Friday, November 11, 2016

What a Week

It's Remembrance Day and I just took a break from my croissant and coffee at 11 for a moment of silence for the veterans. I don't have a lot of early childhood memories but I do remember being taken to the ceremonies at the Cenotaph in Sherbrooke standing by my dad in his full military regalia. Then there would be some socializing at the Armoury of the Sherbrooke Regiment. PTSD is not a term that existed in those days but surely my father suffered from it. My mother said many times that when he came back from the war he was not the same man. And I dare say that I was also a victim of his PTSD. There were lots of good things in my childhood - I had it quite easy, but no matter how much love or attention I surely received from him, it was always overlaid with a sense of fear that never went away. I guess I could have tried harder to gain his approval, or had the courage to stand up to him, but I just kept my head low and got out of there as soon as I could and never looked back.

As I try to be a better Buddhist I had an interesting experience a couple of days ago at the Tim Hortons. I had ordered my breakfast sandwich and set my coffee down at a table that was free. As I waited at the counter, I watched as an elderly, rather scruffy, Chinese gentleman shuffled over to my table, sat down and removed the top off my coffee. I stopped him before he could get his first swig, saying that was my coffee, and he just stood up and left. I then sat eating my breakfast thinking "I should have just bought the old boy a coffee." And then I had a moment of self-satisfaction thinking "well, at least I realized that I should have had a little compassion" so maybe that was a small step towards being a Boddhisattva. Intention is everything, right? Then as I was finishing my sandwich, lo and behold, he walks back in right past me and sits at a table behind me reading the Chinese newspaper and trying to look like he belongs. And I'm thinking, "that's Buddha who just walked in and I have a second chance to do the right thing." (he did look a lot like an old Buddhist monk). There was still lots of coffee left in my cardboard cup so as I left, I set it down on his table. He said "Thank You, Thank You very much." And now I'm just left with the thought, "I should have bought him his own coffee...and maybe a donut...he was probably hungry..." but, hey, we do what we can and hope for the best.

Speaking of hoping for the best, I had trouble getting to sleep on election night...and I never have trouble getting to sleep! What have they wrought upon themselves, those poor Americans. I remember a quote from Adlai Stevenson when he was running for President. After one of his stump speeches, a supporter told him "Every thinking American will vote for your" and Stevenson replied, "yes, but I need a majority!" Some people are calling it a "white-lash" and maybe a Trump presidency will sustain the last vestiges of white supremacy for another generation by making anyone who isn't white and Christian feel less welcome at the table. Why is it that human nature makes people feel better about themselves by feeling that they're better than someone else? Religion just reinforces that tendency, even when it is cloaked in love and compassion. "God loves you sinners, too." Though there are probably as many God-fearing Christians who think the unfaithful will burn in hell. That's still not as bad as the fundamentalist Muslims who think infidels should be killed and are willing to die trying. Yikes! So glad I found a spiritual practice that has no God, no priests and no judgement but still provides a way to elevate our life condition and remind us that there is more to our life than the mundane day-to-day existence, no matter how comfortable.