This wheel on a neighborhood fence reminded me of the first part of the Buddha’s first discourse, that life has the characteristic of dukkha, translated as suffering, unsatisfactoriness, stress, and so on. I was recently reminded that one of the original meanings of the word dukkha is “wheel out of round.” When a wheel is out of round we don’t get the smooth ride we usually enjoy. We bump, lurch, are jostled, and generally are bothered. Fortunately the Buddha went on to tell us that there is a way out of dukkha through wisdom.
I had been sitting outside our local library a few days before, waiting for it to open an hour later than it used to; those saved hours now make it possible to be open on Sundays. Some people sat quietly in the shaded grass, others on park benches, some reading, some were enjoying conversation with new people. The woman next to me, however, was annoyed, complaining, and wanted to convince me to be annoyed with her; I refused. The wheel was out of round (albeit in a fairly minor way) for all of us waiting, but we could choose our response to the dukkha. That’s known as wisdom.