Beliefnet
Beginner's Heart

2014-07-18 18.28.51This is part of what I did today. Certainly the better part.

After an early morning — spent w/ a lawyer, not every my favourite thing to do — my sister called and needed help. She’d been left holding the bag (actually, 6 bags) for her HS reunion gig tonight, and hoped her big sis would help out.

Of course!

So I picked some flowers from the garden, she picked up Thai soup, and we got to work cutting up fruit for trays, and bread for cocktail sandwiches. And I did just fine until…the watermelon <cue solemn voice of foreboding>.

This next photo is NSF blood-phobes. I cut my finger w/ our verrry sharp new cleaver. You might say… I clove it. BIG slice into the finger and its poor nail. It’s like the WORST papercut. cut fingerStitches almost certainly won’t help, so I didn’t even bother.

Sigh. My sister was horrified — it bled alot. But it’s stopped that, and left this interesting pattern of honeycomb on the Bandaid that had nothing like that before it wrapped my finger.

You’ll be seeing shorter posts for a few days, I assure you. Typing is… iffy. Make that ouch-y.

I still feel like Isaac Bashevis Singer, though: if it hadn’t been this, who knows what it might have been? And it was great to see my sis! I blame the whole thing on the watermelon, personally.

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A dear friend, in a recent conversation, told me that a mixup at her job was all her fault. It wasn’t (just FYI), but she’s been trained — as both a female and a good person — to accept responsibility for when things go wrong that she’s involved in.

Here’s the problem with that: sometimes, $#!+ happens.  And there’s nothing to do to plan for it, nothing to do to avoid it. Because it wasn’t your fault.

But so often, my friends — and not only my female friends, although we’re the worst — bow their shoulders and accept that burden.

I’m not advocating for flaky responsibility shirking, believe me. But I wonder when it became acceptable for top-level execs to shrug off responsibilities (I’m looking at America’s big companies, now), accept bonuses even when their companies are failing, and just go on. While my friends shoulder the blame (which is how it feels) for events unrelated to their own actions.

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How did things go so cockeyed?? What happened to lovingkindness? We certainly wouldn’t treat our friends like this!

My friend is not responsible for personalities, for instance. Some folks just don’t get along, so they won’t talk. You can’t make them. They don’t like each other — even if they don’t ‘dislike’ each other — and that means they are going to go out of their way to avoid communication. Is that MY fault? Or her fault? If adults don’t act like adults, are you responsible for that?

Me? I tend to give folks the benefit of the doubt. I assume you’re grown-up until you show me otherwise. So usually, something unpleasant-ish has to happen before I realise I will have to ‘manage’ you differently.

And that’s my point: we are NONE OF US ‘failures.’ Sure we ‘fail’ at activities, projects, events, whatever. But I see a homeless kid tackle an app to Harvard, a former drug addict put together a drug therapy program. My sister works at Goodwill Industries, where ‘failure’ is just not operative. Every day she could tell you a success story.

I’m just saying: quit beating yourself up, America. Except for those flaky execs, who could use a bit more mea culpa. And we could all use more lovingkindness.

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Recently someone asked me why I hate capitalism. I don’t. I do hate greed (and I wish I could — with accuracy — use a less violent verb).

There’s nothing wrong with an honest living. We all deserve a home — shelter — food, clothing, and medical care. An education. Skill sets. Independence, in other words. And that requires an income.

Today I read a review on one of my favourite websites, brainpickings.org. It’s a GREAT site, in case you aren’t familiar with it: running reviews of current, classic, even antiquated books and other media that are thought-provoking in the best sense of the term.

The review I read I’ve been saving, as the title spoke to me: Buddhist Economics. And yup — there was my old friend right livelihood. It’s the sticky wicket for a lot of my non-Buddhist acquaintances (even, I’m sure, some friends & family). It’s the principle underlying my refusal to buy Chick-Fil-A, or shop at WalMArt. Their practices hurt people. Attack people I love. So to encourage that ongoing harm with my $$ is, at least according to my interpretation of right livelihood, to participate in the harm.

Here’s the thoughtful Thích Nhất Hạnh on right livelihood:

Right Livelihood is a collective matter. The livelihood of each person affects all of us, and vice versa. The butcher’s children may benefit from my teaching, while my children, because they eat meat, share some responsibility for the butcher’s livelihood of killing.

from Right Livelihood, by Thích Nhất Hạnh

In other words? It’s not only what we do for our own ‘job,’ but whom we support — whom we buy from, pay to, watch, vote for — as well. With our actions, our $$, our attentions. So for me, right livelihood is one of the anchor threads of the Buddhist ‘web.’ You believe in the Buddha’s teachings, sure. And you try to live your life according to them. Which brings you smack uppaside of right livelihood. 🙂 spider web

Now here’s the deal: I like my work. I ADORE teaching. That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t need to pay my bills. Feed myself, any family I have. So I am NOT saying that Buddhists should accept crap wages because we’re ‘above’ all that. As the review quotes E.F. Schumacher arguing, it’s not wealth itself that’s the problem. It’s the craving for wealth, the attachment to what it buys.

This is  pretty obvious when you look at American business today (and we return, circuitously, to the accusation that I hate capitalism): there is never enough profit for some folks. Workers are let go, other workers required to do more, vacations and benefits cut, and entire companies gutted by the desire for more. Desire, attachment, greed — it’s all taṇhā, translated as ‘thirst, desire, craving.’ The hunger for more.

That’s sooo not Buddhist economics. Yes, I need to make a living. And if I’m verrry good at what I do, it’s fine if you pay me lots. In fact, I would LOVE that! 🙂 But it’s NOT fine if I make a living by hurting anyone else, because I thirst, or hunger, or just plain WANT more stuff. More Benjamins. A bigger, faster car. Whatever. That’s not okay.

So it’s not capitalism. It’s not even capitalists. It’s greed, and inhumanity that set me off. Because those are NOT ‘good business,’ despite what the Koch brothers would like us to believe. They’re very bad Buddhism. And I’m NOT okay with that.

 

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imageThese are two of the lilies growing against a rather derelict fence at my son’s & DIL’s. Beautiful, pale yellow, with only a light lily fragrance. Not the heaviness that always seems to suffuse funerals.

I love them, of course. Cut them while my DIL was away at a working retreat, and placed them in her blue glass vase to welcome her home. We hadn’t thought we’d be here when she returned — we expected to be on the road this morning — and I hoped she’d know I thought of her.

Love is full of small gestures, and I’m afraid I don’t make them often enough. I’m pretty good to lend you a tenner if you need gas, or help with a reference or a resumé question.  But I don’t always think to do the small things — I’m actually not a very thoughtful person!

But I adore my DIL, and wanted to leave her something concrete, besides leftover roast beef. 🙂image

As it turns out, the universe had plans for us. The guys (my son & best-beloved) are still in the throes of house chores: frosted glass in the bathroom, shaving two doors so they no longer stick. Building sawhorses and then worktables. So we were already considering leaving tomorrow.

And then my grandson woke up with a fever. It went down bit by bit, but he obviously didn’t feel well. So we’re here another day, and I can try in other ways to let my son & DIL know how dear they are.

Love’s kind of like lilies, isn’t it?  There’s the concrete — the flowers — and the ineffable, the fragrance. I love them both. But the fragrance, I confess, is my favourite. Of course, you can’t have it w/out the physical lily, I realise. Still — I can smell these in the kitchen, when the fan moves the still air.

Kind of like love.

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