The jade face of a Buddhist statue on a bookcase absorbs the morning light across from where I sit and write on my couch. When I look up, the Japanese monk’s Mona Lisa-like smile seems to me as if it approves of my work. In these last few days of 2017, an unsettled year, I have been thinking I might try cultivating a new look. I think it might resemble that of my jade statue – a face that appears serene and wise, but amused.
The statue has had its share of unnerving events and ought to be a worthy model for me. It is after all an immigrant to America, of a revered religion - but not Christian - does not have white skin (rather a pale green), has a chipped foot – a pre-existing condition – and was once suspected of being a terrorist weapon. Any of these might have gotten it in trouble during the year of 2017. Particularly the charge of a terrorist weapon.
“What do you have in your bag? A weapon?” Scanning the x-ray of my carry-on bag back in the 90’s, the security guard mistook the Buddhist statue for a cudgel or possibly a gun. He unwrapped the jade monk from a t-shirt and set it on the brown tray. Accused of being a potential assault weapon, my dear statue stood stock still.
“Oh,” said the security guard, disarmed by my monk’s smiling face. Even that man, I could see, was relieved not to see another gun. (What is with all these guns? Isn’t the faith in the bounty of spiritual dialogue sufficient to solve most of the world’s problems?) My monk dispelled all tension with his quiet grin.
When my Aunt Margaret told me to choose one thing from her possessions in appreciation for helping her move from Virginia to North Carolina back in the early 1990’s, I immediately sought out the Buddhist statue and cradled it in my arms. As a nurse, she had received the gift from a private patient. I was uncertain as to the statue’s sex. Male or female? Its hair was in a bun, so female? It held a stick with a mop-like top and wore a gown or a robe. For some years, until I knew better, I called it my Mop Lady. My monk endured the altering of its sex and my mocking with its smile.
So, this coming year, regardless of threats, of insults, of tweets, of sex scandals and more killings with guns, my monk and I will persevere with insistence that the unfortunate turn of events of 2017 will pass, and we’ll smile together knowingly. 2018 might just be a good year for putting on a new face to the world.