Vitebsky discusses the interrelatedness of human and animal fates. An apparently random animal death may signify one of two things: the approaching death of a human, or that the dead animal took the place of a human who would have died otherwise. When one woman’s brother-in-law hung himself, she recalled a jay that flew into her stove a few days ago and burned to death. She grasped the prescience of the burning jay in hindsight. If the dogs howl more than usual or a swarm of insects fly into your tent, something bad is coming.
The functioning of daily life in a post-industrial society exacts faith from its participants in all sorts of ways. We have faith that the power grid is functioning, and are unpleasantly surprised if the room stays dark when we flip a switch. We have faith that a cashier will agree that a ten-dollar paper bill signifies ten units of currency. The privileged have faith that police officers won’t shoot them.
Ryan Gosling as the male lead in La La Land reminds me of why I like daydreaming so much. Charmingly arrogant, unbearably sexy, effortlessly talented and just the right amount of tortured. He smelled nice through the screen. Do men like him still exist? Did they ever? Do loves like theirs still exist? Is it all just a daydream?
We’re not very good at showing affection to one another as a family, but none of us seem to be able to get enough from the dog. Though we very rarely hug one another — usually only before and after long periods apart — the dog gets hugs, kisses, snuggles, and baby talk from all six of us. I can’t remember the last time I gave someone in my family an affectionate kiss on the cheek, but the new puppy can lick my face until the end of next week if he wants too.
In those moments, when my face is squished between someone’s butt-cheek on my left and someone else’s crotch on my right, I begin question my decision to live in Kathmandu. I start to get irritated. Do people not realize this is my face? Dear lord. Someone just farted.
In Buddhism, the appearance of your surroundings doesn’t depend on the volition of a God bestowing or withholding his Kingdom. It depends on your mental and emotional disposition. If you’re angry, you look around and see enemies. If you’re happy, you look around and see friends. If you’re enlightened, you look around and see Buddhas. Your mental state shapes the realm you inhabit.
I’ve spent these early adult years pursuing a listless nostalgia for a wholeness I couldn’t remember how to articulate. Being in the presence of the Dalai Lama reminded me that I never needed to look further than my own mother, who has shown me selfless love from the beginning.
How does one respond compassionately to the negative confusion that drives men to assault women — meaning, how can victims of assault respond in a way that mitigates negativity rather than perpetuates it? Given that the issue is systemic, it seems that angry, irritated, traumatized, or violent reactions are the only avenue available to us in face to face encounter.
This year, I find myself away from home on Christmas Eve for the first time. It’s not as if I’ll be missing out on much. Things will play out as they always have. In the morning, my dad and three sisters will walk our new puppy to go get coffee. Last year, we walked our other dog, Charger, but he died in April.
The war in Syria is not Syria’s problem. It is everyone’s problem. Fear, hatred and greed collude to create wars; to pretend as if those same shadows don’t loiter within my own heart and mind is to do a gross injustice to those who suffer on their account.
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