Rock Tumbler


Let us cultivate our garden.

–Voltaire, “Candide”


The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.

–Robert M. Pirsig, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”




[September 2, 2022] 

Matthew accidentally bumped his poor little head into mine the other day.

I had gotten in the way when he was trying to practice standing up on my lap. I was admittedly being a slight bit goofy with him, and … whoops. He’s not even four months yet, so gross motor skill mastery is still a ways off. 

So who’s fault was it that I got a little bump in the head from my baby? 

Mine, of course.

He was fine, by the way. Didn’t even flinch. He’s got a tough noggin. Fortunately, he didn’t seem bothered in the least. Thank God.

My forehead had a little shine to it for an hour or so, but that faded. Everything arises, everything passes away, I’m told.

What have we learned? That the baby is just gonna do what babies do. It’s my responsibility to do what dads do. And that’s to accept his baby-ness, while taking responsibility for my own dad-ness and being a little more cautious, while sometimes giving his body a wider berth. Truth be told, I feel a little embarrassed even relaying the story. But it seemed to point to something helpful.

Someone I respect described the idea of spiritual community as a little bit of a rock tumbler. If you never had a rock tumbler as a kid, or aren’t sure what one is, here’s a video:

The pithy but poetic takeaway via my friend was that the rocks get bumped around a bit – but afterwards, they also get nice and polished. Kind of like in a band, or a congregation, or a community. You take refuge, or seek connection, but you also have to give up a little bit of your ego in return. 

Oh, and pride. I have to give up that, too. Or at least some of it.

After some time – poof, you’re shinier than you could have been just by your lonesome. The small “self” goes, and everybody grows.

Matthew’s too young to be soaking up much of the homespun wisdom the world has to offer, like that of my friend and his spiritual rock tumbler, but he gives little lessons to dear old dad. Or at least little reminders to be careful, be humble, and not be too serious — but still take good care.

So this week, may you take refuge in your rock tumblers, your family – biological, chosen, spiritual – as well as your community, your guideposts, your current path. They may periodically administer little bumps that get your attention, and I hope they fill your heart, mind, and being with something ineffable, inexpressible, ephemeral, and still everlasting. 

Shine on.



More stories:

“Feed People”

“One Big Mistake”





More stuff and things:


My Facebook page

Simple songs on the ukulele




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