‘Yunmen showed his staff to the assembly and said, ’This staff has changed into a dragon and swallowed the universe. Mountain, rivers, the great earth ~ where are they come from?’

~ The Blue Cliff Record, Case 60

In Zen, even the smallest efforts we take to transform our lives ~ like changing ourselves into dragons and swallowing the great universe ~ are like pebbles dropped into a pond, sending out ripples far beyond our imagining, measuring, or knowing.

Last weekend I attended an outdoor summer play with my family, a comedy and farce called The Mystery of Irma Vep, written by Charles Ludlam. Considered risky and baudy when it came out in mid-1980s, two actors share eight different roles and go through 35 costume changes. They transform from Lord or Lady of the manor to a vampire or werewolf and back again. It was great fun.

Ludlam himself, struck down by the AIDS contagion, did not survive the decade. But his creative genius influenced a new generation of American writers, including Tony Kushner, author of Angels in America. Even after the costumes are put away, Ludlam’s impact will be felt.

As the evening came on at the amphitheater cut into the golden hills and Eucalyptus groves east of Berkeley, I could not help but feel that I myself was a lucky dragon, allowed for one short moment to take in whole the mountains, rivers and great earth. Angels in America. We are all angels in America.