Five Things

I first “met” writer Susan Piver when I read her book, “The Hard Questions: 100 Questions to Ask Before You Say ‘I Do’” which I recommend as an excellent guidebook for talking with your significant other before taking that big step. Later, I learned that she was a Buddhist and a meditation teacher, and I had the opportunity to spend some time with her in person at a retreat center. But don’t assume that her whole life has been blissful and super-chill — she’s got some stories to tell.

Her latest book is called “The Four Noble Truths of Love,” a riff on the fundamental Buddhist wisdom, applied to our closest relationships. In all of her work, there’s an emphasis on the deeply practical, not just big abstract ideas.

Courtesy Susan Piver

Susan Piver (seated in front) with the Guardian Angels.

One of the things she learned from her time with the Guardian Angels in the 1980s:
“I saw how people who want to change things — I mean, this may sound trite, but I think we’re living in a time where we’re all discovering the need for this, and that it actually is possible — that people who get together who want to change things can do something. Even [something] as difficult as fighting street crime, which you think, oh, you’ve got to leave that to others. But this was an experience of people saying, we’re not going to leave it to anyone else. There is no one else. We have to do it.”

On the first Buddhist book she read, called “The Heart of the Buddha”:
“I just liked the title. All the self-helpy things I had read, or spiritual things, seemed kind of cold to me, or like you were supposed to become all Zen, whatever that means, and just be chill all the time, and not be hurt by pain. All of it just sounded very heady and remote to me. So when I saw this book called ‘The Heart of the Buddha,’ I was magnetized.”

On her father’s watch, which she now wears:
“It evokes something about him that is so essential, so essentially Julius Samuel Piver, which was this kind of understated elegance about his person that he always had. His parents were immigrants, he wasn’t born to any privilege, but he had this elegance. I don’t think I’m just saying this because he’s dead and I miss him and love him so much — he was always that way.”

Tara Anderson is the host and producer of Five Things, a podcast about the objects that tell our stories.