Sunday, 31 July 2011

Aspects of People I Find Interesting

Buddhists and Integralists, like me, tend to be people watchers -- interested in others‘ thinking and behavior. Now, there are a large number of Buddhists who specifically are not interested in all of this amateur psychoanalysis crap; they think that study of all this hoo-hah is very much the ilk of confusion and calamity we should step away from.

But me, I’m rather fascinated by how strange the best and the worst of us are. And l love trying to formulate a kind of “behavior set” or logic matrix that might explain the wondrous [or goofy or inane] behaviors of others.

An aspect that I sometimes see in people that I find admirable I call “situation saving.” These are people who step in to save people when they make an unfortunate faux pau or otherwise say something ignorant or inappropriate or goofy. Now, I don’t mean any of this in a kind of meta-sense. Most of the transactions that I observe are small; they happen, are forgotten and life moves on.

AN EXAMPLE: This morning I stopped in a one-man clock-repair shop, just as it opened, to get a new battery for a watch. [Yes, I’m a dinosaur. I wear a watch. Leave me alone!] While waiting for my watch to get taken care of [Which should have taken just a scant minute!], other customers came in with minor problems that the repair guy tended to without charge: straightening a numeral on a lady‘s clock; removing a link from a fellow‘s watch; then, directing the lady, who’d returned, to a cell-phone store she was eager to find. When my battery-replacement thing was done, and the guy had told me the charges, a very reasonable five bucks, I said, “Boy, you’re very busy this morning, but not making much money. Hopefully some good-paying business will come in -- a guy with a busted cuckoo clock or something.” The repair guy was flummoxed on how to respond to the odd thing I said! I was sticking my jerky nose into his business! The repair guy FAILED to save the situation.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, kind reader: I was a jerk and the repair guy was basically kind-hearted. This is true; this is so very true, but it misses the point. The repair guy did not have the presence of mind to save my sorry ass when I said something stupid. He didn’t have “situation saving” moxie.

He could have said “Yeah, hopefully either an expensive cuckoo clock will come in for me to overhaul, or a grandfather clock that had fallen down a long flight of stairs.” And then my point wouldn’t have seemed so crass, and me and the repair guy could’ve smacked palms in a high-five and gone about our happy days

Now, again, here, I know what you’re thinking, kind reader: Maybe -- even probably -- the guy takes his job quite seriously, loved clocks, got into his business because he admired well-made, perfectly performing clocks and he would be in pain to see a busted cuckoo clock or a badly damaged grandfather clock. He’s sort of a clock physician: His mission in life is to restore timepieces to good health.

Oh, all right. Sheesh. I have to admit your point, dammit, reader. You are probably quite right. Indeed having observed the repair guy for the many minutes I was cooling my heels in a chair waiting for my battery thing to get taken care of, I could see he was extraordinarily pleasant and thoughtful. Just the type of fellow who is likely to admire the excellence of well-constructed clock innards. Probably, yes, he would grieve to see any badly damaged exquisite timekeeping machine. Indeed, the walls of his small shop had interesting and downright lovely clocks of different sorts all about. He did give off clock-loving vibes.

So, how about this: The repair guy could have changed the subject abruptly to save my embarrassment. He could have said, “Why, Tom, I’m having a great day, so far! Don’t you fret about me! And I must say, this Fossil Avenger you wear is quite nice. What a joy for me to handle it. It’s an heirloom!”

Oh Kay. Oh Kay. I know what it is you’re thinking. Reader. A Fossil Avenger is crap. If the watch guy delights in fine timepieces, he cannot, with any integrity, say anything nice about my beat-up old watch. The guy should have been flummoxed, you’re thinking. There simply is no way to save a jerk like me in the hairy situation I’d gotten myself into.

You know, reader: You are no damn help AT ALL. I go to all this trouble just to tell you a little bit about my day and I have this list of many, many aspects of people’s personalities I find interesting and want to share and HERE YOU’VE GONE AND SPOILED EVERYTHING!

You can just take your nitpicky little mind and point your beady eyes at SOMEBODY ELSE’S BLOG. I’VE HAD IT. I QUIT THIS POST. IT‘S OVER. Why couldn’t I have imagined you saying nice, soothing things, Reader? What's wrong with you!? GET OUTTA HERE!


  1. I can recall any number of Mahayana Sutras exhorting bodhisattvas to "know the thoughts in the minds of sentient beings". This would presumably include lions, bears, chickens, and things as well as humans. And devas. And raksasas. Very interesting task that is for bodhisattvas.

  2. Yo, Cholly! I'm reading a book by Ken Wilber, A Sociable God, who writes, early on [complementing what you wrote], "If Buddha or Krishna was lucid and legitimate in his communicative meaning, and he said he was contacting a fundamental ground of being, then that is our only starting point. And if I want to understand that point, if I want to understand anyone else’s symbols and meanings, then the best approach is some sort of empathetic interpretation (just as if I wished to understand Hamlet or any other symbolic communication). I must reproduce in my awareness via interpretation the inner world or meaning of Krishna or Hamlet or Job or whomever, there only to grasp its essential message."

    So, while the *I* in my little essay gets things wrong and reacts badly, at least it can be said that *I* was on the right track in seeking to understand the other.