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Lions Roar : July 2009
SHAMBHALA SUN jULy 2009 32 they, like me, are focused on their own pleasurable verbal expres- sion, rather than the feelings of others. I should confess here that I love reality shows. To me this is the golden age of television. Now, I don’t actually have a TV, but I often visit people who do. People have told me how politically incorrect it is to like these shows, and I’m sorry. There are many of them on the subjects of sex and power, which are my favorites and your favorites. Just call me a student of human suffering. I always assume that I’m capable of the behavior that I see on reality TV. The people on the shows are human; I’m human. So what are the circumstances that would lead me to behave the way that they are behaving, since I know I’m capable of it? I look back at decisions I’ve made in my life and wonder which turn I would have had to taken to have come to what I am seeing on the screen. A few years ago, I saw a show that so exposed human frailty and delusion that I wondered whether I had the mettle to con- tinue watching it. It was like watching a horrible accident in slow motion. All these washed-up celebrities were put together in a luxurious house in los Angeles. I recognized many of them be- cause about half were from my generation. The producers had various people (agents, supposed fans, pizza delivery boys) come in to try to provoke situations, and the celebrities fell for all of them. I watched them making needy, desperate bids for attention from each other and from anyone who came into their range. They had once been on top of the world, then their fortunes changed, and now they vied with each other for a shred of the attention and acknowledgment they’d once routinely attracted. The pain of this show enabled me to figure out what it was— besides my student-of-suffering stance and, specifically, my study of right speech—that drew me to these programs. It is because if it weren’t for practice, that is how desperate I would be. There’s just a hairsbreadth of circumstance between me and them. This is so clear to me now. Without practice, I would have no ground except my latest desire, no obvious way to serve, and nothing in my life that could evoke my genuine, compassionate self. Without prac- tice, my interactions, like those of the washed-up celebrities, would only be about greed and attention—endless desperate need. After a year or so of investigating right speech, I was adequately chastened and, more than that, I was exceedingly grateful for the pre- cepts. The pleasures of gossip and exaggeration, of humorous put- downs and wicked repartees, faded for me. Now there are no more little ka-chungs in the heart. At least none over gossip, anyway! ♦ right speech: how do we practice it on the web? Join the conversation at www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace. I love reality shows. There are many on the subjects of sex and power, which are my favorites and your favorites. Just call me a student of human suffering. Catskill Mountains Phoenicia, New York www.menla.org & www.tibethouse.org For more information or to register, please visit www.menla.org • 845.688.6897 We also welcome outside rentals Menla Mountain Summer/Fall 2009 Retreats Iyengar Yoga Retreat Aug 13 – 16 • Carolyn Christie, Marcela Clavijo, & Robert Thurman Integrating Buddhism & Psychotherapy Aug 28 – 30 • Mark Epstein & Robert Thurman Comparative Astrology: Bridging East & West Sept 17 – 20 • A.T. Mann, Jhampa Kalsang, Jhampa Shaneman, Robert Thurman, & others Embody the Spirit of Woman: Women’s Retreat Sept 24 – 27 • Colleen Saidman & Jill Pettijohn Stress Sept 25 – 27 • Sharon Salzberg & Robert Thurman The Buddha & The Yogis, Part III Nov 12 - 15 • John Campbell & Robert Thurman