Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Eight Worldly Concerns

The weather here -
It's a sleepy day, the way they ought to be, that's what Sheba thinks. Me, while I loved a drive through the rain forest, I don't want it here in Ohio, where the piecemeal golden sunshine of yesterday was followed by a driving rain. We watched it through the glass walls of City Barbeque. On the way home through the ravine, we had to turn around because a fallen tree blocked the road.

Preference. I have mine, for the uninterrupted slowly unreeling golden days I remember childhood by. On a day like today I think without enthusiasm of what I can accomplish. So I have balanced my checkbook and paid OFF my credit card. This has been an aspiration ever since I bought the netbook last fall, hoping it will help me get through the next hospitalization without so much boredom. Now I want to buy it a colorful skin.

My mail brought a talk by the Dalai Lama on how praise doesn't get you anything. Oh, maybe a little riches, he says, but not health or longevity. Then, in the NY Times, I read about The New Yorker's selection of 20 fiction writers under 40 years old who are worth watching. This is a very big deal to those writers, and those thousands of MFA's who would like to be on that list. That praise will take them out of the slush pile and get their work read carefully. At the same time, people will hold them to a higher standard. I myself - not meaning to be funny - asked, "How about a list of 20 over 60 who are worth watching?" Of course, that list would be crowded with people who already have huge reputations, so you have to find a way to exclude them in order to make room for those of us who have been slowly growing - the runts of the litter, you could say.

Oddly, the Dalai Lama's subject is called, as in my title above, "The Eight Worldly Concerns," though to my mind there are four concerns, each of which encapsulates wishing not to get its opposite. But when it comes to understanding the human mind, I bow to him. Here they are, more interesting stones that mark the Buddha way:
  • wanting to be praised and not wanting to be criticized,
  • wanting happiness and not wanting suffering,
  • wanting gain and not wanting loss, and
  • wanting fame and approval and not wanting rejection and disgrace.
"We all experience these, don't we?" he writes. "Even animals probably have them in some slight measure." Sheba reminds me that dogs' desire for approval is itself a disgrace. Her own ambition is small and appropriate: she wants to be up on the kitchen table while we are eating.

His Holiness tells us that the solution to this way of thinking is wisdom, or clear insight. "This is how we can put a stop to these kinds of thoughts altogether, by seeing how they are completely insubstantial, like dreams or magical illusions." Many a novelist has found this out, publishing a well-received first novel only to have the second novel savaged. How tenuous reputation is. Andy Warhol called it your "15 minutes of fame," but that was before the internet. Today it's more like 15 seconds. Blink, and you miss it.

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