“The whole idea of being at peace just pisses her off. At peace. Who but the insane would ever be at peace? What person who has enjoyed life could possibly think that one is enough? Who could live even a day and not feel the sweet ache of regret?” – Jess Walter, Beautiful Ruins
Regret is something has crossed my mind a lot lately. This idea of “living life with no regrets.” I often wonder if, at the end of my life, I will have regrets. The answer is “yes.” I probably will. There is a lot of pressure infused into this “no regrets” philosophy. On the other hand, I can understand the desire to accomplish all that one wants to accomplish. There is this one chance to do it, so just do it.
Or I could give up on all of that and just deal with what is right in front of my face, good or bad.
I am reading Beautiful Ruins right now and really loved this quote. It, in a way, gives some perspective on this uneasiness I have with the “no regrets” philosophy.
In my sangha we are going through the book, “How To Train A Wild Elephant & Other Adventures In Mindfulness” by Jan Chozen. This week’s excercise is a media fast:
For one week, do no take in any media. This includes news media, social media, and entertainment. Do not listen to radio, iPod, or CDs, don’t watch TV, film, or videos; don’t read newspapers, books or magazines; don’t surf the internet; and don’t check social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
I was all, “Hell, no” When I first heard this read. But the fact that I was, and am, resisting it makes me realize that I should try it. It is only a week after all and who knows? Maybe it will be good for me. I am still going to blog because blogging is creating; it is writing. So I feel like it is o.k. And I thought it would be interesting (mostly for myself) to blog about this experience. I thought it would be interesting to observe how this experience makes me feel. So here it goes!
4:00 am: I woke up from a dream in which one of my friends died. I found out on Facebook (because that is how things are learned these days). I woke up in a slight panic thinking, “what if this really happens?” Eventually I went back to sleep.
5:00 am: My alarm wakes me up and I decide to hit snooze because I think, “I have nothing to do when I get up so what’s the point.”
5:20: I get up and meditate
8:00 am: After getting ready for work I actually have time to practice my ukulele.
11:00 am: I get an email notification that somebody posted a link on my Facebook wall. I go to Facebook so I can turn off e-mail notifications. (I also take a quick peek to what’s up with everyone. Damn it!). I have decided that I can check e-mail because that is how many people communicate with me. I can easily delete the messages that look like cluttery crap. I think that I will not check it very often though. Maybe a couple of times a day.
11:30 am: Busy all morning with training at work. I am wondering what I am going to do at lunch because I am not supposed to read anything. The books says that reading for work is ok so I am tempted to take a Library Journal with me so I can at least read that.
5:14 pm: I just realized that I cheated on this big time today. In researching my blog post about Rajneesh I realized that I surfed around the internet. Actually quite a lot. Hmm. Didn’t even realize it. I suppose it is a job hazard. I will be more careful tomorrow.
7:17 PM: I am home alone with nothing to entertain me but my thoughts (my husband is still at work.) I had a conversation with my friend after work about this Rajneesh post from yesterday so I’ve been thinking about that. She mentioned the Buddhist idea of non-attachment and that really resonated. I think that is the lesson here. When you attach to an idea, person, anything, you never know where you will end up (her words). This is so true. It is very freeing to practice non-attachment. That is what this mindfulness practice is about too. I really felt it when I decided to stop reading the really awesome book I am into right now, “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter. It is very hard for me to give up a really good story but I felt like I should for this exercise. In fact, I really feel like I should return the book to the library so that someone else should read it. I haven’t done that. I am not sure I will. But I feel like I need to let go of my attachment to reading this really wonderful story. I know it will be there in a week when I am done with this exercise.
Other than the few minutes I logged onto Facebook today I haven’t logged onto any other social media sites. I don’t miss the cluttery data smog. At all. I actually feel really good right now. I miss my friends from those sites. But I don’t miss all of the cluttery crap.
I am going to sign off and schedule this to publish very early tomorrow morning. The rest of the evening will be spent getting projects done.
I am reading a fascinating book called, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. One of the chapters is about Social Proof. This is when groups of people decide to do something – or decide not to do something – because the group is doing it or not doing it. One of the examples he cites was a case in a New York City neighborhood in which a woman was murdered in the streets and nobody did a thing about it. Apparently it was very loud and it went on for hours, the perpetrator coming back to the scene several times to stab the woman more. Not a single person called the police. Why is this? because, according to the power of Social Proof, the neighbors assumed someone else was taking care of it. In fact, nobody took care of it at all and the woman bled to death in the street.
Social Proof can cause seemingly normal people to behave in bizarre ways. I witnessed this bizarre behavior one day while driving to work in San Jose and was caught in a small traffic jam. I watched as a car merged on to a freeway entrance, noticed that there was a traffic jam, and turned his car around – going the wrong way on the freeway and the freeway entrance. This caused other drivers to do the same thing and I watched in disbelief as this freeway entrance became a snarled mess. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and I really couldn’t believe that people were being so stupid. I moved along through the traffic jam and in five minutes things cleared up. If this driver had just been a little patient he would have been out of the traffic fairly quickly. But he ended up in a worse situation than the one he perceived.
The thing that caught my interest was when the author talked about Social Proof as the reason why people join cults. I am super fascinated with cults. I wonder why normal people decide they are going to follow an insane person and do whatever this person tells them. I was a kid when there was the Rajneesh cult in Central Oregon, which wasn’t very far from where I lived. The Rajneesh cult freaked me out when I was younger and is probably the reason why I am interested in this subject. It was great to see the topic addressed in this book because it helped to answer some of the questions I’ve had. It caused me to revisit this interest, which I will discuss in tomorrow’s post.
I quoted Kurt Vonnegut in a post from a couple of weeks ago. Here, I’ll just post it again (’cause it’s awesome):
“The arts are not a way of making a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
Kurt Vonnegut holds a special place in my heart. And not just because he says really awesome things. He also writes really awesome books. While I can’t choose a favorite out of all the books I have ever read, I can tell you that Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions changed my life.
I read it when my husband and I were dating. He was an English Major and very well read and I was totally enthralled with his knowledge of books. He loaned me Breakfast of Champions to read one day and I ate it up. This was THE book in which I had that “aha” moment of realizing that the narrator was NOT the author of the story. I was discussing the book with Raf and mentioned something like, “I can’t believe Vonnegut’s mother committed suicide by drinking Draino!” Raf responded with, “Monica, the narrator of the story is not the author.” It was like a bowling ball hit me in the head. I went from dumb girl to smart girl in a matter of seconds.
Looking back, I feel like an idiot for being such and avid reader and not realizing this sooner. For some silly reason I assumed the author and the narrator were the same. Do other readers think this? Maybe I had crappy English teachers in High School. When I was a TA in college I pointed this out to a few of my students and I could tell that they had the same aha moment that I had, so maybe it is something some people assume when they read.
Anyway, Breakfast of Champions made me see this truth and it did several things. I became a critical thinker. It caused me to question. It also pointed me toward to a greater love of reading and literature and it was the catalyst that made me become a literature major in college. To this day one of my favorite things is a good, smart, book discussion.