We attended a family baptism at a Catholic church two weeks ago. She pointed up to Jesus hanging on the crucifix twenty feet above our heads, and asked, "Why is he up there?"
Obviously we're not Christian--as I think you can tell by now--and so she doesn't know much about Jesus, other than that he was a teacher like the Buddha. We skipped the whole crucifixion part of the story, figuring what was the point in mentioning all of the bloody details for a religion we don't practice? Besides, she'll have the rest of her life to learn about Jesus and God.
My wife said, "Well, you know how we have statues of the Buddha? Some people have statues of Jesus."
My daughter scrunched her face skeptically. "I don't like it," she said. After all, Jesus on the cross can be a pretty morbid sight, especially for a four-year-old who isn't used to seeing it.
So she has been asking a lot about where people and the earth come from. Her latest kick is infinity. (Maybe it has to with Buzz Lightyear's "To infinity, and beyond!") She loves how mind-boggling it is, and often asks things like, "What's the next number after infinity?" Or, "What's the number before infinity?"
My favorite expression of hers is: "I love you to infinity."
But back to the amazing thing she said. While working on a craft at the kitchen table, she said, "Everything is infinity."
I stopped to see if I had heard her correctly. It took a few seconds before I realized that I had--everything is infinity. "That's the heart of Zen!" I wanted to shout.
A couple of weeks ago I tried to explain interconnectedness to her. She was asking where my grandmother was, who died last winter, and I tried to explain that we are always connected to Mama, even if she's not "alive" anymore.
I think I confused her more than anything, especially since at the end of the conversation she asked, "But where are the strings that connect us all together? I don't see them."
But yesterday she nailed it head on--everything is infinity. It's the essence of Hua-Yen and Zen Buddhism: everything is it. Everything is connected, and contains everything else. There is only one substance, and we are it. Everything is, for that matter. There is nothing outside of it.
Wow, talk about humbling. If you want to know what infinity is, just ask a four-year-old.
Or better yet, look around you--it's everywhere.
(Thanks for opening my eyes, honey. I love you to infinity, too.)
Photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: Sean MacEntee.