Last week I read “Lunch with Buddha”, the current bestseller by Roland Merullo. Merullo, a Massachusetts resident, was a writer in residence at North Shore Community College and is the author of “Revere Beach Boulevard.” You may also have seen his occasional columns in the Boston Globe.
Merullo is a thoughtful guy and “Lunch with Buddha” is a novel that examines three questions that crop up sooner or later for many (most?) of us.
These questions are not necessarily sequential; and they may or may not be interrelated.
One question is: How do – or should – we live? What posture and attitudes do we maintain or adopt?
Another question is: What is the meaning of it all?
Another is: How do we attain individual inner peace, or equanimity?
Often, these questions come up during or after a crisis in one’s life, or in reaction to some extreme event that may appear safely beyond our world but yet may indeed cause us to reflect, doubt, assess.
In Merullo’s novel, the protagonist, Otto, is afflicted by all three questions after his young wife dies of cancer. Already a grateful, humble, reflective man – before his wife dies – he cannot make sense of the tragedy and injustice and randomness of her death.
In hopes of defeating his now-oversized uncertainties, and finding some orienting emotional and intellectual narratives, he embarks on a long, slow road trip in an old pickup truck, accompanied by his brother-in-law, Volya, who is a type of Buddhist monk.
Although, predictably, Volya’s wise lectures, and coaching in meditation techniques, are helpful to Otto’s search for answers, it is the variety of people they meet – and the attitudes that those individuals carry – that are what provide Otto with the evidence and reminders and motivation to decide to live a certain way.