Sunday, May 9, 2010

Buddhist Bravery, Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus, & Humor

For the past 5 years, my version of bravery has been putting on a stiff upper lip as I marched gently into a room of surly defiant teenagers hell bent on hating philosophy.  It was a war I often won by the middle of the semester, the peace flag murmurings of self-directed philosophical student reflection wafting in the collegiate air.  It takes a great deal of a certain kind of bravery to perform such a feat, knowing full well how critical and resentful students can be of their professors in these irreverent times. 

But, it seems, there is another sort of bravery, one that may require even more courage than this.  According to Shambhala, The Sacred Path by Chogyam Trungpa the "key to warriorship and the first principle of Shambhala vision is not being afraid of who you are."  Bravery is "not being afraid of yourself;" being "heroic and kind at the same time."  Now, the heroic and kind thing I had down with my students, but once you ask me to take this attitude toward myself, my knees get weak.  Well, they did until a couple days ago.  Now, everything has shifted and I genuinely get what it means to say that each one of us is at root basic goodness.  This doesn't mean that we all have the capacity to act the right way if we want to (although it doesn't preclude this either).  It means that at root life itself is good and we are blossoms of goodness in our appreciation of it. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

American Haiku for Beginners

American haikus are full of surprises and this may be why I like them so much.  The trick to appreciating one of these haikus is taking time to read each line on its own.  Haikus will do nothing for you if you speed through them like any old romance novel.  Let an imagery-filled feeling be solicited by the first line of the poem, then read the next line.  Usually, the pow of the poem hits you in the last line.  Sometimes all three lines are so well balanced with imagery that you can delight in each line separately--then hold them together in a way that fashions an entirely new meaning.  If you participate in the creation of the meaning of the poem by giving your imagination time to fill in the meaning, the poem becomes something like a magical flourish.  The meaning morphs before your eyes with each passing line because you allow it to capture your imagination.  Try the below poems out for size!  I have modified the structures of the first couple to give you some practice on focusing on one line at a time.