Anthony de Mello (SJ, that’s Society of Jesus!) was such a storyteller. He could have been, and maybe was while alive, the Life of the Party.
However, not all of his stories would have been cocktail party-friendly. Or maybe I am wrong. Strong cocktails can sometimes bring out our best and strongest sides.
Try out this one at your next cocktail party.
A man was being chased by a ferocious lion. He comes to a cliff and jumps off into a chasm thousands of feet below. He grabs a branch sticking out from the cliff side, looks up, sees the hungry lion above, looks down, sees the yawning chasm below.
Then he notices on the branch a red berry. He plucks it, puts it into his mouth, eats it.
And the berry was so good.
End of story. Some might think that there is no punch-line to this witz. Possibly it is too punchy. Too strong.
And it points to hardcore mindfulness. The lion above, the chasm below. We might say, the past behind us, full of memories, and the future before us, full of uncertainties, good and bad.
And in the middle of all this vagueness, this fuzzy future and memory-dependent past, the present. The red berry. The only thing that is really real.
To this great cocktail party story I would perhaps add that the man might be dead, crushed, the second after he ate that berry. MIGHT be… or a helicopter may turn up and rescue him.
From what? Physical death.
But he himself rescues himself from unreality, from “past” and “future”. That the helicopter cannot do.
Postscript: In a strange, almost perverse way, I can see that the lion and the chasm are so comforting in my life. They feel… secure, even though sometimes they are just as awful as a chasm or a lion.
Why is that? Because they promise some kind of stability, some non-change. But can they keep their promise? I suspect not.
And I come to this radical question: What if all there is in life is… berries? Red berries, blue berries, sweet berries, sour berries.
That one can attend to, mindfully, or not.