The storm hit but there was no thunder. News reports said it was the biggest downfall of the decade. The way the media talked about it made me think the rain was biblical and the floods to come were groundwork for some divine message. That’s how I read it, at least. I was sure Moses would descend from Mount Tamalpais with a tablet in either hand and have amended the commandments. Not that they were out dated. I mean they ARE but they’re solid instructions on decency that require zero religious zeal to devote to entirely. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not lie.
Thou shalt not steal. Honor thy mother and father. Love thy neighbor. The seventh day isn’t another day of work and email and meetings. Remember the seventh day and keep it holy. And other spiritual hits before or after Christ depending on who you ask and what version you’re reading.
The one that really struck me was of course the one I had forgotten. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s house, their wife, their servant, their donkey, or anything that belongs to the neighbor. In other words, do not wish for, yearn to possess or desire that which belongs to another. It’s pointing directly at the error of jealousy and the slimy lens of looking at another life and wanting it for your own. Instead of celebrating their joy and blessing their bounty, you experience the absence of it in your own life. In that moment, you have lost sight of the way, squashed your post yoga glow, and awakened poverty mind.
I mean it’s not that bad. Actually, I just say that because we do it so much of the time that we think we have a right to possess someone else’s lifestyle, partner, achievement. If you really think about, it is that bad. If you ask the Buddhists they’ll remind us that everyone has their own karma, which is basically the idea that a person’s life is a sum of past and present action, thought, and ambition. When goodness comes or devastation falls, it is said that one’s karma is ripening. According to Buddhist tradition, lifetimes create the moment – a cosmic collision.
But karma is only one possible reason why coveting thy neighbor’s donkey is silly. When we yearn for there, we lose sight of what is here. Resentment comes easily and we clutch to the idea of ‘me’. How come he gets to have that? Why does she get all the attention? I can’t believe they were able to do it (again). We disgrace the basic goodness of our situation and start to think small, so very small, like a fruit fly without fruit.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goodies is still a tough one for many of us. But I think there’s a way to work with it that’s healthy. I think the first thing is to at least name the thing. If you can see that you are feeling jealous, then you’ve turned the tables. It doesn’t have quite the same kind of hold on you. With perspective, you can learn its contours and voice, its shape and depth. Sitting with the feeling allows you to really watch the irrational logic. And guess what happens? Over time, you become intimate with just how special your neurosis is. Making peace with your world begins with accepting yourself and all the ways in which you lose your mind like wanting your neighbor’s donkey. That’s their donkey. Don’t desire their donkey. Instead, be grateful for your human life. That’s so much better than a donkey. Plus, you get take your human life and walk out in the rain. You get to enjoy the glory of every muddy step.