The Water Vendor

Early morning, Saturday July 25, 2020

After brewing and pouring coffee, I sit at the computer station in my home office. I answer a message in my mailbox and review and respond to a few posts and comments from friends in Facebook. It is still early morning and the sun is strong on the lake. All is quiet and peaceful outside and inside. What next to do in and with this day? I have no plans, no urgent writing or other projects, nothing important to do.

I swivel my chair 90 degrees right and stare at the cork board on the wall, where I post all manner of items.

My gaze fixes on the man in the picture, left of center. I admire this man whom I have never met.

It was June 2005 in Kabul, Afghanistan, when and where I was performing a consultation for the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan. It was my second day of orientation and was being driven through Kabul while receiving commentary by the driver, an Afghan employee of the Committee.

The man was dressed as if for an important occasion: clean, crisp-appearing clothing. He strode erectly and purposefully—proudly, I intuited. He was selling water, according to my guide.

Although this image always inspires me, it also enhances the dissatisfaction I am feeling. I’m old and have completed my life’s work, I have provided for my children, I have said almost everything I have say, and have long ago begun to repeat myself.

Yet, I am fit and healthy, still able to do… something. What?

Well, today we will visit the garden and enjoy the rewards of having cultivated a small plot of flowers, vegetables and berry bushes. There will be the sounds of birds, and also of children playing in the nearby field. There will be bees and other insects doing their vital work.

I am aware that I am on the verge of complaining and I begin to castigate myself. All these voices one carries!

I think of Zorba. He would verbally abuse me for this puling. I think of the Zen teachers of Peter Matthiessen who might merely strike me with a bamboo stick.

I think of my father and his recitations of Invictus during very hard times.

I think of Uncle Tommy who carried the whole fishing community of Newport Beach on his shoulders when there were still fish to catch.

I think of Uncle Harry who went through hell as a child and young man, but who prevailed to create a beautiful life and family.

What then, for me, now?

Back to the teachers of Peter Matthiessen.

Just be. Just do.

Or as Frank Sinatra said, “do-be-do-be-do.”

About Ron Pavellas

Expatriate American living in Sweden with wife. Retired from employment in the USA. Currently focused on blog articles, memoirs, and creative writing.
This entry was posted in Consciousness, The Self, Zen and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Water Vendor

  1. What lovely thoughts. Yes, I think you have it absolutely right. How I would loved to have seen Kabul. Not that I have any ambition to change the world but I imagine the majority there would be content to do without such terrible strife. And fly kites. I wonder whether the importance of just being should be restricted to we of more advanced years? I can not help but wonder whether more being and less doing in general might lead to a better world when so much of what is done is destructive and unnecessary.

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    • Ron Pavellas says:

      The Kite Flyer was a wonderful book. Yes, the strife is awful. I was fortunate to be there during a quiet period, a few months before the first national election. One fellow was amazed at my age (then, 68), who said “everyone here of that age is dead.” As for doing: doing small things, right here, not “for the world”, is my notion of doing. I was alerted to this when I read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” in 1975. Thanks for the comment, Anthony.

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      • I must read that book Ron – you have mentioned it to me before. I adored the Kite Flyer. Beauty out of chaos and uglyness and strife.

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      • Ron Pavellas says:

        I read “Zen and the Art…” so many times, I finally extracted all the philosophical parts so I could review them in a word document. The critical paragraph is this (edited for brevity): “If we are going make the world it a better place to live in, the way not to do it is with talk about relationships of a political nature…, or with programs full of things for other people to do… Programs of a political nature are important end products of social quality that can be effective only if the underlying social values are right. The social values are right only if individual values are right. The place to improve the world is first within one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there…”

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      • What wonderful and inspirational words. Yes, start with oneself. The ripple effect. Programs full of things for other people to do seem to end in misery, dystopia and mass slaughter.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Eric Gandy says:

    Well Ron you could follow the example of the water seller, make sure you water your gasrden so that war does not break out between different plants, fighting for the scarce resource to quench their thirst. In that way you will, albeit on a miniature scale, avoid the water battles going on in the world – Syria, the Jordan Valley and recently the damming of the Nile by Ethiopia with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

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    • Ron Pavellas says:

      More blessings to count due to living in the northern climes near glaciers and lakes. Water and crude oil, the current sources for all benefits and troubles, not counting the information Matrix in which we are embedded and by which we are controlled… um, influenced.

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  3. “What then, for me, now?”

    Try something new, Ron. Out of all your varied interests, there must certainly be at least one mountain you have not yet climbed. Work through the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, maybe? (I started that project a year ago, but haven’t made a lot of progress recently.) Learn to sing a few more Italian arias? (Puccini wrote such beautiful music. And Rossini. And Verdi. I remember a lot of tunes, but I’m not so hot on the words.) Learn about another computer system. (I recently installed Gentoo Linux on my PC. It was hard work. But I learned a lot. And I “met” NeddySeagoon, whose best advice for solving computer problems is “Drink more coffee.”)

    The main thing is to be content while remaining active. You don’t have to *do* a lot. But we can all benefit from a little self-improvement. Yourself included. As you noted above, when I get better, the world gets better.

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    • Ron Pavellas says:

      The math and computer stuff would have been a good cuppa tea for me a few decades ago, but I have since then been feeling trapped in the Matrix (See here: https://wp.me/prazu-1Yp). I have been reading deeply on Zen and mysticism; I’m in a new phase. My ego thrust has diminished significantly, so I am not driven to (attempt to) publish the two and-a-half novels that have been in and out of the drawer over the last decades. The need to accomplish ‘something’ is a holdover from my days of intense and continuous achievement. These ended around 10-15 years ago. Time to smell the roses, but I won’t predict that I won’t get antsy anymore. Thanks for the response, David.

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  4. 4nrelations says:

    Nyköping awaits you, you’re always welcome!

    Like

  5. Vasil Georgiev says:

    Ron, Thank you for the nice blog article. I would add to it “The Serenade” by F. Schubert for good spirits.

    Vasil

    Liked by 1 person

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