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Summer Heat

As I write this, I’m sitting on my back porch and it’s 27ºC in the shade. That’s typical for this time of year and it’s only going to get hotter.

In the winter, I fight to keep my animals from freezing. In the summer, I fight to keep them from drying out in the sun.

We do everything possible, ensuring they have plenty of shade and changing out their water multiple times a day. Sometimes, I’ll even give them treats such as watermelon and celery to help them stay hydrated.

That said, there inevitably comes a point in the day when we’ve done all we can and the only thing left to do on a hot day is to sit down and be hot.

Animals learned this lesson millennia ago. Naturally, they seek out shady spots and drink cool water when it’s available. My rabbits and chickens seem to know instinctively that there are times when the best thing they can do is sit quietly and wait for cooler temperatures.

Sadly, humans haven’t learned this lesson. Or maybe we did learn it at some point, but it was forgotten with the advent of fans and air-conditioning.

To be clear, I’m not saying there is something wrong with the aforementioned items. I have a window air-conditioning unit in my bedroom and I have no intention of removing it until the first frost of autumn.

That said, if we seclude ourselves to cold, comfortable corners of the world where the temperature never goes above 20ºC, we’ll miss out on much of life’s beauty.

I’m sweating as I sit on my porch, but I’m also watching the squirrels chitter angrily as they chase each other through the trees. I’m watching the robins pick nesting material out of my yard, and I’m watching the first shoots of my summer garden poke their heads above the soil.

In a perfect world, I could enjoy all of this splendor without being hot, without being sweaty, and without experiencing the summer heat.

But I don’t live in a perfect world. I live in this one—strange and bedraggled as it may be. And in this imperfect world we must experience the summer’s heat if we want to experience her glory.

This is true of almost every aspect of life. In everything we do, there is always an easier, more comfortable way of doing it. There is no value in making life hard for no reason.

However, we must understand that there are no choices in life, only trade-offs. And there are times when the easy path costs more than we realize. Shying away from everything that is scary, challenging, or difficult results in a comfortable life. But it also leads to a life devoid of meaning, purpose, and accomplishment.

After all, where would we be if the Buddha had chosen to remain in the pleasure palace instead of walking the hard road of a mendicant monk?

Put simply, we can choose to not wash the dishes, but then we won’t have anything with which to cook. We can choose to ignore the hamper filled with dirty clothes, but then we’ll have nothing to wear to work. And we can choose to scroll endlessly on our devices instead of doing our Buddhist practice, but then we’ll postpone enlightenment to another lifetime.

In every moment, we must weigh the comfort of the easy road against the beauty that exists on the hard one. And we must ask ourselves: “Is the trade-off worth it?”

Sometimes, the answer will be “yes.” There will be days, months, and even years when we just lack the strength and the patience and the resolve to stand in the fire. There will be moments when even the dark coolness of the easy choice seems difficult to bear.

In those moments, it’s important that we return to our practice. It’s important that we chant, study, and meditate more diligently than ever before—not in the hope of finding an easy life, but, rather, we practice so we can have the strength to live a hard one. We practice so we can stand in the midst of our fiery lives and marvel at all the beauty that surrounds us.

I ponder these things as I sit on the porch watching the thermometer creep ever higher. The air-conditioner is waiting for me. I’m only a few steps and a few button pushes from chill-inducing bliss.

I could lie on the bed, crawl under the covers, and numb my brain with social media. That’s the easy path.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted. But there’s so much beauty to be seen and so much work to do.

So I’ll sit on the porch for a moment longer. And then I’ll venture out into the world to soak in the summer heat.

Namu Amida Butsu

Related features from BDG

Young Voices: Finding Comfort in Not-Knowing
Engaging the Six Paramitas to Care for Animals, Part Two: Diligence, Concentration, and Wisdom
Engaging the Six Paramitas to Care for Animals, Part One: Generosity, Discipline, and Patience
Childhood Pets, Animals, and Kindness
Pushing Ourselves Beyond the Boundaries of Comfort

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