Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bus Riding Revelation: Suffering and Chick-Fil-A

I often avoid eye contact, waiting for the bus on Sunset.  Avoid direct, conversation-starting contact with the too-crazy street folk, from the un-medicated schizophrenics to the tourists from Topeka who see stars everywhere they look. Time passes and the bus is minute-by-minute later than its ETA, and I suddenly awake to the fact that I'm sick of waiting, sick of smelling Chick-Fil-A and unable to gauge the time it would take to order and run back across the street to my stop, all the while stuffing guilty, anti-gay marriage waffle fries in my mouth.  The driver of the 8:08 obviously has it in for me, ruining my night.

And in that moment, surrounded by the greasy air of the chicken joint and the silt of car exhaust, I wake up, and remembered what I'd read that morning.  What I had had the time to read, precisely because I take the sometimes-a-few-minutes-late-because-of-traffic bus.  "Love and suffering are a part of most human lives. Without doubt, they are the primary spiritual teachers more than any Bible, church, minister, sacrament, or theologian," writes Richard Rohr in The Naked Now.  He continues about love ... and notes that "When you are inside of great love and great suffering, you have a much stronger possibility of surrendering your ego controls and opening up to the whole field of life."

You may not see waiting for a late bus as "great suffering," but when you can't. reach. the. waffle. fries, believe me, IT IS.  Rohr backs me up: "Suffering opens you in a different way.  Here, things happen against your will — which is what makes it suffering. And over time, you can learn to give up your defended state, again because you have no choice. The situation is what it is," [no bus, no waffle fries] "although we will invariably go through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining," [paying the homeless guy to go buy my fries for an extra dollar and direct eye contact] "resignation, and (hopefully) on to acceptance. ... You can see why we must have a proper attitude toward suffering, because many things every day leave us out of control — even if just a long stoplight."

"Suffering... can lead you in either of two directions: It can make you very bitter and close you down, or it can make you wise, compassionate, and utterly open, either because your heart has been softened, or perhaps because suffering makes you feel like you have nothing more to lose."

Thankfully, this moment of suffering shook me out of my dark night of the ego and reminded me, especially as the bus pulled up, that I am thankful. For a cheap ride home, for the money saved on gas and my lighter carbon footprint that will go to a 4$ bottle of Trader Joe's wine (I'm particularly loving Green Fin California 2010 Red Table Wine, made with organic grapes) and for the people I have the chance to help and talk to and things I get to see by riding public transportation. I directed a lovely couple from Brazil where to get off for the Whiskey a Go-Go, only mis-directing them by one stop, I watched a baker in her white coat carefully disembark the train car bearing a beautiful white cake decorated with elegant, thin silver candles, and a women transporting boxes and bags of floral arrangements and roses in fall colors.

"Nondual thinking is a way of seeing that refuses to eliminate the negative, the problematic, the threatening parts of everything. ... [It] clarifies and sharpens your rational mind and increases your ability to see truthfully because your biases and fears are out of the way." (Rohr)

Pretty much sums up taking public transportation.

(Quotes from "The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See" by Richard Rohr, pp 122-125, 131. )

No comments: