Those Pesky Pedestals

I’ve always admired the Dalai Lama. For me, he seemed like the epitome of enlightenment. He’s dignified. He’s compassionate. He remains calm in the face of grave injustice in the form of China stealing Tibet. He doesn’t even seem bitter about the fact that no country is willing to step in to correct this outrage. He’s all about love and acceptance. He doesn’t judge.

But it seems that he’s also just a man of his generation. And that breaks my heart. Because as a man, he’s inherently flawed.

According to this article, he has said on more than one occasion that if a woman succeeds him, she should be attractive. Because if she’s not, no one will want to look at that face. Even when he is told that this comment offends people, he sticks by it.

This enlightened man just doesn’t get it.

You’d think that someone who has seen his country go through what it has gone through would understand that it’s wrong to require that someone’s most important quality be something that is so completely out of her control. It’s wrong to place hurdles in front of one group of people that you don’t place in front of another. It’s an incredible waste to completely overlook someone’s vast inner value based upon the arbitrary yardstick that you use to give a seal of approval to their outer shell.

It makes me sad to now see the Dalai Lama as an old man with occasionally outmoded, wrong-headed ideas.

But perhaps that has more to do with the rickety pedestal I have placed him upon than it has to do with the man himself. What right do I have to expect perfection? Just because he has failed to meet my standards, that doesn’t mean his inherent value as a public figure has changed.

Let’s try not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, as he seems so willing to do. But give me a minute to mourn the fact that I am having to lower my expectations, here. I, too, am only human.

Dalai Lama

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When the Love Spell is Broken

Love is like a drug. When you’re deep in it, especially in the early stages, it’s hard to see flaws. Red flags just look like a pretty splash of color in your world. You want to bask in the fact that you seem to have found evidence of perfection, and that perfect person, against all odds, thinks that you’re pretty darned amazing, too. Such bliss.

It’s a heady feeling, that perfect love. The problem is, it’s pure fiction. Everyone has flaws. It’s a rare person who doesn’t have the scales fall from dazzled eyes at least once in his or her romantic life. It’s profoundly discouraging to discover that the prince you’ve been kissing has been a frog all along and you’ve just refused to see it.

I think the reason we try to cling to the fantasy for as long as we can is that we’ve been raised to believe that true success means we must be part of a couple. It’s as if those of us who don’t go around two-by-two have somehow failed at life, and should be ashamed. What a steaming pile of horse manure. In modern times, one can do quite well on one’s own.

Yes, it can be lonely. We are social animals. But it’s possible to be social without being joined at the hip. I think it would be easier for many of us if we didn’t have so much societal pressure to take paths in life that we are unable or unwilling to walk down.

But if you insist, know this: True and enduring love is not ignoring someone’s flaws. Neither is it settling for the intolerable. It’s finding someone whose flaws you can see clearly and live with and still maintain a modicum of self-respect as well as respect for the other person. I understand that that picture isn’t quite as pretty, but it’s a heck of a lot more realistic.


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On Being Judged

Recently I made a new friend, Bob, and he makes me feel different than anyone ever has. For a while there I couldn’t figure out what the difference was, exactly. I only knew it was there. And it was significant enough to cause me to give the situation a great deal of thought.

Finally one day it dawned on me. The man is completely devoid of judgment. He accepts people for who they are, completely and without hesitation. He makes it quite clear that he’s inherently flawed, and therefore accepts the flaws in others.

I’ve known many people who pay lip service to these qualities (including myself), but until now, I’ve never known anyone who pulls it off. But this guy is genuine. I don’t even think he’s aware that he is that way. He’s just… wide open. Accepting.

I suspect that Bob could meet the devil himself, and he’d say, “Oh, so you’re an evil entity? That’s really interesting. How does that work?”

And yet that doesn’t mean he’s overly trusting. He’s not easily taken advantage of. I don’t know how he manages to have both qualities simultaneously, but there you have it. He’s a delightful enigma.

What does this mean for me? It means that when in his presence, I can lay down a burden that I didn’t even know I had been carrying all my life. I can just be completely and utterly myself, warts and all. I don’t have to worry about what he’ll think. I don’t have to fear disapproval or criticism of any kind. I can just… be. What a gift.

I do worry about Bob a little, though, because sometimes he’ll say things that could very well shock the socks off the average person. I suspect he thinks the world is as non-judgmental as he is. I fear that this will hurt him in some way, eventually. But then again, he’s made it this far. Good on you, Bob!


Too Perfect

If you’ve seen the movie The Truman Show, you have experienced Seaside, Florida in all its creepy perfection. I have never been there myself, but I have been to Celebration, Florida, which is another perfectly planned little hamlet. These places are cool to visit, but they kind of give me the willies.

Seaside, Florida [Image credit:]
Seaside, Florida [Image credit:]

These communities are regulated in the extreme. Individuality is very discouraged. The houses can only be a certain style and a certain range of colors. Your white picket fence must be of a particular design. And forget about unique landscaping. Seaside and Celebration are the Stepford Wives of communities, even more so than your typical neighborhoods with homeowners associations.

I am thinking of these places because recently I drove through Port Gamble, Washington. Port Gamble was established in 1853, and looks as if it has been frozen in time. The Victorian houses, many of them identical, are in pristine condition, and there’s one continuous white picket fence along the length of the main street. There are also some touristy shops, but we didn’t stop.

The reason we didn’t stop is that I got the shivers just driving through the place. Yes, it’s charming, and each building, if by itself, would be a delight. But as you drive through there, you start to notice that there’s a distinct absence of humans. And all the blinds are drawn. I could easily imagine an FLDS polygamist cult occupying the town, or an extended family of zombies. It’s downright disturbing. I wouldn’t want to be caught there after dark. It felt like an extremely sanitized ghost town.

Port Gamble's perfect little church.
Port Gamble’s perfect little church.
Port Gamble's perfect little picket fence. Taken from the safety of my car. With the window rolled up.
Port Gamble’s perfect little picket fence. Taken from the safety of my car. With the window rolled up.

I genuinely think that there’s such a thing as too much perfection. Humanity lies in the flaws; in the peeling paint and the tacky lawn flamingoes. When people start marching in lockstep, they seem robotic. When they force their surroundings to do the same, it feels otherworldly. I would definitely not thrive in that environment. It’s too much about appearances and what the neighbors think.

Hypocrisy 2.0

I’ve been caught up in a debate this week about hypocrites. It is my stance that just because someone is hypocritical does not mean you should necessarily discount their message and by association, every other thing that comes out of their mouth.

For example, if someone speaks out about animal rights and yet wears leather, does that mean that their animal rights message is wrong? Or If Al Gore’s carbon footprint is larger than it should be, does that mean that global climate change doesn’t exist? I know a scary number of people who believe this.

My opinion is that painting people and their opinions in either black or white, with absolutely no shades of grey, is actually rather simplistic and, frankly, childish. Black and white thinking limits your sources of knowledge and wisdom to a ridiculous degree. If only non-hypocrites should be entertained, then no one on this planet will be able to teach you anything or even render an opinion. After all, even Gandhi cheated on his wife. Does that mean we discount his philosophy of non-violence? Then who would Martin Luther King have modeled himself after? Ben Franklin treated his wife and son like crap, but he’s still my hero, and I still love the wit and wisdom of Poor Richard’s Almanac.

We’re all human. We all have flaws. But I also believe we all have things to teach, even if our only lesson happens to be, “Don’t be like me.”

The reason people of the past seemed so perfect to their contemporaries was that they weren’t speeding merrily along the information highway at the time. Nowadays it’s much easier to find the skeletons in people’s closets. In fact, many people delight in doing so. My theory is that because our skeletons are no longer hidden, and because some people seem hell-bent on discounting others entirely based on those very skeletons, we often feel as if we’re adrift without a moral compass or spiritual direction. I find this depressing.

Instead of discounting a message based on the messenger, or even worse, spending an inordinate amount of time trying to discredit the messenger, perhaps it would be wiser to focus our energy on the message, and form our opinions based on what we, the message receivers, discover. Then maybe life wouldn’t feel so out of our control.

Judging people as a whole should be reserved for elections and court cases. Life’s just too freakin’ short to do otherwise.