Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
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Friday, April 27, 2012

Talk Thursday: Expectation, Reality, Evolution

I'm not supposed to watch the news.  Well, let's just say my doctor "strongly suggested" that I not watch the news.  Something about that half-hour parade of dead people, plane crashes, gruesome murders and, oh yeah, all the weird crap that goes into the presidential election is, uh, Not Good For My Mood.  So, okay, I quit watching the news, and for the most part I've quit going to CNN and, unless I'm really bored and I've already been on and I can't think of anything to add to this work-in-progress of mine, which just cleared eighty pages without bothering to tell me what in the hell it wants to be about.  I have definitely stopped trolling the CNN chat rooms, which I think I said was something like throwing rocks at hornet's nests filled with very dumb hornets that come out and yell at you because they can't figure out that stinging you will get rid of you faster.  (Really, people should be nice to hornets.  It's not like they mean any harm.)

But then there's Twitter.  I can't go half an hour on Twitter without somebody tweeting a link to something utterly fascinating, and while it usually isn't gruesome, dead or weird, it often manages to make me angry.  Lately it's the Republican war on women, which they say isn't really happening, which just goes to show that in addition to waging a war on women, they are also out of touch with reality.  I'm glad the GOP's new agenda is to ban abortion, make birth control expensive, punish women for having sex, pay women half as much as men doing the same jobs and pass laws declaring that pregnant women lose their civil rights at the moment of conception, because honestly? That jobs and the economy and fixing the deficit thing? Bor-ring. I can't imagine there are any Republican women reading my column but if there are, and you're going to vote your party ticket in November, please, for the love of God, comment and explain why.  Because I don't get it.  Being female and voting Republican is like being bovine and voting for the carnivore ticket when there's a perfectly valid vegetarian option.  Either you hate yourself or you hate all other women. Or--or what?  I don't know.  I don't get it at all.

Which brings us to today's topic. (Okay, it doesn't, really, but humor me.)  Expectation is, I think, something we're all born with, and a primary source of suffering.  From the time we're little kids we're taught to expect that certain things will happen; our parents will love us, there will be hot coffee every morning, we'll get a Baby Thataway for Christmas or whatever sectarian holiday we celebrate around the Winter Solstice, and the people we care about will never go away.  Then reality hits: Our parents can't really love us because no one ever loved them; coffee is too expensive; the Baby Thataway either doesn't show up or doesn't work; and Grandma dies of cancer when you're seven.  Not that this really stops us; we form new expectations as we grow up, and when we become parents ourselves, look out.  Our kid will excel at sports, look great in his Prom tuxedo, go to Harvard, get married and have kids of his own.

It occurs to me that nothing brings every parental dream crashing to earth faster than finding out your son or daughter is gay.  Even if it's not fully true, for a second there it all falls apart.  My son or daughter will not get married have children go to Prom play sports go to Harvard (they don't let gays into Harvard, do they?)  Normally you lose these expectations one at a time as your kid makes other plans.  To lose them all at once must rattle you to your very bones.  No wonder parents freak out, yell and scream, say lots of regrettable things and sometimes throw their kids out of the house.  Wouldn't you, if somebody put on cleats and stomped up and down all over your plans for the future?

Luckily, gay people do get married (in some states) or form lasting partnerships (in others), a lot of them have children (70% of lesbians over 40 have kids), lots of them play sports (U.S. figure skating would die an awful death if not for gay men) and the last time I checked, they were in fact letting gays into Harvard.  That's reality.  And also evolution.  Within my lifetime, which is not all that long, cops could arrest you for being gay in public, or for wearing the clothes of the opposite sex.  As recently as 2002 (ie, just a little more than 10 years ago) it was illegal to have gay sex in Texas. A Supreme Court case put the kibosh on that, but whether Texans have evolved or just been dragged kicking and screaming into the early 1900s remains to be seen.  Frankly, I think Texans in general are both more evolved and nicer than the Texas government, but then, I don't need to tell you that; you got to watch Governor Goodhair make a fool of himself all over the country for months.

So what do we do about this whole expectation-reality-evolution thing?  Well, last night at an OA meeting, somebody said that every moment of suffering he could ever recall came from not accepting the world as it is.  Something's not the way he wants it or he wouldn't have done it that way or this guy isn't doing what he wants.  I think Buddha would be all over that.  Temper your expectations, he'd no doubt suggest, and then point out that the Middle Way, in which we neither cling to expectations nor push them away but merely watch them come and go, is probably the path of least suffering for all beings.

As for reality and evolution--well, they happen all by themselves.


Marion T. Librarian said...

Excellent observations. And speaking for those who love a good steak, we're lucky cows don't vote. (Hey, maybe that's next for the GOP: voting harms the fetus.)

Cele said...

Oh most excellent blog, thank you for develing into the topic and nailing it to perfection. I've started three times... and it's my topic. And yeah, cows don't vote... that would put the state of Texas half out of business wouldn't it? And I'd be really really hungry.

Jen said...

Heh. Yeah, cows cannot vote. I've often thought Texas is practicing a form of Apartheid, there, but they don't let me vote either, except in elections that don't matter, like President and Senate.