Facebook has been amazing for reconnecting with people from so many different parts of my life. I love that on one page I can see the updates from a super-Christian home-schooling mom who is grinding her own wheat and a gay friend who is making kilts for his fiancée. That is truly fantastic. The other thing I like about Facebook is how it reveals to me all my judgments, of my self and others. I find I have this ranking system in my head. "I'm better than her. I hate that guy, I'm so much better than him. Oh, seriously, you spend that much money on clothes. I would never..." I click through pictures and go through a series of emotions. Jealousy, Outrage, Anger, Pity, Sadness...all based on how I feel about someone else's life, or, rather, the images of someone else's life they choose to present. You never know the real story.
In Buddhism they teach of the three lords of materialism. Basically, these are the things we turn to for comfort, the things we use to distract us from the real work we need to do. They are the blankets we wrap ourselves in to make us feel like we are safe, like we can protect ourselves. They make us feel like life is permanent, like this moment won't end.
The first one is the lord of form. For me, this is the easy stuff to recognize. This is all the physical stuff we do to distract ourselves. Form is shopping, drinking, buying, eating, watching TV or getting lost in a good book. It's not that we can't do any of those things. It's just that we often do them in order to not be where we are, feeling what we're feeling, just being present. We want to consume. We want to fill. We want to satisfy the aching, longing, sadness or the burning, raging anger. We want to not feel lonely. It's the faulty thinking that, if I buy this, then I'll be happy. If I eat that cookie, I'll feel better. And even though we KNOW it won't, it's such a difficult habit to break, to just not do it. The Bible even says, "Be Still, and know that I am God." It actually says to just sit with your crappy self and be miserable and feel that. That's where real bravery comes in.
The second one is the lord of speech. This one is a little more tricky. This is how we use our intellect to relate to the world. Speech is all of the stuff we believe to be true in contrast to something else that is not true. Speech is our political beliefs or religious conclusions. We hold on so tightly to these ideas. We don't want to budge. This is who I am. I believe this, and I am right about it. It gives us a sense of peace to feel that we have some idea to cling to, something that is for sure. But the truth is that, there is no absolute but this present moment. This is the one that hangs me up the most. I found this story Pema Chodron told to be very compelling. Basically, a man is watching TV with no sound. First there is a KKK rally. Then there is an environmental march. Finally, the President and some Senators are arguing. The man notices that no matter what they are wearing, they all have angry faces.
It doesn't mean we can't have a political or religious belief. "However, if we find ourselves becoming righteously indignant, that's a sure sign that we've gone too far and that our ability to effect change will be hindered." And I can be SO righteously indignant. If you watch Glen Beck, I think I'm smarter than you. If you feed your kids junk food and let them watch too much television, I think I'm a better parent. Of course, there's also a flip side. I condemn myself for not learning enough about politicians. I judge myself for getting angry and always assume other people don't do that with their kids. Everything is either good or bad. And I find that I have such a hard time looking at things with neutrality.
I did try to practice this on a trip to church this past weekend. Usually, when I go to church with my family, I spend the whole time judging everyone around me. I think, "How can so many people believe something so crazy?" I judge them for being materialistic. I get on my high horse about what I think is the right way to live, and I just sit there judging. But this last week, when I caught myself doing that, I tried to just be neutral. I tried to drop the story line about my whole life growing up in Christianity and just hear and see everything as if it were the first time. And I started seeing all these people who come every week because they want to change. I saw all of these broken people, just like me, who are longing for truth and understanding and love. And I heard my brother-in-law speak, and I saw a man as a man should be, raw, open, naked speaking the truth about what it means to be human and struggle. It was amazing.
Of course, on Monday I started right back up with my Facebook screening..."Wow, they look so cool, their life must be amazing. Geez, she had another kid, how can they not believe in birth control?" I am utterly ridiculous.