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Lions Roar : November 2013
Fearless and Inquisitive Sarah Silverman Silverman doesn’t need to feel sheepish about not knowing much about Buddhism. After all, she has said, “I have no religion” and has described herself as “very Jewish” culturally. What’s interest- ing, though, is that her work and life nonetheless point to a raft of qualities that Buddhist practitioners try to cultivate. In fact, a surprising number of comics express values that are consistent with the essence of the Buddhist teachings. On stage and in her writing, Silverman is fearless and inquisi- tive, taking on religion and sexuality and injustice and identity with abandon. She doesn’t hide from the suffering in her own life, either. The very title of her 2010 autobiography immediately telegraphs its author’s willingness to put it all out there when it comes to the truth about herself: It’s called The Bedwetter. She seems to have developed a nice relationship with reality, too, and a sense of compassion. (A Silverman tweet from June reads, “My religion is science, nature & love love love.”) She believes in and works for social justice and political fair play. And then there’s that sense of humor, that ability to laugh at all of it, which many a dharma teacher will tell you is fundamental to Buddhist practice. The Buddha talked about spiritual friendship, of the value of having “admirable people as friends, companions, and com- rades.” Spiritual or not, someone like Sarah Silverman sure comes across as being genuine, being boundless, being herself. That is, she comes across as a dharma practitioner’s comrade. What’s the deal with that? It Hurts to Laugh Jerry Seinfeld & Larry David As blowhard TV producer Lester (Alan Alda) opines in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors: “Tension, pain, and craziness... that’s the first part of comedy.” Yes, and it’s the first part of the capital-T Truth of the dharma, too: Existence, by its very nature, is pervaded with suffering and unsatisfactoriness. But where Lester went on to say that “comedy is tragedy plus time” (nicking the line from Carol Burnett), the dharma doesn’t wait around for time to catch up. Neither does a good, brave comedian. That’s why “Too soon?” is a favorite, effective rejoin- der to overly sensitive audience members. It’s like saying, “Really, you ninnies? If you’re going to groan at this true thing I’m say- ing, how are you going to deal with life?” (And dealing with life is what the next three truths of the dharma are about.) Great comedians are often great, at least in part, because they’re willing to speak to us in this way. Genuinely. About what matters. But what really matters? In the great scheme of things, can Jerry Seinfeld’s well-chewed airplane peanuts really be worth commenting on? Maybe not. Sometimes, what matters to PHOTOBYLYDIAMARCUS/WWW.LYDIAMARCUS.COM