Gotama depicts the city as a space that encourages human flourishing through the provision of economic opportunity (“prosperity”), security (“ramparts”), family life (“well populated”), and leisure (“parks, groves, ponds”). A city is a civic space where individuals can live in close proximity as “rational, sociable agents who are meant to collaborate in peace to their mutual benefit.”* Since the dharma has no place for either the providential designs of a Creator or a divinely ordained social hierarchy, the realization of the city’s potential lies squarely in the hands of human beings who enjoy equality. In this sense, the practice of the fourfold task becomes more than just a template for personal flourishing. When practiced with others who share one’s ultimate concerns, the four tasks become acts of solidarity working together as residents build a communal and social future based on an understanding of a naturalistic causality.”

– Stephen Batchelor. After Buddhism

*Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap, 2007.



Washing dishes. Water across plates. Food remnants in the trap. Water slow to drain.

He says he wants to play the piano. They walk through the kitchen from family to living room. Pass behind me. A sound. A felt sense.

Sponge and brush and soap. Tupperwares. Silverware. The cut on my thumb stinging in the water.

The notes from the piano. Expecting crash and bang. A cacophony of fingers slamming keys. I stop. Turn off the water. The notes are quiet. Searching. Loud, then soft. Legato continuous. He finds a melody. Repeats it. One hand accompanies the other. Exploring. Jumping octaves. Shifting dynamics. The sound of listening. He is paying attention to what he is doing.

I dry my hands with a towel. Lean against the wall. Hidden, so he doesn’t see me. So I don’t distract him. The song continues for a few minutes.

Joy. Emotion rushes through my head. My face. I smile. Enjoying this moment.

Him playing music.