March 21, 2009

Compassion, in Born to Be Good, #2

This is from the book Born to Be Good, in the chapter titled "Touch":
On the stage in Vancouver before [our Buddhist-Science panel], His Holiness the Dalai Lama entered stage left and proceeded to greet the four panelists with his customary bow and clasped hands. The sighs, tears, appreciative head nods, goose bumps, and embraces of the 2,500 people in the audience produced a crackling ether that filled the art deco auditorium. I was the last panelist for HHDL to approach. From eighteen inches away I came into contact with HHDL. Partially stooped in a bow, he made eye contact with me and clasped my hands. His eyebrows were raised. His eyes gleamed. His modest smile was poised near a laugh. Emerging out of the bow and clasped hands, he embraced my shoulders and shook them slightly with warm hands.

As he turned to the audience, I had a Darwinian spiritual experience. Goose bumps spread across my back like wind on water, staring at the base of my spine and rolling up to my scalp. A flush of humility moved up my face from my cheeks to my forehead and dissipated near the crown of my head. Tears welled up, along with a smile. I recalled a saying of HHDL's:
At the most fundamental level our nature is compassionate, and that cooperation, not conflict, lies at the heart of the basic principles that govern our human existence.
For several weeks after I lived in a new realm. My suitcase was missing at the carousel following the plane flight home -- not a problem. I didn't need those clothes anyway. Squabbles between my two daughters about the ownership of a Polly Pocket or about whose back-bending walkover best matched the platonic ideal -- no bristling reaction on my part, just an inclination to step into the fray and to lay out a softer discourse and sense of common ground. The frustrated person behind me in the line in the bank, groaning in exasperation -- no reciprocal frustration, no self-righteous sense of how to comport oneself in more dignified fashion in public; instead, an appreciation of what deeper causes might have produced such apparent malaise. The poeple I saw, the undergrads in my classroom, parents at my daughters' school, preschool teachers walking little groups of three-year-olds in hand holding chains around the streets of Berkeley, those parallel parking their cars, recyclers picking up cans and bottles, the homeless shaking their heads and cursing the skies, people in business suits reading the morning paper waiting for a carpool ride, all seemed guided by remarkably good intentions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Everyday sees new homeless faces on the streets of my small California city. I guess if I was homeless, I'd want to come here too. The weather is mild and the tourists are generous.

Me? I'm blessed. I have a job (for now) and a place to stay (for now). But for how long? Statistics show that most are only a couple of paychecks away from homelessness. And with the current state of the economy, it's only getting worse. It seems the rich are getting richer, while the poor and homeless are getting younger. It's not right. It 's not fair!

I'm a photographer who is trying to change the world, starting with my community. And you can help:

Thank you for your vote!

ps. Thank you for all YOU do for our friends without homes!!