I started to type this as a comment in response to what my friend Corinne posted on the entry prior to this one. But then I realized that Corinne, as she has done several times before, has helped me draw the conclusion I was searching for in a blog entry. So I post my response to her response as its own entry:
Corinne, you make a really valid point — and it’s something I thought about as I wrote a couple of drafts before posting this entry [actually, the entry below]. The more I think about it, I guess my “issue” (and it’s not really an issue in the dramatic or clinical sense of the word) is the fact that people are generally nicer in Phnom Penh’s neighborhoods than they are in mine.
But, then again, and to your point, if I actually lived in Phnom Penh (versus hanging out in front of the Cozy-na every night with my krew of motodops and a Cambodian prostitute who had a better mastery of English-language idioms than most native speakers), then I’d be much more aware of the petty street crimes, the shootings and other things that color the perspectives of locals. Given the opportunity, I’d bet our friend “I Feel Your Pain,” the aforementioned prostitute, would switch places with me in a heart beat. And that’s really an important point.
Balancing those colored-by-experience perspectives with reality has been one of my biggest challenges since I set out to tame the Monkey Mind. It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote about my sometimes overly optimistic outlook on what the world should be like. Notice that I didn’t say what the world could be like, because my oft-felt frustration comes from societies and individuals — like the guy who yelled at me this morning — who don’t live up to what I see as the full human potential. This has been a real stumbling point for my Monkey Mind, and a barrier to my own spiritual progress, I think. And, in a way, it’s terribly selfish to think that my way should be the right way, even with the best of intentions.
The way I think the world should be doesn’t reconcile with the way the world actually is. The truth is (at least in my view) that we are always going to suffer and attract suffering. It’s simply human nature. Funny thing is, that’s what really drew me to the Buddhist perspective, but once I started trying to open my mind to a new approach to life, it really started to bother me.
I’m working on it, and thankfully, I have friends and a partner who remind me that I’ve got to keep my perspectives in line with reality.
Happy Christmas, Corinne!