Monday, December 18, 2017

Facebook University


When I first joined Facebook, I was worried that conversations would mostly be mundane posts about what people ate for breakfast. Instead, I find them mostly more interesting—some great music videos, some important political sharing and occasionally, some good philosophical food for thought. Today there were two of the latter and not only was I impressed with people’s comments, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to think about the topic and share my two cents. Here are the two provoking topics du jour, with the original post in italics and my response immediately following:

I met an interesting person who said their spiritual path is about accepting things AS THEY ARE---not trying to change things, not fixing things, just being present with what is. Thoughts? Comments? I can sort of see how this works with oneself in the radical self love way (Tara Brach, Pema Chodron) and in personal situations like divorce or death or illness (it's happening, accept it), but what about the terrible things going on in the world? Accept them? Do nothing? I can't live that way.
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E.B White once wrote: "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” The art of living is to do both and sometimes what you enjoy is precisely the thing that improves the world. That's my polite response. But another point of view is that this is a facet of what is now called "white privilege" that you can choose whether to get involved. Is that person going to "be wholly present" when a policeman is choking them to death or they are drinking toxic water or their child is getting bullied or sexually harassed at a school and no one cares because everyone is working on "accepting things as they are?" This is simply naive Buddhist pablum (and I'm speaking as an engaged Buddhist). On the other side of the matter, the world has always been a mess and if we spend our short incarnation lamenting that there aren't enough flowers instead of wholly savoring and smelling the flowers that exist, we may be missing part of what does actually heal and improve the world— lives lived wholly with attention, praise and gratitude. So I would say there is no "either/or" here, it is "both/and." 

And then there's Mother Goose: 

"For every evil under the sun. 
There is a remedy or there is none.
If there be one, try and find it.
If there be none, never mind it."

Good topic!

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Saw Coco with my 5-year old daughter and after she asked: “so is it true that when you die you go to a vast world of the dead and get to come back to visit as long as you’re remembered?” I hesitated on my reply- I think all I lamely said was “ I don’t know “- kind of lame, right ?my thought process was this -1 I don’t know what happens when we die 2- Although this is a “ non scary” messaging about death- which could be appealing - it’s also “ a myth”- a story- a sugar coating perhaps/ and maybe this is a flaw of mine in terms of dealing with kids but I have a strong Buddhist or something in me that believes in not knowing and was worried about destroying that with a false myth/ even though it’s a very appealing myth which could be used to teach her good messages like “ do good actions on earth, because then you will be remembered and get to come back “— so- parents- my question is-when your kids ask about death, what do you tell them ?

Good question. I would say, "I don't know and nobody does, but here's a story that some people tell about it and personally, I think it's a beautiful idea. Not only does it give me comfort that every time I think of my Mom or Dad or good friends who are gone, that they feel it somehow, but it also makes me want to live a better life and try to do good things that people will remember. Things like being kind, being a good friend, working hard to use all my talents and skills and try to create something of beauty. So it might not be true, but hey, it's a lovely story and it helps me live a happier life without hurting anyone. I sure like it better than that heaven and hell one, where some people believe that if you don't obey what their God says, you'll roast in eternal hellfire!" 

Well, I wouldn't add that last sentence. But I might tell other stories about how the ancestors are present and come visit whenever we sing and dance and play music with heart and soul. Or the Mayan one about the recently crossing the ocean to the Beach of Stars where all their friends who passed away before them are waiting with open arms. But the problem is that they can't row their own boat across that ocean and the only thing that gets them there is the tears and laughter of those left behind. That's why we cry at funerals and also why we laugh and rejoice (see New Orleans). Great topic!

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