Then I realized I had already achieved something. I was back in touch. She was in the neighborhood. I'd see Beatrix again, and Kerner too. I didn't have to give chase. Story was taken care of for the moment. The two sides, story and thought, were in order. I could look forward to the day I would once again be acceptable to sales clerks and impatient customers, wife and dog.