A brilliant, nippy day today. Based on various email and comments I read this morning, the phrase floats through my mind: "Smart enough to know better" and the implied irritation with those who are clearly bright and yet, in one regard or another, can't grab their own ass with both hands. I guess we've all done it, but that doesn't make onlookers any less irritable.
In the old days, when oral traditions were in flower, there seems to have been a habit of repeating things over and over again. And all you have to do is stand in a library to know that repetition of freshly-minted information is far from dead. Newly-masticated and regurgitated wisdom. If we're so smart, how come the human mind seems to beg for (and sometimes be irritated by) these newly-iced cakes?
In the barber shop yesterday, I got to talking with the young woman who was cutting my hair. She snipped and used the clippers, and the conversation rolled like a small brook over smooth rocks ... where do you live, do you have kids, where did you train for barbering, what about vocational school vs. the insistence on college, etc. The young woman said she liked to read up on psychology in her off-time, so we chatted about that and the fact that if she had an interest in psychology, she could certainly snoop the professional possibilities of the field. I suggested casually that the hard part about psychology was not so much the books and terminology and patients to whom it might be applied as it was to look into your own mirror. And she pounced on that suggestion: "Yeah, it's hard to look in the mirror." And it was at that point that I mentioned I had dabbled in Buddhism for 40 years. "Really?!" she said with curiosity. "I'm interested in Buddhism too." I didn't make a federal case out of it, but said that if she sent me an email (I gave her the address), I would send her a one-page cheat sheet I had once written about Buddhism ... a quickie overview. And we parted on a friendly note.
It's really hard to look in the mirror -- that's the part that struck me. A gazillion tomes and texts exist in Buddhism and elsewhere repeat the same theme song, "look in the mirror." Over and over and over again -- look in the mirror. You might think, since we are so smart, that once would be enough: One and done. But of course that's not the way things work. The fact that we are so smart means that we have a million ways to avoid or reconfigure or misconstrue our own best advice. "Look in the mirror" can be an encouragement to buy some acne cream or lipstick or hair dye. Or maybe there's a Kool-Aid-drinking cult around the corner that promises an angelic reflection. Or ... or ... a million other possibilities. We're so smart, dontcha know.
Repetition. Over and over and over again until, with luck, we can find our own ass with both hands. But until that time, there's probably no escaping the droning repetitions ... out of our own minds, out of others' mouths, out of grandma's rocking chair. It's easier, of course, when we admit we can't grab our own ass with both hands, that, really, all those smarts and a couple of bucks will get us no more than a bus ride. But that takes courage and ... a willingness to look in the mirror ... again.
Repetition is good, but it is also enough to make any one of us to wish from time to time that a naked lady might leap out of a 'surprise' cake.