Tuesday, October 1, 2013

the direct method

Yesterday, I was talking on the phone with a friend who was telling me about a Sikh acquaintance whose spiritual self-involvement my friend could not stand. "I've set up my email so that his righteous crap is automatically deleted," he told me.

Not that my friend, like me, had not gone through a similar phase of being up to his armpits in spiritual adventure and effort, and not that either of us wouldn't lend anyone a hand if we were asked or could, but at our age, patience runs thin: You want to do it? Do it. You don't want to do it? Don't. But in the meantime, be a good sport and keep the mewling encomiums and self-serving exhortations off my front lawn.

Today, for example, a young man interested in Buddhism will stop by for a cup of coffee. He wants to pick my brain or what's left of it. But I half imagine we will come to the meeting with different points of view: He wants to get a sense of whether Buddhism has any heft in his life ... whether it has the capacity to ease uncertainty, whether, in the person of another, he can somehow trust it. And I am sympathetic and willing to do what I can ... not especially as a "Buddhist," but rather as a human being who sympathizes with other, honestly-uncertain human beings. If he wants to put a Buddhist cookie cutter around it, well, I can play that game. Perhaps it will work ... and perhaps it won't. It's the searching humanity of it all that lights my lamp. Whatever the event, I suspect the young man will come and the young man will go and that will be that.

Fortunately or unfortunately, there is no way to set up a life that will automatically send the icky stuff to the spam folder or delete it before it attains liftoff. How could I possibly know what was icky if I hadn't -- probably worse than most -- indulged? But that doesn't mean I have to return to those sainted and anointing realms. These days it feels too much like lowering myself into a bathtub full of warm snot. And today this crabbiness made me remember with a delighted laugh the airport fight scene in the old movie, "Airplane!" The direct method speaks for itself:

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