Monday, March 30, 2009

Hit and Run

Walk In Clinic, Case #357.

The poor kid was just riding his bike along the street, obeying all the laws, wearing a helmet, going to class. Suddenly a car pulled out from a side street and clipped his back tire, knocking him head over handlebars onto the pavement. As he lay there he saw the car drive away.

Who would do something like that? Accidentally (for I'm almost sure it was a matter of lack of attention) hit a cyclist and then just drive off? What if the kid were seriously injured?

Of course, that's probably exactly what the driver was thinking. "What if I seriously injured that kid? He'll sue me and I'll be paying the rest of my life! I better get out of here!"

The kid walked his ruined bike over to our clinic and presented his shook-up self for evaluation. I was so furious at the negligent driver it was hard to concentrate on the victim of his irresponsibility. The kid did not share my anger. In fact, amazingly, he had experienced the exact same thing before. Another hit and run! He was philosophical about it, and primarily concerned that he'd have to buy a new helmet.

I do try to maintain my faith in the goodness of the human race, and most of the time there is plenty of evidence to support it. But on occasion that faith gets challenged.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Suffering is when you want the pain to stop.

Thus spake Natalie Goldberg, at a book signing I attended tonight. Her talk was about writing memoir, and she mostly read from her new book on the subject, Old Friend From Far Away.

Suffering is when you want the pain to stop. The sentence sprang out at me from the milling sidewalk throng. Ambushed, a part of me spent the rest of the evening struggling in a dark alley. What? How can you have pain without suffering? Aren't they one and the same? Why wouldn't you want pain to stop? Who wants pain?

I remember a Peanuts cartoon from years back. Lucy has to go to the dentist and she's complaining to Charlie Brown. He says to her, "You're not afraid of a little pain, are you?" Her retort is classic. "Of course I am! Pain hurts!"

Goldberg practices Buddhism. Buddhism urges us to look at life honestly, to accept what is. Sometimes life is painful. Everyone knows that. Suffering, by Goldberg's Buddhist definition, is wanting something other than what is. It could be applied to anything. As soon as we start wanting something different from what we have, we are somewhere else. We are distracting ourselves from the present, and the present is the only starting point we have. You've heard the saying, "You can't get there from here?" The truth is, you can't get there from anywhere else. The only way out is through, and the only place to start is here.

So if suffering takes me away from the present, and accepting pain is a way to avoid suffering, I'll accept pain. It's kind of hard to ignore, after all. Accepting pain doesn't mean it won't hurt. But, unlike Lucy, I know that not all that hurts is Bad. Au contraire, in fact. What is beautifully ironic, in my experience, is that the more I allow myself to feel pain, the sooner it passes. The more you hurt, the quicker you heal.

Friday, March 06, 2009

A sad and silly true poem

Belly Up

Come into my office, said the boss man to the guy.
The time has come to send you home. Your work is done. Goodbye.

The company is bankrupt: it's chapter seven time.
The doors are locked, the lights are out, we haven't got a dime.

So sorry that there is no pay, no benefits, not one.
We thank you for your time, and know your time has just begun.

Clean out your desk and take your stuff, but leave your sweat and dreams.
We know its bad, but time will tell it's harder than it seems.

You're middle aged. That's life; it can't be helped. We wish you well
with resumes and dusty suits, employment lines from hell.

Now off you go. Get out of here. Go home and tell your wife.
Good luck with that. Leave the keys, and hey - have a nice life.

The Authors of "50 Ways" Interview on KCHF TV

50 Ways to Leave Your 40s TV interview with Phoenix' Pat McMahon