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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

anger, misunderstanding, & the cycle of suffering ~

I hurt my husband’s feelings tonight. In return, he hurt mine. None of this was intentional. It was, in fact, an object lesson in avidyā, the misunderstanding of reality, or even the self.

It doesn’t matter what actually happened. Suffice to say I wasn’t precise about what was happening, and my husband — who doesn’t hear well — misunderstood my already flawed communication. Things kind of went to hell after that.

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N.B. (or ‘pay attention,’ as nota bene means): we  know each other well. We were having a nice evening. And yet this kind of ugly miscommunication can still arise. Can still derail.

If this happens to the well-intentioned, to two people w/ only each other’s best interests at heart, then what hopes do we have of actually reaching strangers? Or even friends??

Buddhism is wise to illusion, delusion, confusion. Of all ethical systems, Buddhism feels most aware (to me, at least) of how fallible is human interaction. With the best of hearts, we break those of others. With the softest voices, we wreak havoc. Even when we are careful to our strongest capability, we mess up. It’s who we are, as human beings. It’s a kind of human destiny, I suppose.

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But it hurts. The doer and the done-to. The perpetrator and the victim, both (often) innocent of wrongful mind. It is as ugly to hurt someone as it is to be hurt, sometimes even worse…

I have no answers to this age-old question ~ how can we reach other? All I know is how to say I’m sorry, and how to try, next time ~ and there is sure to be a next time ~ to be more careful. More precise. With even more lovingkindness…

 

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here’s to the sounds of music ~

Music, poetry, art ~ they have (at various times) saved me. Sometimes quite literally (really). Kept me from driving my car off the bypass. Kept my heart from breaking and my breath from stopping.

Now that my life is gentler, kinder (& infinitely better), music is mostly about inspiration & enjoyment. I can’t imagine a world w/out music… Could I live now? Certainly. But how would I know the inner workings of various friends & family? My sons, for instance, like very different kinds of music, with little overlap. When they share music with me, I learn more about who they are inside, what they love & fear & value. Music does that for us.

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I’m pretty eclectic in my own musical tastes. Right now I’m listening to hip-hop, not the usual soundtrack for a Buddhist Unitarian blog post. And yet… The lyrics to this particular song talk about dreams dying in the inner city, about the waste of lives sacrificed to drugs… Aren’t these the very heart of Unitarian social justice? Engaged Buddhism?

There is also the Brazilian music shared with me by Misha, the music I pick up on Spotify from Todd. There’s the jazz my friend Ben nods his head to at work, and the heart-searing music our department accountant sends me from YouTube. Every time someone sends me a music recommendation — even more than a book title — I learn about them. I feel closer to them, more ‘in tune’… :)

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So here’s a toast to the albums I filled my album with when I was sent home from Thailand (who needs clothes when you have music?). Here’s to the CDs I packed when I left Saudi Arabia before the war. And here’s to the threads of melody & the riffs of jazz & the beats of hip-hop & the lyric a capella notes that have, time & again, lifted me on wings. Given me voice.

When people ask me what there is to celebrate in our messy fragmentary lives these days, I think of music. Not only the music of birds, but the polyphonic harmonies of us. Human beings. Messy, fragmented human beings. How amazing is that ~

 

 

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intimate murder & political opportunism ~

My sister is very lucky. She has been in two abusive domestic relationships, and she survived each. Once, when she ran across the street to my grandmother’s, crying & half-dressed, my great-aunt Bonnie attacked her pursuer with a broom: this tiny, (literally 90 pounds soaking wet) blue-haired old lady beating this huge crazy drunk w/ a broom.

Other women are not as lucky. And it has a lovely (if bleak) name: intimate murder. Death at the hands of your significant other. Death by familiar, intimately well-known, hands. It’s the major cause of death for pregnant American women. And 1/4 of all American women will fight against it at some point in their lives. For Native American women, the figure is more than twice that high: 60% of NA women live in fear of their partners.

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I could go on. But the point to this is that while Congress did (finally!) pass the Violence Against Women Act, my state Congressmen overwhelmingly voted against it: both Oklahoma’s senators and 4 out of 5 of our state representatives. Only Tom Cole voted for women.

What is wrong with people? I mean it: what on earth can trump helping  another human being escape violence? Is money the challenge? And it turns out that for one of our senators, it is. Money — ‘inefficient government’ — is a more important principle than protecting women.  Another important principle is that we not spend money protecting lesbian women, or become involved in protecting Native American women.

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Oklahoma has a high level of intimate murder — we rank 7th nationally in the number of women murdered by men they know. Oklahoma also has the 2nd largest number of Native Americans in the country (following California). More than 8% of Okies are NA. But let’s not worry about domestic violence that currently is the 3rd leading cause of death in NA women

If my sister had been Native American, she might well have died. But the people (men  AND women) who voted against the VAWA have reasons, they say, to protest the prosecution of non-Natives on tribal lands. It’s all about ‘precedent’ and ‘principle,’ not lives.

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The engaged Buddhist in me wants to engage these ‘principled’ nay-sayers in conversation about why some women (not Indian women on tribal lands, and not lesbian women) deserve protection and not others. Are some lives more valuable than others? What kind of principle is that?

I don’t pretend to understand political posturing. It’s popular now, at least among Oklahoma politicos, to cite ‘cost-saving’ as a reason for almost everything. But there always seems to be enough money for war and Congressional raises. Just not for women. The principles here elude me.

 

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adjacent to the possible ~

credit Rafe Furst

A friend introduced me to a new term: the adjacent possible. What a rich phrase — a field for dreaming.

The term comes from theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman, who talked about what might happen in biology to precipitate life. But the way Steven Johnson explains it in a Wall Street Journal article, “The Genius of the Tinkerer,” the adjacent possible is more a room opening off of a single door, that opens into several more rooms off of that first room, and then builds exponentially off of those rooms.  Each subsequent place you end up — or new area of exploration, or new combination of amino acids — makes possible so much more… infinite possibility, adjacent to now.

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credit Slow Muse

When I was younger, I thought I could see the futures. Plural. Like a map of possibilities spreading out from the point of decision where I stood at that moment. It was as if I could actually see the lines that led out from that point forward. Now, my life so much more tangled and its threads so tightly interwoven, I am often traveling in the dark.

So the idea of all these futures that become possible as we move through the decisions that mark our days, our hours, sometimes even our minutes… this entrances me. Today, for instance: what if I had decided not to do my stationery bike? What if I had fallen when I took the dogs outside while the guy repaired the washer? What slightly different — even very different — futures might I have cut off by small decisions today? And what are now open?

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I have to agree w/ Johnson: ‘Ideas are works of bricolage.” But I also think of the way the anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss uses the word bricolage, how we bend old myths to forge new ones, to address — if not answer — age-old questions & problems. The possible answers to my current dilemmas (small & large alike) can be seen as a kind of steampunk kit ~ the pieces are all there. I just have to figure out the best (and most beautiful) way to use them.

This intrigues me. And it appeals to my understanding of Buddha nature — always & already in us. We just have to open up. Set it free. Or, possibly, put it in working order … :) With all the possible tools to hand.

 

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