29 November 2013

Why Black Friday is So Important

Ever since Gmail decided to sort the Inbox into "Primary," "Social," and "Promotions" categories it's become easy to see just how much of what comes my way is advertising.  This morning, "Promotions" was chock full of ads and offers, a windfall of Black Friday specials of one kind or another.

Here's the thing: I look at them.   Yep, 50% off this, 40% off that with free shipping, buy one at 25% off get the next at 50% off – the list goes on. And I look at them.

I have to own that I'm as tempted as anyone to pick up another of my favorite things when some retailer is taking a good chunk of the price off and throwing in free shipping, too.  In this, I am no different from the door busting, wee hours of the morning purchasing, major artery jamming hordes that were out and underway as early as yesterday evening.  No different at all.  Even if I should like to think otherwise.

Just as Thanksgiving gives me occasion to exercise gratitude, Black Friday reminds me just how much work I still have to do.

16 November 2013

The Pressure to Say or Do Something

Two nights ago I was involved in a residence hall activity where I, the Buddhist, along with two of my colleagues, both Christian, but one from India so he spoke on Hinduism, had an hour with the students. We were each invited to talk for about 15 mins about the respective traditions, and then a Q&A followed.

It was fine enough, but I always leave such events with a bad taste in my mouth.  "If you say, 'Buddha, wash you mouth out three times" makes such increasing sense to me.  "Buddha" indeed…!

Would that I never had to talk about this practice again.  Would that henceforth and forever I could just say, "Look!" and let that be enough and more than enough.  Even better: to just smile Mahākāshyapa's smile and leave it at that!

15 November 2013

What if No One's in Charge?

Some people look at the relative order of the universe and are drawn to the conclusion that it must be the work of one single agent.

If I look at something like the city of Chicago, for instance, with its complexity and relative orderliness, I can be astounded that the whole thing functions just as well as it does (food comes in, waste is processed, there's water sent to every floor in the downtown skyscrapers, and on and on), but I don't jump to the conclusion that there must have been, and continue to be, some one mind, one agent behind it.


Because I know better.  I get that when you put a bunch of trifling decisions, personal goals, some group think and some time together you get a functioning metropolis.  I also get that when you put a bunch of trifling decisions, personal goals, some group think and some time together you get all the social ills associated with this kind of metropolis.

This works from the other direction as well, and I find that there is no captain to this ship I call me, either.  Sure, I can order coffee instead of tea or choose Star Trek over Dancing with the Stars, but I know that those choices do not come out of nowhere.  They are themselves conditioned by conditioned conditions, stretching beyond the grasp of comprehension. Some of my actions go on to become the context for other actions; some of my actions go nowhere, just gestures that appear and disappear without much trace at all.

Best part is, it really doesn't matter.  Whether all of this is the flowering of one single directing mind or not, my morning coffee is just as satisfying. My gratitude for making it alive and well to another day is not diminished in the least because I have no particular someone to thank.  And whether or not there is or is not a central command to this business I call me, I'll muddle along just as I've always done, sometimes skillfully, sometimes not.