There’s an old saying, “The poor farmer makes weeds, the mediocre one makes crops, and the skilled farmer makes soil.”
from Opening the Hand of Thought by Kosho Uchiyama
Not being last has become a deep question for me. I haven’t fully grasped it or refined my thinking into it. Just a warning that this post is a working on progress.
Growing up I had a sense that there were two categories which measured performance: First and the Rest. Later I was taught to say supportive things like, “Well, if you’re going to be last, be the Best Last!” I don’t think the kids to whom I imparted that piece of useless wisdom bought it because… frankly, kids are good at spotting a BSBB… bullshit brain baffler.
Not being last has been a driving force for me in my career, my limpid athletic endeavours, everything. Then some unknown time ago, I began to feel this drivenness more as a puzzle than an imperative.
Standing at the early-registration table for a conference on mindfulness, I was jostled aside by another registrant who indicated she had got there first. I smiled and said, “It’s ok. As long as we’re not the last.”
“If you’re going to be last, then be the best last,” she responded sharply.
Never one to resist a teaching moment or a red cape, I snorted oxishly, “There’s only four of us here. If we were the last, what would happen to this conference?”
Kyle responded to the initiating post on this topic, Only when we see ourselves as seperate (sic) from first and last do first and last occur. First and last are no different.
Perhaps. In historic reality, first and last are distinctly – extinctly – different. There are consequences to being last. I think about the Do-Do bird. The dinosaurs. The recent extinct species in North America. What made them the last of their kind? In the race to survival, what failed for them?
The answer might be as simple as the fact that something didn’t get passed on. Some crucial factor or teaching about adaptation wasn’t cultivated. All beings are vulnerable to this system failure. I suspect, even Bodhisattvas are capable of becoming the last being.
So, in that first moment of our Bodhisattva-hood, what is required of us to not be the last?
Thank you for practicing.
with thanks to Zendotstudio for reminding me to return to Uchiyama.