Sunday, March 05, 2006

when opportunity explodes, a buddhist answers

The headlines today were typically awful, making me grateful once again that our budgetary measures included cancelling our subscription to the local paper. Hate-motivated explosion here, threatening starvation there, Darfur, Darfur, Darfur. And of course, the articles about the torture and death of Ilan Halimi in France, an oh-so racially/religiously calm country to begin with. Ay, yai, yai. On days like today, my choice is to read and wallow in the hate and violence that seems to overwhelm us (can it be true, or is this a media-constructed perspective? Oh, please, don't let it be true), or I can keep my head down and rush past the newspaper stand to my Aztec hot cocoa.

Mostly, I want - I insist on - living in my small world, with my small joys and problems. My children can't eat at a restaurant (see this link), I worry about protecting one from a school bully (upcoming post, I promise), I worry about protecting the other from his own fingernails. Woe, woe, woe are we, eh? Um, no. This diagnosis, that diagnosis, the one learns to write, the other to sit up and grasp at toys. Ya know what? It's foolishly head in the sand of me, but I'll stick with my little world, thank you very much.

But from time to time I actually have to stand in line while waiting for my cocoa, and then my eye wanders. I look, I read, and I flinch. But what really boils my blood is this, smug response to the situation, courtesy of the tricycle blogger. I'm nearly willing to forgive the first three-quarters of the post on the strength of the conclusion:
Buddhism, like Islam, becomes another weapon in the struggle against "others;" it becomes a site of expression for rage as well as forgiveness, hatred as well as hope, righteous "self-defense" as well as peace. It both forms cherished self-identities and proclaims the absence of self; it creates nations and breaks individuals of their obsessions with external references. Did we expect otherwise?

So, who am I mad at - the tricycle blogger, or the truth? There is no absolute good out there, just versions of good practiced by flawed people. And frightening versions of something, practiced by those who see philosophy, faith, a truth as a weapon. Ai. On nights like this, I miss my grandmother, a Holocaust survivor who embodied for me a certain peace and centeredness that I find, fleetingly, in my yoga practice. On good days. When my children aren't using me as a human jungle gym. (Plank pose offers all sorts of possibilities, while downward facing dog is great for swinging over and below the mama...)

Sigh. I firmly believe that my sons will shape their own tomorrows. And that given this belief, it's my rather frightening task to shape them, to guide them and give them the tools with which to choose. Hopefully, they'll choose to be good people, and to care for the world around them. But when one single human with a bagful of explosives can shatter that world into horrible blood and tissue, it does shake my faith in the effect that a single good spirit can bring. Today, I think that good is outmaneuvered by evil. But, my head's going back in the sand, and I refuse to do other than continue what I've begun.

Good might be less explosively effective, but this mama's as stubborn as her newly crawling eldest was - the irresistable force of hate may yet yield to the pursuit of a human, flawed good. Or not. But on this point, I refuse to speculate further. Sand, where the hell is my sand??

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