Tuesday, August 6, 2019

That's What I Want

You take an in-breath. Will you be able to take an out-breath? You don’t know. Wherever you are, whether it is El Paso, Dayton, or wherever, whatever might be the probability, you don’t know. This could be a cause for depression. But whether we admit it or not, we all know this deep in our hearts. We are all on death row, and we don’t like to couch the fragility of our existence in those terms.

And then something happens, where lives are prematurely cut off. That makes us remember that our next in-breath might not be followed by an out-breath.

I spent the morning with my grandson who is barely five. I took him to a toy store to get his birthday present. He was very confident that he could scope out the entire store and pick the best toy. I asked him whether it was the best for everyone or the best just for him. He’s just at that age where this made sense for him. He said for me, not for everyone.

Getting a Car Inspection
So he picked a curious toy. It was in a package and it was one of 12 Japanese characters, and he couldn’t see which one it was. But he wanted it, and of course, when he opened it, he didn’t get the one he wanted and got the one he didn’t want... but he wasn’t too disappointed and came to like the one that he did get.

Yesterday I was grouchy, hungry, “caught in a self-centered dream,” as we recite at the Buddhist temple a couple of times a week. I was bent out of shape at something someone had done. I assumed it was done to me, but in fact, as the truth came out, they had tried an experiment and their website didn’t work as planned, and I thought they were being rude where they were just trying their best to find the best way of doing something.

And then I just received a letter from Charles, a prisoner who is now one of the leaders in a Buddhist group. He talked about something that had upset him and bent him out of shape and happily, he didn’t make much trouble because of it, and seemed to be quite happy about that. I suspect it was being out of control that got him in prison.

Last night I was using two computers, one for video conferencing and another for playing a YouTube. First I couldn’t get to the YouTube, and I finally discovered because the battery had died completely (no out-breath) and forgotten the time of day, and therefore couldn’t get on a number of websites. And then the YouTube was playing very softly for no reason, even when I increased the volume all the way up.

I was bent out of shape, and someone shamed me saying that Buddhism should allow someone to have things go wrong and not be crazed. I remember when Katie, a non-Buddhist colleague about 40 years ago was presenting a multi-projector slide show, and the slides were messing up, getting stuck, or whatever, and I was so impressed by her calmness. I don’t remember her slides at all, but I’ll never forget how calm she was.

I want some of that. And sometimes I feel that. And sometimes I’m very frustrated because people are waiting around for something to happen, something different from technology not behaving.

Finally, the technology did work, and we listened to a meditation about dying and decaying. It wasn’t sad. It wasn’t depressing. It was more like stepping on a piece of rotted wood and seeing it dissolve as powder into the dirt. And remembering that once it was a seed, and once it was a strong tree, and once it was a just dead tree, and now it is powder, ready to feed its nutrients to a new tree.

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