Posts Tagged ‘Seng-Ts’an’

Consider, if you will, the peculiar status of the word special. Whether employed as adjective or noun, the word means distinctive, uncommon, out-of-the-ordinary. Yet the word itself could hardly be more common. On what seems like a weekly basis, retailers announce their Special Offers and Special Sales. For breakfast, some of us eat Special K, which presumably is superior to Regular K. When we go out to dinner to celebrate a special occasion, we are likely to hear at length about that evening’s specials. In some contexts, as in “special needs,” “special effects,” and Special Counsel, the word’s function is chiefly descriptive, but more often it serves to praise, sell, or persuade. If someone calls you a “very special person,” you can safely take it as a compliment. With rare exceptions, both the literal meaning and the connotations of special are reliably, if vaguely, laudatory. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Comparações_planetárias“Have you been comparing?” ask Rodgers and Hart in their 1932 ballad “You Are Too Beautiful.” I suspect that most of us, if we are being honest and sufficiently self-aware, would have to answer in the affirmative.

“Comparison,” observed Mark Twain, whose vein of dark wisdom ran as deep as his humor, “is the death of joy.” Yet on we go, comparing whatever is at hand, be it brands of dental floss or newly listed homes or presidential candidates. A product of our education and social conditioning, the mental habit of comparison is as ingrained as it is necessary for survival. Regrettably, however, if left unexamined that habit can also rob us of happiness and hinder us from appreciating our present lives. (more…)

Read Full Post »

122. Unwelcome sounds

Pile driverAs I sit at my desk this morning, I am listening unwillingly to the rhythmic, reverberant, and unrelenting blows of a pile driver on cold steel.  Wham! (Pause). Wham! (Pause). Wham! The crashes continue for another twenty minutes, as they have for the past few weeks. Charitably regarded, this disturbance of the peace represents the embodied spirit of Progress. Alfred University is building a new recreation center, a half block away from our home. But for many of us who live or work nearby, the noise has been the aural equivalent of a chronic, throbbing toothache. It has been an unwelcome sound.

In this it is far from alone. Most of us, I suspect, have our lists of unwelcome sounds, and more often than not, those sounds are beyond our power to abate, much less eliminate. Under such conditions, a scriptural reminder might be helpful: “And we exhort you, brethren . . . be patient with them all” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:14).  But help may also be found in Buddhist teachings, which offer three distinct practices for dealing with unwanted feelings and sensations. (more…)

Read Full Post »