Sunday, September 25, 2011

On being kind

Buddha FrogBöblingen, Germany, September 2011,
Canon PowerShot S90, 35mm focal length equiv. 28mm, exposure 1/125 sec @ f4, ISO 80, no flash, exposure bias -1/3 
 © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]
This morning there was a fly buzzing around my office; an uninvited guest from last night's (wonderful) dinner on the veranda, with the door propped open so Frito could come and go.

Flies really annoy Frito.  He snaps at them whenever they buzz or land on him.  He'll actually get up and go to bed just to avoid a fly.  Carol's not too keen on them either, but mostly because they annoy Frito.

Let's see -- flies eat sh*t, they can carry disease, lay their eggs on something over-ripe in the kitchen, and incessantly bounce themselves against the window trying to get out.  I mean, what good are they?  And where is that fly-swatter anyway?

Sound familiar?  Are these common thoughts for you?

Well, I've now come to a different perspective.  Since I made my intention sometime ago not to harm any living creature, I now see this fly not as an annoyance, but simply as a trapped animal trying to get free.  First of all, that feels better.  One less annoyance.  Then I do what I can to free it, which really isn't very hard (just a cup and stiff piece of paper, and he's pretty easy to catch against the window).  Now take him outside, and let him go.

And you know what?  It makes me smile.  A deep and satisfied smile.  I just helped another being.

It's funny -- I find I've become very sensitive to all beings, and it just feels right.  And when I see someone act as I would have not that long ago, and swat at an insect that bothers him, I feel this pang in my gut.  Why do we feel the urge to kill just to remove an annoyance?  What sort of conditioning have we been given?  Do we even realize what we are doing?

But here's the good news.  It is really pretty easy to reverse such conditioning if you want to.

It really only takes your sincere intention -- that's all -- just a simple decision on your part.  Because even though your old habits will die hard, and you'll find yourself accidentally swatting at flies or stepping on ant hills, you will observe a momentary pang in your own gut, and think for a moment about that action.  And this will cause the space to form between action and reaction, and this will give power to your intention, and allow you to change your behavior, and yes, experience great peace and happiness.

It is a wonderful and peaceful place to be.  I wish you all have the opportunity to experience such peace.

"Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible." -- Dalai Lama 

Monday, September 19, 2011

This is Water

This is Water, Esslingen, Germany, August 2011,
Nikon D5000, 35mm focal length equiv. 200mm, exposure 1/160 sec @ f5.6, ISO 200, with flash
 © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]
Look within. Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig. -- Marcus Aurelius 

This weekend I spent some time following-my-nose on the web and stumbled upon this gem.  A commencement address given in 2005 by David Foster Wallace (here is the audio Part 1 and Part 2).  I commend it to your "reflective time".  Update:  here is the complete audio in one place with some highlighting of text.  And perhaps even more interesting if not as complete, is this short video.

It's a message of getting caught by our "default settings," which dictate, for various reasons (genes, instinct, conditioning, culture), the way we see the world.  But of course, like the fish that swim in water, they may see many things, but don't see the water.

It's about cultivating our awareness of just how we operate on the default settings; what I think can be summed up in the phrase "the human condition".  And with that awareness -- that understanding that "this is water" -- we have a chance to see the world in an entirely different light.

We can see beauty where others only see blight,  decay, and ugliness.  We can live with a lightness that allows us to look beyond the mundane.  We can offer love and compassion when others are trapped by selfishness.

Yes, I found it to be a very useful morning of exploration, and self-examination.
There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. 
And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship -- be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. 
If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. 
Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. ... 
Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. 
Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. 
But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings. -- David Foster Wallace  
Oh, and about the blog.  Yes, well, got a little bit trapped myself by the work-a-day world.  Live and learn, shall we?