Sunday, December 30, 2012

In Real Life

I very much doubt that the world will become an emptier place should I discontinue updating everyone on exactly what I did at the gym today. There will be no volcanic eruptions or asteroids slamming into the earth. The world will simply continue as it has always done.
And why is it, exactly, that I feel the need to inform all and sundry just how bloody difficult that cardio workout was, or how my client's receptionist is a whiney, immature little madam who is so far up her own arse she can see her tonsils? Is it validation I need? If I don't post on Facebook or Twitter, do I cease to exist? Of course not. I actually exist in the real world with my flaws and moodiness and pouting silences, far away from the witty remarks and intellectual ponderings. The cyberworld gets to see the witty, interesting virtual me and thinks that this is the real me.
In fact, the real me isn't even the me that I think I am. You see, before coming here, I convinced myself that I am Tam Olckers, when in fact, the personality Tam Olckers doesn't actually exist. But that is a long discussion for another day and I digress.
I am quite seriously cutting down my virtual life. I am no longer going to be logging into Facebook several times a day to see how everyone is doing and to splash everyone's news feed with my petty, boring and unsubstantial remarks and comments. I don't live my life in status updates, comments and likes. I live it in sweat, blood, tears, laughter and copious amounts of coffee.
The decision to unplug comes in on the blazing comet tail of my other decision to no longer fill my life with emotional junk, clutter and noise. I no longer have the energy - or time - to get wound up in intrigues, scandals and photos of planking. Ditching the junk means ditching junk activities as well as all the junk food and junk thoughts I've been consuming. It doesn't mean I won't log on once in a while to say "Hi" to all the friends I won't get to connect with otherwise. I'll still post updates once in a while. I'll still comment and like and look at the photos of planking.  Facebook has become the only vehicle of communication with some friends and family. I just won't be communicating quite as often as you've become accustomed to.
Luckily for me, the people I have on my social media are people I respect, love and would invite to an elaborate multi-course dinner at my home. Life, I've decided, is too short for cheap red wine and fake friends. I have paintings waiting to be born, and those of you who began reading  my "Bitterhoek" saga will want to read more and I need the space - within myself and in my schedule - to do that. There is a lot of studying (of maths and science) to happen next year. There is no way I can do all this and still keep checking into Facebook six times a day.
It's time for me to live In Real Life. To have real conversations, cups of coffee and dinners with the people who live in Johannesburg and meaningful emails and letters with everyone else.
I miss the silence I had before. I miss seeing people face to face. I regret nothing.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wisdom and Compassion

Buddhists are known for their compassion and understanding. They even have a name for this: Bodhisattva Practice. A Bodhisattva, quite simply put, is a being of great compassion, who has dismissed an opportunity to live in Nirvana and continue to live in the earthly realm to help others attain Buddhahood.

Sounds lofty. Impossible, even. Still, compassionate practice, as a Buddhist, is something to strive for.

It is an ideal that I have reached for, and often failed miserably at the task.

Recently, I have experienced an odd phenomenon. Young people have come to me seeking advice for their problems and I have dispensed said advice, reminding them that the advice came from my own experience, which may not be their experience. Advice dispensed, I sat back feeling a little smug that I was a) asked and b) all the problems in the world had been solved.

Yet, the next day, they came back for more advice on the same situation, which I could see was disastrous. I dispensed my advice. I did not feel so smug. I had been in the same situation as these young ladies and I so wanted to snatch them away from the grim abyss that awaited them if they continued down that path. I knew that path. I had walked it and had seen the sights.

I related all of this to a wise friend. She pondered the dilemma a moment and reminded me that compassion and wisdom went hand in hand. "Even the Dalai Lama is a man," she said, "He has to meditate on things first."

Sometimes being compassionate is simply not doing anything at all, respecting someone else's journey and allowing their karmic lessons to unfold. I cannot prevent another person from putting their hand into the fire, no matter how much I tell them it will burn and scar. They can see that it is fire. By being adament about the path someone SHOULD take is being disrespectful of their karma and life path. (And I am all about people respecting my journey, yet here I was disrespecting someone else's.)

So I step back. I honour and respect their journey by honouring and respecting mine. Compassion sometimes means allowing others to make mistakes so that they may grow instead of taking those opportunities from them and preventing them from growth.