Thursday, July 1, 2010
I thought I was tired enough to fall asleep earlier, but then, like an idiot, I thought I'd check my facebook one last time before I went to sleep and happened across a Buddhist monk's lecture on depression. It was an hour and a twelve minutes long. I only listened to twenty-six minutes of it it before I felt compelled to turn my music on and start thinking to myself about the things in life I appreciated, the positives, the accomplishments, the good things in life.
What spawned all of this was a story the monk told. He's based in Perth, Australia. When he first got there, the group he was in had no money. They owed money for the land they had purchased, and had no buildings for their monastery. This meant that he, an ex physicist of some sort, had to build things himself, get his hands dirty and do the work. He was a perfectionist, the type of guy that was tormented if he didn't get things exactly correct at the end of a project.
His first task was to build a brick wall. He would lay it, brick by brick. If the corner of a brick was sticking up, he'd gently tap it down. If that knocked the opposite corner up, he'd tap that one down. If that knocked the brick out of line, he'd straighten it. If that knocked a corner up... the process would continue. At any rate, he built this entire wall, and at the end, he stepped back, looking upon this brick wall with pride when he noticed that two bricks, -two- bricks, were crooked. As you could imagine, this destroyed him.
For three months, he had nightmares about the failure of the wall. He would volunteer to show people around the grounds so he could save them from seeing his mistake. He would walk by it in the middle of other jobs and audibly sigh, stuff up, and once almost cried.
Then a visitor came and asked to be shown around. He looked at this wall, and he told the monk it was a damn fine wall. The monk asked the visitor if he was visually impaired. Of course, he wasn't. The monk was beside himself. "Don't you see the two crooked bricks?" The visitor replied, "Yes, I do. But I also see nine hundred and ninety-eight perfectly straight bricks all around them."
The difficulties and negatives we face seem to be only a small portion of the lives we live, and yet, we seem to focus on those imperfections, not appreciating the good things we've done or seen or experienced to some degree.
Another story he told was a lady who caught her husband lying once and was asking him if they should be divorced. She said she couldn't trust him anymore. He asked them how long they had been married. Three years. Then, being good at math (a former physicist, remember?), he said, three years is roughly one thousand days. He said that if, on average, he made twenty statements to her every day. That turns out being twenty thousand statements. He lied once. That means there's twenty thousand to one odds that he wouldn't lie to her again. I guess this happened a number of years ago. They're still married.
Perspective. Generally, we lack it. We don't see the big picture. We only see the glaring flaws. We see an old man flipping burgers, and he's a loser. We don't know that he's the best burger chef in the country. We see a young woman with two kids and no husband. We don't know that she has been abused or raped or a widow of a soldier or a cop, and that those two kids were still spelling PALEONTOLOGIST by the time they were three despite that.
In my life, I have faced difficult times, yes, but who hasn't? Who hasn't lost someone that meant the world to them? Who hasn't been broke or couch surfed or lived in a trailer or an old apartment? Who hasn't been fired or laid off or rejected or dumped or even just plain let down?
What is harder for me to see is what I've seen and done that is enough for me to die a happy and successful man. It's harder for me to see that I have somehow wound up with people in my life who are or have gone on to be actresses, pilots, fathers, mothers, own two Corvettes, built their own cabins, started their own businesses, fallen so completely in love with the sweetest and kindest people, taught children morals, math, and reading... the list goes on. I can name names, but you know who you are. You're in my life. And whether you've been in my life since I was born or you're the person who sat next to me on an airplane ten years ago, you should consider yourself to be a part of this amazing spread of incredible people.
Now is not the time to think about how difficult life is or is bound to get. It's the time to start thinking about what is good, what we have, what we are capable of. There is so much awesome stuff, and I mean awesome in the full-of-awe sense that the word is intended for, so much good about this place we're fortunate enough to reside on.
That's my two cents for the evening. I think, now that it's off my chest, I'll try to get some sleep now. I appreciate you reading this, too. ;-)