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Lions Roar : November 2017
golia. Westley’s origin is never clearly established, only that he works in squalor as some kind of serf for the family of his beloved Buttercup. And as the Man in Black, it’s obvious West- ley prefers to roll solo. So why do these heroes come together? What’s in it for them? What’s in it for anyone? Why do we ever befriend each other? Is there a biological or spiritual imperative to friendship? Do comrades aid our spiritual journey, or are we better off, as many spiritual voices have modeled and taught over the ages, figur- ing life out in solitude? Perhaps our desire for friendship is a remnant of our tribal days, when we had to team up to defend ourselves against neighboring clans. Thus our ancestors passed along the habit of identifying with a tight band of comrades, of defining a “we,” of forming a posse, a squad to help us survive a dangerous world. The haphazard origin of the friendships among the charac- ters in The Princess Bride brings to mind the accidental origin of most friendships. Few friendships are ever planned. Your friends start as the kid your mother made you play with when you were little, as the girl who sat down next to you in the uni- versity cafeteria as you faced doubts about your self-worth in an unfamiliar social setting, the guy you found yourself in a heated political conversation with at a cousin’s wedding reception, the woman with whom you commiserated on the torment of hav- ing the same horrible boss, the one you kept bumping into in creative circles and with whom you eventually exchanged con- tact information. Friendship has something to do with coincidence, but also with mutual benefit. Friends find each other through attraction, but the chemistry involved is much harder to name than sexual or romantic longing. We can’t be sure why Fezzik and Inigo, for example, love each other so dearly, but their Odd Couple charm reminds me of the pull of so many friendships over the course of my own life. Inigo and Fezzik meet as mercenaries working under a man who is the definition of a bad boss, the Sicilian “genius” Vizzini. Perhaps the two create bad karma when they help Vizzini with his plot to kidnap and kill Buttercup. However, as the story makes clear, the two are good guys who’ve lost their parents and might just exhibit poor judgment when it comes to obeying their abusive employer. Lose your parents, find an abusive new father figure. It’s a classic story. When we meet them, Inigo and Fezzik have built an amazing connection, a friendship that will eventually include a third, heartbroken warrior, the formerly innocent Farmboy Westley, now the deft Man in Black, aka the current holder of the title “Dread Pirate Roberts.” Personally, I always longed to be part of such a wacky brotherhood, or brother-and- sisterhood, and turned to this movie whenever my life felt as if it were missing the presence of that genuine quirky and sup- portive friend. Whenever I couldn’t find my Fezzik in real life, I found Fezzik here. First, Make Friends with Yourself: Meditation Participating in a great friendship is one of the wonders of life. How do you find one? Are there clear Buddhist rules for when a friendship is at its best, when it aids one’s practice of mindful- ness and compassion? From a Buddhist perspective, a good friendship is one that helps you recall your awakened qualities, qualities that, like muscles, need to be developed through training. These qualities include patience, generosity, and insight. There are certainly some classic Buddhist guidelines for building healthy friendships. But to understand the Buddhist approach to friendship, you have to start at the beginning. The key to friendship, to finding your Fezzik, is first to make friends with yourself. There is a simple word for this process of accepting your own friend request: that word is meditation. This has nothing to do with leaving the world behind or tran- scending anything. It has to do with getting to know yourself so that you will be poised to befriend others more fully. Those who meditate will tell you that meditation brings you more in touch with your aloneness. Mindfulness delivers an experience of the mind that cannot be directly shared by any- one else. Meditation can provoke a lot of restlessness and, on a deeper level, unveil anxiety and fear because the practice points out the raw truth, stripped bare of distractions, that you are, in fact, always alone with your own mind. The mind that is discovered in meditation is a personal and private space, a movie theater with a seating capacity of one. I often joke that we should serve ourselves popcorn during medi- tation sessions, because the mind is history’s greatest cinema. Sit up, relax, and enjoy the show. Sometimes my personal movie is boring, like watching twenty minutes of C-SPAN. At other times, my mind is more rambunctious, like an episode of Game of Thrones. In the the- ater of self-awareness, you are cowriter, codirector, and audi- ence for your own perceptions, beliefs, and opinions. If you don’t believe me, put down this magazine, sit tall, and for a few minutes just watch your thoughts dance. Don’t worry about finding the breath (or any other meditation tech- nique you may have encountered). Just let your awareness go wherever your thoughts lead you. Even if you’re bored, there’s actually quite a compelling movie being shown in there—or in “here,” or wherever the mental theater actually “is.” Opposite: When Princess Buttercup (Robin Wright) asked Westley (Cary Elwes) how he could be sure he’d come back for her, he replied, “This is true love. You think this happens every day?” PHOTO:MOVIESTORECOLLECTIONLTD/ALAMYSTOCKPHOTO LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2017 67