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Lions Roar : January 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2012 61 inquiring if he was enjoying our newfound time together, or if it was pure torture. “No,” Riles replied with a shy smile. “It’s not torture.” “Okay,” I said, “so hangin’ with me is something less than torture. We’re goin’ with that!” And we proceeded to enjoy our giant pile of hot wings in noble silence. One of the challenges is to avoid my natural tendency to be a loose cannon. I wish I had a shock collar or zapper of some kind that would snap me back to virtuous words when I began to stray. But people are so annoying! What am I to say to the whiner who fills out his deposit slip AT THE WINDOW, the cell-talker in the movie, the passive-aggressive cousin texting throughout a dinner party? Taking a page from Robert Thurman’s book Inner Revolu- tion, I need to understand that being upset or angry about others serves no useful purpose. As Thurman notes, this doesn’t mean clamming up or being walked on—I’ll let my neighbor know they need to pick up their dog’s crap from my yard—but then I’ll move on. Cheerful assertiveness, “Love your enemy” and all. My favorite Thurman quote about sums it up: “Why be unhappy about something if I can do something about it? Why be unhappy about something if there’s nothing I can do about it?” I had lunch with a buddy who needed to vent about the on- again, off-again relationship with his gal pal; I know both well, and suffice to say they have an extremely volatile courtship. I thought it would be difficult to stay silent—in days past, I had enjoyed jump- ing into the fray. But turns out, most of the time no one’s really pay- ing any attention to the listener anyway. My friend went on and on about petty grievances, breaches of privacy, and major philosophi- cal differences without taking a breath. I smiled and tried to find constructive places for my two cents. (“Well, everyone’s on their own journey” and “you really feel passionate about this!”) It didn’t matter—I could have been a blow-up doll (which, come to think of it, is what he really needs). Mainly I was simply present, a listener among the chaos. And simply present I can do. Week 2 Speak no evil, hear no evil, tweet no evil? After emailing my wife a lovely poem titled, “When Did You Give Up On Us?” I realized any attempt at uplifting my communication would also require an effort on the electronic end of things. So my tendency for hitting the “Like” button on YouTube videos where red- necks shoot themselves in the face or email- ing attachments of Dorothy Hamill to mock a friend’s haircut needs to be curbed ASAP. Facebook and Twitter may be aiding revolu- tionaries all over the Arab world in their march toward democracy, and that’s great. For the rest of us, the nonrevolutionaries, social networks are a massive waste of time. That said, I got online this morning and realized that I have seen the Cyber-Bully up close and personal, and he is me. Within fifteen minutes of perusing my feeds I’d been an ass to no fewer than four virtual amigos, including sarcastically congratulating my friend on her kid surviving his second year (he did eat a few cigarette butts at one point). With too much time on my hands, I then moused over to my Twitter account to do a little more damage. Things began pleasantly enough, as I decided to “follow” a few random (but suggested as “Similar to you”) Twitter accounts, in hopes they would, in turn, follow me. Then I scanned the feeds, includ- ing a link from Shambhala Sun (an amazing video of the Dalai Lama on Australia’s Master Chef!), then one from Keith Olber- mann dryly reading James Thurber’s “Recollections Of The Gas Buggy.” It was the most boring thing I’d ever seen, and I shot him a tweet suggesting he stop doing that: “@keitholbermann I need you reading to me like I need car advice from Pam Anderson. Stick to what you do best, and let us read on our iPads.” Clever, mean, and most likely, emanating from my own embarrassment about wasting so much time on Twitter. Within seconds, I got an actual reply! “@michaelstusser Then don’t watch it. This is diffi- cult for you to game-plan?” On one hand I was thrilled to get a reply from a famous motor-mouth. On the other, it’s no fun realizing one of your role models is as much of a pinhead as you are. With more opportunities for the anonymous everyman to enter the digital conversation via online news forums, com- ment sections, and blog posts, there are also more chances for these internet communities to vent their pent-up anger. To wit, no fewer than eighty-four individuals felt inspired to reply to an online opinion piece I wrote for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer I wish I had a shock collar or zapper of some kind that would snap me back to virtuous words when I began to stray. But people are so annoying!