Saturday, November 13, 2010

playing with dolls

Once upon a time, there was a doll named Poor Pitiful Pearl. She was homely as a hedgerow. As distinct from the chic and well-endowed Barbie doll before whom children (and some adults) might stand in drooling awe, Pearl's allure seemed to lie in the fact that no child could be that homely, that bland, that, well, pitiful.

"Buck up!" Pearl seemed to say. "Things could be a lot worse." There was something reassuring about Poor Pitiful Pearl: "There is hope for me yet."

Pearl and Barbie and the reactions they may induce remind me a little of those seeking some peace through spiritual endeavor.

The twin sisters -- one spotlessly endowed, the other galumphy as an old shoe -- seem to be part of the terrain: Over there is the Barbie Buddha, shiny as a new penny. Meanwhaile, here I stand, a poor pitiful putz, up to my neck in mistakes, dull as dishwater ... and there is no crisp and perfect outcome on my horizon.

Hope and whine, hope and whine, hope and whine ... which one of us has not done it? 
Longing for enlightenment, for compassion, mindfulness and other fine attributes without really investigating. Praying to win some miraculous reprieve from ignorance and anger and attachment and other habits that have reliably tripped us up in the past and left an indelible stamp of "ugly sister" on our foreheads ... without ever really investigating.

I thought of this doll-house metaphor while reading an internet thread in which someone suggested that if he did or thought a particular way, then of course he was not enlightened. Poor Pitiful Pearl. And yet if he did not do or think in this particular way, then, of course, he would gain enlightenment. And turn into some Barbie babe.

Well, hope, however mangled and undefined, has the capacity to inspire action, but sometimes I think people become entranced by being the ugly sister. The Buddha is compassionate, so if I just do my groveling best, surely a light will descend from on high and everything will be all better. Sometimes I think the whine is just too delicious and Poor Pitiful Pearl becomes the stand-alone goddess, the safe haven, the one in which to put my faith. No need to pay attention and take responsibility ... all I need to do is wallow.

Sometimes kids play with dolls. Adults aren't much different. And I see nothing wrong with playing with dolls for a while. But after that while -- please god, in this lifetime -- then I think it is time to get to work. Of what does this doll-house universe consist? What does it mean, all this shiny Barbie talk I can utter? How does it differ from the down-in-the-dumps Poor Pitiful Pearl fairy tale? Is there some honest difference between "ain't it awful" and "ain't life grand?"

Doesn't there come a time when it's imperative to call your own bluff ... lay your cards down and lay your dolls aside and take up some attentive investigating that requires no dolls or cards? It's hard to say which stinks worse, a Barbie-bright or a Pearl-dumb garrulousness (the two are, after all, twin sisters), but wouldn't it be better to find the air-freshener that will actually refresh the air?

You want big boobs and hour-glass figures? Pick a church or a porn site.

You want humble-pie groveling ... check out self-flagellation or hit yourself with an Ugly Stick.

But when it's time, when the games lose their savor ... just get to work.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. This covers a lot more than spiritual endeavor. But you probably knew that.