Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Cosmic Slap on the Wrist (and Subsequent Hug)

One of my favorite books of all time is "Ancient Futures." It is about the language and culture of the Ladakh. The author weaves linguistics, anthropology, and life lessons into a beautiful story of a changing society and challenges our assumptions about "development = progress." 

I will never forget the first time I read this anecdote because it struck me as beautifully simple and effective:

"Dolma once slapped her three-year-old son as he tried to grab the hot teapot. At the same moment, almost instantly, she gave him a big hug. I wondered whether receiving such unclear signals would be confusing for the child. But after I had observed many similar incidents, I realized that the message was, “I love you, but don’t do that.”

Tonight I was leaving my buddhist meditation group and a friend asked if I was going his way. Normally I would have offered him a ride even though he was in the other direction, but tonight I was tired and apologized, saying I wasn't. As I drove away, I immediately felt I had made the wrong decision, but kept going.  

Not two blocks away, I ran out of gas (my gas gauge is broken, so if I don't pay attention, this can happen at anytime). I laughed to myself and nodded to the universe, "yup, I got the message, don't worry." Within seconds a tuk-tuk driver had pulled over and an old man on a bike had gone to get his gas can (though Thailand disregards many rules, they seem to be strict about not putting gas into anything besides specially designated receptacles). The man on the bike got me some gas and the driver stayed with me and started my ornery bike when the old man returned. I am continually humbled by Thai kindness, and the loving lessons I receive from the universe. 

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