Thursday, February 26, 2015

Buddha and the "Selfie"

Ah, the reviled "Selfie".  Some psychologists say the growing trend of taking smartphone selfies is linked to mental health conditions that focus on a person's obsession with looks. Researchers at Western Illinois University studied the Facebook habits of 294 students, aged between 18 and 65, and measured two "socially disruptive" elements of narcissism – grandiose exhibitionism (GE) and entitlement/ exploitiveness (EE). GE includes ''self-absorption, vanity, superiority, and exhibitionistic tendencies". People who score high on this aspect of narcissism need to be constantly at the centre of attention. Hence the constant selfies.  

In common parlance this is referred to as "orbiting one's own navel" and the intent is to pull others into the whirlpool. As much as you might love the person who posts the thrice daily selfie, or constantly revolves profile pictures from 20, 30, 40 years ago,  you can't force yourself to "like" them, or to join the chorus of "Wow", "Beautiful", "Stunning" and "Dream Girl!" especially when the selfies capture staged sullen, morose, depressing, 'I'm-thinking-throwing-myself-under-a-bus' expressions.  

There are days when a selfie of "Inner Me" would fry the pixels on your tablet, Poppet. But I am not sharing. Those are my moments and I am not inflicting them on you. In fact I am doing exactly the opposite. Sharon Salzberg explained it well. 
“We look at the Buddha to see ourselves. And we look at ourselves, not to see ourselves as separate and more wonderful than anybody else, [laughs] but we look at ourselves and basically see everybody.” 

Buddha wasn't a god. He wasn't fathered by any divine spirit. He was a man whose heart was broken when he realized that all of us, you, me, him, his wife and his newborn son would all suffer sickness, pain, sorrow, loss and ultimately death. 

He spent years seeking a cure for being human, only to learn there is none. We look at him, knowing that we too may seek miracles and wonders and cures for our humanity, but even though he reached enlightenment he died, as we will. His last words to his disciples were something like,  "Everything is subject to decay, continue to work with diligence." Even if we follow his teachings we have no illusions. None of us escape this world alive, but we can learn to cope.  That was his message. 

So having the faith we can do that we look at ourselves, not circling our own navels, like water around a drain, but in love. The first person we must learn to love, really love, and really accept, is ourselves. Not just at the way we look but at the broken heart inside, whatever it is and however it was caused. Not enough love, the pain of abuse or neglect, our prejudices, our tempers, our fears, our greed and selfishness, our never-good-enough-ness. (is that a word?)  

And when we really see and admit what lives within us, we see our anger is the same anger as that of the man who gives us the finger and cuts us off in traffic, our fear when the police car turns on his lights behind us a tiny taste of the fear the refugee feels, the need for a hour's forgetting that alcohol or drugs give the addict who grew up in an abusive home is one we all understand, even if it's just a ratty day at the office we're trying to escape when we grab a beer and the remote. You hear in others' prejudice not just hate - but fear. 

And in seeing recognizing and forgiving these in yourself compassion begins, for yourself and others. You learn to live without the need for so much affirmation from others. You aren't so needy. However we will not urge our views on others, for not all are willing to examine themselves and few have time or interest in looking into the Buddha-mirror. 

Not all are grateful for a map to an inner road, to a path untrod. Much easier to go post a selfie.  (If you know me in person you know how extremely difficult this is. I don't think there's another photo of me on here in my nine years of blogging.)



smm said...

9 years of time does have wings.

Deb said...

It's your fault.