Saturday, May 15, 2010

against the grain

On the peace picket line this morning, a fellow with a loud and insistent voice stopped to argue against the thrust of our gathering. "If it weren't for all the veterans," he said so everyone could hear, "you wouldn't be standing here now."

Another fellow engaged me directly: Why was it, he said skeptically as he looked at my robes, that so many young people think they have to adopt the cultural trappings of another country ... robes, mala beads, etc.? What's the matter with what you wear on any day of the week?"

I told him what I thought and, although he was still somewhat irritated with the Buddhist establishment with its formalities and fripperies, he seemed to calm down a little. And he told me conspiratorially about asking a Zen teacher at the center across the street from where we stood why it was that she seemed to have a stick up her ass ... why she seemed to adhere so rigidly to the calling she had made her calling.

It's nice to run into people who go against the apparent grain -- the agreements of one gathering or another, the sometimes-becalmed majority-vote ambiance ... someone who will ask the questions that anyone with a firm conviction and an open mind will ask of him- or herself in quieter or less convincing times.

It refreshes the scene to rethink what you think you have thought -- reexamine old and sometimes stale conclusions, start from the beginning and work things out all over again.

Anyway, I am grateful to people who challenge and say between the lines, "don't bullshit me!" Agreements are nice and supportive, but they really can be nothing but laziness.

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