Yesterday's Happiness class in the former Baptist sanctuary led us to consider the Buddhist prescription for afflictive, destructive emotions - especially anger. Meditative practice, they say, yields pure awareness, and in that constructive state of lucid selflessness we can stand apart from violent emotion and see it as just a passing thought we need not feed or identify with.
Sounds too easy. But my account of last week's softball incident brought nods of recognition. Most of us have witnessed bad behavior at sporting events, more often from parents than participants.
Does conflict on the field of play really neutralize our ancestral violence, or enable it? When "Big Papi" (David Ortiz), the soon-to-retire Red Sox star, goes crazy over a strike call, menacingly charges the umpire, and is praised by the jock commentators for his "passion," does that communicate to kids the idea that it's more than okay to cede self-control to an emotional seizure just because we want so desperately to win a game?
It's asking a lot, I guess, to expect professional athletes to set a mindful example when they've always been encouraged ever since their own childhoods to play with unbridled abandon. Self-restraint (let alone selfless kindness and compassionate decorum) is apparently just for losers. That's the way politics is being played this season too. But this is one "cherry" I'd love to see a generation of students pick from the Bodhi tree.
We also talked yesterday about the simple but deep happiness we can all glean, if we choose, from occasions like Mothers Day. Ours, spent on Sunday with family at Granny's out in the Tennessee hinterlands she calls "God's country," was a treasure. It was made especially joyous, for me, by Younger Daughter's heartfelt presentation of a thoughtful homage to her mother reminiscent of last Fathers Day, artfully inscribed on large wooden letters spelling M-O-M. (My "D-A-D" present has become a happy shrine, out back in my getaway shack.)
Such a gift is a great symbol and token of what the Buddhists call "loving kindness." Some of that middle school mindfulness training must have stuck, after all.
Postscript. I was pleased to find two essays in the Times this morning that directly echo themes we discussed in class yesterday: