Monday, November 28, 2011

Why I erased my public blog roll

The fad among Buddhist bloggers of listing their favorite bloggers reminds me that whenever someone "wins" someone loses.

How this goes, the blogger is asked to single out her most helpful post, most beautiful, and so on, seven categories, and then to recommend five other bloggers to do the same.  At the moment this is working out to include bloggers who frame themselves as distinctly Zen.  And I am more electic, and - if you didn't know - the very idea of "Dalai" is Tibetan Buddhism.  Like Christians, like everyone, Buddhists tend to subdivide into tight little cliques.

Still, wouldn't you like to be liked even if you are a little weird?  Wouldn't you like to be picked?

It brings to my mind a workshop I attended at Earlham College several years ago, in fact, just before our lives blew up in our face, and Tom had to retire on disability and I went downhill with kidney failure.  In 2003 I was still able to travel and to drive several hours, still trying to build my courage to seek publication.  The writing conference was early fall, beautiful weather.  I was very pleased to be there, to have done this on my own. 

I don't know whether the teacher in my workshop meant to exclude me; but she didn't include me.  A young woman, she was on the faculty there and knew everyone else in the workshop by name, local women, apparently, who had taken workshops with her before.  She had us go around the room and introduce ourselves with one sentence.  She made a presentation.  Then we wrote a little on the theme, which was daily bread.  Then she selected one woman, and asked her to read what she wrote, and then to name who she would like to read next.

So each woman in turn selected someone she knew.  In this fashion, it zigzagged around the room until every one of the ten women there had read, except me.  I was excited about what I'd written, and anticipating my moment.  There were a few minutes left.  But the teacher visibly did not turn to me, sitting at her right.  She did some other talking, and dismissed the class.  One of the other women came up to me later and tacitly apologized. I went home early, and confused.

Could this teacher have been angry because I came in a few seconds after the bell (I had gone out to fill my water bottle), and she had begun talking?  That would seem to be a ridiculous response.  Whatever impelled her, it must have been intentional.  And the energy felt hostile.  I still feel somehow shamed as I remember it. Excluded, for no reason that I knew. 

My larger point is not this workshop, but to remind people that whenever you form an invitational group, you close doors.  The sandlot baseball we used to play in fifth and sixth grade, before puberty separated us by gender, that too depended on the team captains (the top players) picking people one at a time.  But there was a certain justice in it, in that it was based on winning the game.  The most skilled players were always chosen first.  I was always last, but as I say, that was fair - I couldn't catch or throw, and I couldn't hit the ball, so the fact that I couldn't run didn't come into it, really.  All I had going for me was enthusiasm and the desire to be part of the game.

Once though, a girl named Diane was captain, and she chose me first.  How kind that was! If I could remember her last name and find her, I'd send her a little card of gratitude all these years later.  I hope her life turned out well.  I wouldn't be surprised that it did.


  1. I just discovered your blog and I find it thoughtful and touching.

    Your words on inviting made me think of this year's kerfuffle about the The Great American Buddhist Teachers Council and who was included and who was not. All I had to do was google "buddhist teachers invited" and there are several blog posts.

    There is a great deal of energy around exclusion in Zen. People telling you that you are NOT a Buddhist, or NOT a real teacher, or NOT doing zazen. We compensate by looking for the invitation to the big meeting that will show everyone we ARE okay.

    Everyone is invited to this party and we can stay until the wine is gone and it's time to leave.

  2. Thank you, Steven. I hadn't drawn that connection.

  3. They say even when parents single out one child over another, in the hopes to inspire another one ...they actually create more ill will, than inspiration.
    I understand why you did it.

  4. I'm going to put you on my public blog roll.

  5. Just couldn't resist, could you, Janell? (smile)