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Lions Roar : January 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2012 62 about cleaning up the famous Pike Place Market. (Negative: 81. Positive: 3.) In addition to being called a mental midget and an “annoying YUPPIE whiner” and repeatedly told to “go back to Los Angeles or wherever you came from” (Seattle, if the truth must be told), the majority of comments had very little to do with the point of my piece. While I suggested that we spend some money and time finding housing for the homeless who were turning the market into a public urinal, the masses jumped to their own erroneous conclusion: Some out-of-town snob didn’t like the true grit of our wonderful market. The faceless and mostly anonymous nature of the web seems to have empowered the previously meek and pleasant. Unfor- tunately, this tweeting, Yelping, Trip-Advising mob has turned into a pack of snarling dogs. With a culture geared to anyone from Jersey willing to humiliate themselves to become a “star,” and a polarized cable “news” lineup geared to incite extremists, it’s no surprise that we’re all becoming a bit “quippy.” It doesn’t help that networks like CNN and FOX go out of their way to encourage viewer involvement, begging audiences to tweet their opinions live during shows, participate in insta-polls, and send sound bites and videos of their own to be uploaded and aired. “Right now, our culture really is perpetuating the notion that everyone’s a critic,” notes relationship guru John Gottman. “For some reason we have the idea that anyone who takes notice of what’s right must be an idiot. The skeptical mind, or cynical mind, is approved in our society.” Since 1972 Gottman’s been using couples as guinea pigs, observ- ing them in what’s been dubbed The Love Lab (at the University of Washington), and, most recently, The Gottman Relationship Institute. “What we’re seeing is a negative habit of mind,” he says. “Instead of being respectful, we’re tuned into people’s mistakes.” My wife and I attended several of his workshops over the years, on everything from keeping marital love alive (oops), to limit-setting parenting. I told Gottman about my experiment (as well as my failed marriage, making sure to clarify it wasn’t his fault), and asked his expert opinion about the testy, narcissistic tone in the Era of Twittering Ids. “Think about it: in schools, we call critical thinking ‘logical’ thinking,” he replied. “That implies that, if you’re not critical, you’re uninformed! The mark of intelligence somehow is now to be critical. We fall into it. It’s a tough pattern to break out of—and it will take practice.” I wondered if he had any ideas on how we got into this crabby place. “I think we’re running on empty with negativity. People aren’t spending time doing activities they like, they’re not working out, not eating right. All these things are crowding out enjoyment, and it’s our own fault. We need to have some self-care to get back on track.” For the past twenty-five years, part of my “self-care” plan has been pseudo marathon therapy sessions with my best friend— and one-time best man—Doug Hamilton. Three or four times a year each of us shows up with a laundry list of items for discus- sion. We then head off to a remote campsite or cheap motel, eat crappy food, I get loaded (he’s been clean-and-sober for twenty- five years) and we troubleshoot our lives until the other guy flies home. His trip up from San Fran this weekend for moral support presents a challenge, to say the least. “I can’t believe I gave that $#@! woman my dead grandmoth- er’s wedding ring from 1919!” I screamed, as Doug loaded his backpack into my car. “What happened to the whole positive speech deal you’ve been babbling about?” he replied, cracking the first of two dozen energy drinks. “Oh, right. THAT!” Every- one needs a confidant, someone you can riff with, uncensored. As Gottman said, “When your heart is racing and you’re physi- ologically aroused, you need access to someone’s cerebral cortex, because you don’t have access to your own.” Going through a divorce during my Speak No Evil experiment is challenging, to say the least. One thing I’m absolutely sure of: regardless of what I think, it’s not gonna change a damn thing. Her growth or awakening or misery don’t affect my life. Everyone goes their own way, we do the best we can with the cards we’re dealt, and the world continues to turn. I take solace from one of the essays Dawn brought me by Pema Chödron: “To stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening... We catch ourselves one zillion times as once again, whether we like it or not, we harden into resent- ment, bitterness, righteous indignation—harden in any way, even into a sense of relief, a sense of inspiration. Every day, at the moment when things get edgy, we can just ask ourselves: ‘Am I going to practice peace, or am I going to war?’” Yoga has “four gates of speech”: ask if something is true, if it’s kind, if it’s necessary, and if it’s the right moment to say it. Using this barometer, I should usually keep my mouth shut about my ex-wife. It’s not necessary to speak just for the sake of being “right,” or to make myself look better. Given enough time, any- one can justify anything. If I want to be emotionally honest, I’ll have to look at my own piece of how things fell apart. The truth, it seems, isn’t just factual, but can reveal a far deeper state in the heart. I can tell you this: My truth hurts. Week 3 On my friend’s morning podcast (“The Marty Riemer Show”), I fell off the salubrious yakkin’ wagon. Before the show was even five minutes old, I’d threatened to kill one listener (I was joking, but it’s not exactly positive talk) and declared how our previous I “liked” (yet another) photo of a friend’s dog. “He’s a GOOD BOY!” I commented. And is that a new collar? So handsome!” “