Buddhist masters sit still on cushioned floors, inhaling and exhaling, practicing the art of nothingness. They attempt to disentangle their minds from thought and desire, from attachment and emotion. In their linen robes, they forsake the material life with its pull toward objects and people. Without drink or feast, laughter or tears, they hope to ascend to perfect understanding of life in the silent rite of nothing. No hope. No desire. No loss. No fire. It is true that if you desire nothing, when nothing happens, you have met your heart’s desire.
But. Is this life?
Life is full of heartache, wonder, suffering, joy, despair, gratitude. It is sensual, earthy, fragrant, sticky, and hot. It is roaring, messy, oily, and frigid. Life, in short, is a day and night of pressing olives after a day of picking olives after a year of spraying olives, and after years of watering, pruning, fertilizing, and dreaming of olive oil.
My sister Cindy and I can be simplistic, at times. Having not researched how man and woman have been extracting the oil from the olive, we thought the equation went something like this:
Harvested olives+olive press=olive oil.
The yield this year was small.
We ran out of time doing it ourselves.
Life in all its iterations happened–the deafening roar of the hopper splitting the olives into millions of shards of pit, skin, and oily meat; the rhythmic rowing of the grinder kneading the shards into a reddish paste, the slap of the disks on the table enabling the spinning spatulas to spread the material; the tremendous electrical surge of the press itself descending upon the disks; the trickling and then gushing of the liquid into the bucket…
The meaning of life?
It was in the oil.