Thursday, February 01, 2007

Just let it go, man

As a gift to myself, I thought I'd indulge in some light fiction before school got started. Something fun and easy that I could read at my own pace and just enjoy without having to learn anything. A bit of literary snickerdoodle, if you will...and you will!

So with that in mind, your trusty Holmes bopped on down to his local branch of the Austin public library with the names of a few authors rolling around in his head like bee-bees in a mixing bowl.

Sorry, I'll revert back to first person.

Anyway, I ended up picking out The Holy by Daniel Quinn. In short, a private eye is hired to find the Old Testament false gods Baal, Moloch, and company. It seemed a bit too similar to one of my all time faves, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and in the end I felt like it fell rather short of what Gaiman achieved with the same kind of idea, but like I said, I was just looking for something easy to relax with, and I at least got that from it.

But then there was this other book.

See, on my way to the checkout, I saw a book with a picture of the Dalai Lama on the cover. I could summarize all that I knew about the Dalai Lama at that moment in time pretty quickly: he's Tibetan, he's Buddhist, and he's nice...and even that last one was just hearsay. I didn't even know, for example, that he was a Nobel laureate or that he lived in exile. Still, something about the picture of him on the cover, eyes closed, meditating, it just kinda grabbed me. The title was The Wisdom of Forgiveness, co-authored by Victor Chan and the Dalai Lama.

"Keep walking Holmes." my inner Holmes said. "You're not here for anything even remotely religious or theological or anything of the sort. You're gonna be reading enough of that kinda thing soon enough."

"But it's the Dalai-freakin-Lama, yo. Look at him. He's meditating."

"Forget it. Go get that one Chuck Palahniuk book you haven't read yet."

"But I heard it sucked."

"So what, it's Chuck Palahniuk. You need to read it."


"Dude, you're not even Buddhist."

"Well no, but I tried meditating."

"Yeah, and you failed miserably."

Ultimately, mean and critical inner Holmes lost out to the other inner Holmes that wanted to read what the Dalai Lama had to say about forgiveness. Forgiveness has become something of a theme with me over the past few years. I can't claim to be great at it, but I've grown more and more conscious of the need for it, and I think I've learned a few things. It's a big part of the reason that I'm going into the field I've chosen. I'm convinced that all people are the way that they are for a variety of complex reasons, some of which may not even be discoverable, which is cool, that's part of the mystery of being alive. And that goes for the good as well as the bad. Even the downright evil. Given the right conditions, I think any one of us could end up as a hero or a tyrant. And whoever we are, every single one of us commits acts at some point that require forgiveness from other people, as well as from ourselves. The other side of that is that every person will find themselves faced with the choice of whether or not to forgive another for something that's been done to them. I'm convinced that the ability, even the willingness to do this does more for the forgiver than the forgiven. On a global scale, I think this has enormous implications. The ability, the willingness to take a few big steps back and really ask oneself why one's enemy might be provoked and inspired to commit whatever atrocity rather than just slapping a label on them (freedom haters, axis of evil, etc) that justifies damn near anything...well, it's hard to imagine in this lifetime, I know, but it makes much more sense than anything else we've tried.

Anway, the book. Yeah, it's inspiring. Hugely so. I know a lot more about the Dalai Lama than I did before. Having been driven out of his homeland with his people by the Chinese, he's definitely qualified to talk on the subject of forgiveness. English isn't his first language, so he speaks in these simple but clear sentences that manage to convey some rather huge ideas. I'm pretty happy that I happened to come across it. And that nice inner Holmes won the debate.


Whit said...

And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know?" And he says, "Oh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness." So I got that goin' for me. Which is nice."

sorry, couldn't resist

Jenn C. said...

Wow. Cartoon-quoting waters can run deep. You & my husband read some of the same stuff. I can loan you "Haunted" by Palahniuk. The scary face on the cover glows in the dark. I also have The Dalai Lama's "Stages of Meditation" if you want to borrow it. The cover does not glow in the dark, but has a smiley Dalai Lama.