html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: <i>OH!</i> My friend. I found my friend.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

OH! My friend. I found my friend.

In junior high and high school, one of my closest friends in the world was Hoa. I loved Hoa. When he was good at something, he was amazing at it. He drew, did all of our party announcements for years; he was just an incredible artist. He was so damn smart, and funny, and way stylish, and profoundly, overwhelmingly good. Most of the time he was just another sharp kid with us, you know. But sometimes we'd talk, and I'd get afraid that he was too good for the world. That the world would take someone like him, someone who never ever saw a person do something bad, who wanted to understand every single person to their core, who was open to the best of everyone, and hurt him.

He stayed in LA when I left for college. We stayed close; not talking often but talking intensely when we could. We visited each other. He got a fiancée who wasn't so sure about me, so I kept my distance for a while. They didn't marry. Then I heard he won a Fulbright to Vietnam, his first trip back since leaving. He came home, won an architecture contest and used the proceeds to go straight back to Vietnam. This time he became a monk. My friend Hoa. A monk.

You know, when I heard that Hoa was a monk, I had two immediate thoughts. The first was grief for all that talent, lost. He won't be drawing and making buildings for the world if he's a monk. My second thought was "Of course. Of course he's a monk." I was relieved. A monastery will be a safe place for my friend who is too pure and good to live in the world.

It is a little strange to have a friend who's a monk. I visit him every few years at his monastery. The first time, he wasn't there. He was at a nearby campus, holding a retreat. I got to the campus way late, but it turns out that if you ask people where the monks are, they can generally tell you. I found other monks, who didn't know his pre-monk name. We finally tracked him down (he was working with the LGBT teens group), and when they finished he came out and saw me. It was amazing, watching my old beloved friend walking toward me in monk's robes. He was exactly the same, only purer, distilled to essence. More him. I was desperate to hear about becoming a monk, but also desperate because at that point I had twenty-two minutes to get to the airport, return the car and get on my plane. I told him I wanted to hear everything, but he had to tell it to me while walking me to my car. He just beamed at me.

We started walking to the car and whenever I'd tell him where I was and what I was doing, he'd stop to listen and give me his full attention. I'd tug him towards the car and ask him "how did you become a monk! what is it like! what did your family think!" and he would stop to think and answer me. I looked to the car one more time, and he said in the most loving tone "Megan, I wish I could tell you more about our practice. We practice mindfulness. So, when I am walking with my friend Megan, all of me is walking with you. When I am talking to you, that is all I am doing." DUDE! But you can't hurry a monk.

I've seen him again since then. That must be odd for him, 'cause I don't call ahead. I mean, he's a monk. He'll be there, right? So every few years, he turns around at his monastery and there I am. His life is pretty worldly; they're definitely engaged with the community. I asked him if he was going to be a monk his whole life; he said "This and many lives to come." He means it. He looks so whole. I still can't totally understand that he's a monk. I want my piece of him, where we stayed friends our whole lives and our families visit each other. I'm not going to get that. He gives all his pieces to his monastery and his practice.

I can still love him, though. Tonight I found pictures of him and I'm missing him badly. But look how happy he looks. You can see it, right? How good he is? He was always like that.



Anonymous Thelonious_Nick said...

"We practice mindfulness. So, when I am walking with my friend Megan, all of me is walking with you. When I am talking to you, that is all I am doing."

Wow. Reminds me of "Stranger in a Strange Land." In it, there's a scene where Valentine Michael Smith, the human who was raised on Mars, gives life-changing kisses because when he kisses a woman, he does so with his entire mind and being concentrated on the woman. Sounds like you and Hoa grok each other.

6:55 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

No no. He was trying to find a tactful way to tell me that I couldn't ask him questions while we were walking to the car. It was one or the other. There were no life-changing kisses, or grokking.

I made my plane, barely.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous scottb said...

Your friend sounds thoroughly cool and I'm really happy for him.

Mindfulness reminds me of the parenting story I often tell of being home with our newborn son for a few months (after my wife had her few months home and went back to work).

As part of my job, even more so than just as a normal part of adulthood, I _plan_. We all do. We think about how we want things to progress off into the future and then we decide to do things to make that future come about. Project management, any kind of management, planning for your financial future, thinking about how you want your next relationship to go. You get the point.

Then, when I was home with my 3 month old, I realized that there is no "planning". He doesn't care if I plan his next meal, or our next car trip, or his college fund.

He wants me there _now_ whatever he's doing. If he's crying, or laughing, or pushing something, or trying to figure out what to do with his thumbs and where they attach and what those 'toes' are off in the distance. It's all about _now_.

So, one of the biggest changes for me, staying home with this new being, was figuring out how to stay in the _now_ with him. Yeah, 'mindfulness'. That's what it was. And it was great fun.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I think being in the now, or worse, being in our bodies, is very hard for analytical types like us.

8:39 AM  
Blogger Dubin said...

I am having a hard time with this very thing right now. But it isn't because I'm analytical, it's because I'm by nature a multi-tasker. Which I have long attributed to being a girl. But I'm really bad, like, I need to be doing at least two things at once to feel ok. I'm trying to learn to stop that, but I'm failing so far. We'll see, there's time...

9:56 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

You have many lifetimes to perfect yourself.

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

W.H. Auden wrote somewhere that in the Middle Ages there were probably too many people in monasteries while in the 20th century there are too few.

And in our era of technology-aided disconnectedness, it strikes me that a life of prayer, contemplation, and labor is a more promising pathway to deeper meaning than the frantic DIY spiritual-but-not-religious fumblings that seem to be the norm today.

A Desert Monotheist

6:09 PM  
Anonymous sheila said...

I don't know you or your friend, but I feel like I know you a bit better now - and thank you for introducing me to your beautiful friend.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My plan to free myself from the confines of corporate dronedom may be a baby-step towards becoming a monk/nun. I have never fit into this world, and I would like to have the peace Hoa appears to have.

7:30 PM  
Blogger srchngformystry said...

i love hoa, too, now. i need to learn to be mindful.

7:42 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Wow. I've got nothing else. Good for him.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous D said...

I think you do have your piece of him, but, like a belgian chocolate flown in this morning, there are requirements to getting it. And it is not to be consumed lightly...

I haven't known many monks, but a few people who are able to be mindfull when I am with them... After a few long conversations, the conversations grew shorter, until I would simply sit with them and say nothing for hours. Of those times the memories are deep, as if I can still smell the rain, to feel what it was to be.

I think your friend may be of this sort... inviting you to see the world through his eyes.
Thank you for sharing this, too...

10:56 PM  
Anonymous lance_mountain said...

Is the header on this post a reference to Aristotle's semi-famous "Oh my friend, there is no friend"?

6:30 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

No. I didn't know Aristotle's quote. Just coincidence.

7:34 AM  

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