From a talk given by the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, from Practicing Peace in Times of War (p. 18)
Jarvis Masters, who is a prisoner on death row, has written one of my favorite spiritual books, called Finding Freedom. In a chapter called “Angry Faces,” Jarvis has his TV on in his cell but he doesn’t have the sound on because he’s using the light of the TV to read. And every once in a while, he looks up at the screen, then yells to people down the cell block to ask what’s happening.
The first time, someone yells back, “It’s the Ku Klux Klan, Jarvis, and they’re all yelling and complaining about how it’s the blacks and the Jews who are responsible for all these problems.” About half an hour later, he yells again, “Hey, what’s happening now?” And a voice calls back, “That’s the Greenpeace folks. They’re demonstrating about the fact that the rivers are being polluted and the trees are being cut down and the animals are being hurt and our Earth is being destroyed.” Some time later, he calls out again. “Now what’s going on?” And someone says, “Oh, Jarvis, that’s the U.S. Senate and that guy who’s up there now talking, he’s blaming the other guys, the other side, the other political party, for all the financial difficulty this country is in.”
Jarvis starts laughing and he calls down, “I’ve learned something here tonight. Sometimes they’re wearing Klan outfits, sometimes they’re wearing Greenpeace outfits, sometimes they’re wearing suits and ties, but they all have the same angry faces.”
Monday, March 22, 2010
The Same Angry Faces - The Same Chance for Peace
I don't want to be angry all the time. And usually I am not. Sometimes anger serves us well, but constant anger is a slow burning fire that destroys from within. I should have an honorary Ph.D. in anger at this point in my life and I am pretty clear about its seductive lure for me and its toxicity if overdone. It all boils down to the fact that everything in life is at once an enormous disappointment and yet complete bliss, all at the same time.
Yesterday I took the dog out for a walk, even though I did not feel so well. I had my iPod and decided to listen to Pema Chodron in the audiobook version of Practicing Peace in Times of War.
It turns out to have been timely as I reflect on the health care legislation this Monday morning. Taking the Facebook temperature reveals that some folks are furious, citing constitution shredding, the end of freedom, getting in trouble for not having insurance and the destruction of children's futures. Some folks are angry that Hyde prevailed and are also annoyed that single payer/public options did not emerge. (I would consider myself among those wanting single payer, but I lack the resolve to be so angry right now.) Lots of people hate Bart Stupak, from all sides. If I hear the words "baby" and "killer" in the same sentence again, I may have to return to anger. I wish I could be more like Scott and remain a conscientious objector in the culture wars, but I do not have his depth on that one.
BTW, I do not think that Jesus was a big, fuzzy, lovey teddy bear either. Jesus understood anger - and expressed it. Jesus understood the non-dualistic, Jesus is the great non-dualistic and I resist both the fire and brimstone and the kumbayah places that are all around me.
It exhausts me and I think about Pema talking about Jarvis talking about anger.