Hello, dreamy friends!
As you know from our frequent conversations, I’m a HUGE lover of Asian philosophy (though I am trying to take off a few pounds). Finding the world’s wisest book, the Tao te Ching, was one of the two good things that came from my naive college decision to major in Chinese, a language for which I have the aptitude of a potato.
The other good thing was my early and continuing exposure to a phenomenon known as Japlish, Chingrish, or Engrish, depending on your source. Recently, I found the meaning of life expressed so concisely in a few words of Engrish that the Tao te Ching now seems overdone by comparison. Allow me to explain.
Engrish for All
On both sides of the Pacific Ocean, humans are busily slapping foreign words on T-shirts, signs, bags, and magazines, with only the vaguest idea what these words actually mean. Asians love the look of certain English words, as we love the look of Asian characters. But we often use these words without quite catching the nuance of native speakers. For example:
Thus it is that early ads selling Coca Cola in China bore characters (chosen by Americans) that were supposed to recommend a refreshing beverage, but actually said “”Bite the Wax Tadpole!” Pepsi, not to be outdone, ran ads trumpeting, “Come alive, you’re in the Pepsi generation!” which really said “Pepsi will make your ancestors come back from the dead.” This made Chinese consumers uneasy in the same way this Chinese sign unnerves Americans:
When I lived in Singapore, I thrilled to daily doses of Chinglish, like the whippy marketing slogans on my favorite brand of toilet paper (“Clean Grape Toilet Tissue: It’s sturdy and tenacious!”) and my South Winds water cooler (“When we hear the voice of the south wind, we always meet with happy chances. Now is the time! Let your hot heart swing with it together! Good luck!”).
After returning from Asia, I missed all the happy chances that made my hot heart swing with it together. But now, thanks to a website called “Engrish.com,” we can all enjoy the fount of wisdom that comes from randomly swapping Asian/English words.
It was on this site that I found the meaning of life stated with such poetic brevity that it took my breath away. Here it is:
This bag is my new scripture, my latest memoir, and my motto for 2010. It is changing my life, and it can change yours too.
My Rife-Changing Resorution
For as long as we’ve known one another, you’ll recall, I’ve made just one New Year’s resolution each year–but I always keep that resolution. Try this only if you cope well with change, because it will make over your life like the Oprah Show on steroids.
For example, my 1990 resolution was not to tell a single lie for the entire year. This immediately cost me the vast majority of my relationships, plus my career, my home, and my religion. The only thing I got back—myself—barely seemed worth it. (But things worked out well. I gradually began to tolerate, then grudgingly accepted myself. Flash forward: myself and I moved in together, and now I just can’t imagine how I got along without myself! We’re, like, practically the same person!)
So this year I couldn’t wait to open my resolution. I started a little early, on my birthday, about six weeks ago.
This year’s resolution? During 2010, I will question any thought that causes me any kind of unpleasant sensation whatsoever.
Now, I’ve been questioning my painful thoughts for years, but until recently there were so many it didn’t even occur to me that I could get rid of ALL of them. It would have been like performing a whole-body electrolysis on Sasquatch. Which could easily happen at this spa in Thailand.
But that’s another story.
My point here is that toward the end of 2009, I noticed my negative thoughts slowing down, thinning out, and becoming more obviously absurd, like the elderly grayhound pictured below. So I decided it was worth attempting to eliminate them entirely.
My recent negative thoughts.
Total Tolerance for No Tolerance
My resolution is basically a “no tolerance” policy for thoughts that caused me to feel trapped in any degree of suffering. (Quick reminder: I believe the fact that a thought causes suffering is evidence it’s false, and that questioning such thoughts until their untruth is obvious clears them out of the mind, thus setting the thinker free.)
Ironically, the most important step in dissolving a thought is to love it unreservedly as if it’s a brand new baby. So my 2010 policy is absolute tolerance of all thoughts for which I have no tolerance. This may sound odd, but as the following masterpiece emphasizes, it’s always a natural and it exists!
So for weeks, I’ve been noticing every negative thought and taking a few minutes to question it lovingly until it dissolves, like Jack Bauer handling a terrorist.
I’ve found that this causes the running verbal commentary in my mind to stop. And in the absence of thinking, just as all those wacky mystics have been telling us for centuries, the simple perception of what is present fills one’s awareness with a strangely vibrant stillness. Truly, my mind is paralyzed, and it is a delightful day! There is…how shall I say…no hullabaloo!
Everything Is Silly
I’d love it if you joined me in my 2010 resolution. But I must warn you: If you decide to question your thoughts, expect to spend more and more of your time laughing. When I completely accept a thought that makes me sad, mad, or scared, it generally starts to seem amusing almost immediately.
For example, when I have a sorrowful thought, I allow it to be by reminding it of this incisive Asian aphorism:
When I’m frightened, I quote to my scared self the riveting, evocative prose from another Japanese handbag:
And when I burn with rage over the malfeasance of other drivers in traffic, the inconsideration of acquaintances, or the whole Tiger Woods thing, I find solace and fellowship by reading this sign from a home in Southeast Asia:
As I regard these testaments to negative human emotions, I realize that my darkest thoughts probably seem equally ridiculous to a state of being that speaks the language of pure presence. I experience anew the powerful truth of impermanence, summed up here so compellingly:
And almost immediately, I am at peace.
For the Love of Truth
I made my “no lies” resolution after a surgery where I encountered the White Light people sometimes describe after near-death experiences. What surprised me most about this overwhelming experience of love and truth was that the White Light and I spent almost all our time together laughing like there was no tomorrow. Because, of course, there really is no tomorrow. There is only now, and even the concept of “tomorrow” is Engrish to anyone who lives outside of time. I think all spiritual masters, human or luminous, find our mental resistance to reality adorably hilarious.
Long ago, Asian philosophy brought me to the idea that our mental stories are the source of suffering. Now I find that dissolving every negative thought really does fill me with jolliness. And if I ever begin to think otherwise, I only need to glance at a trans-Pacific handbag to remind me. May you too, my dreamy friend, have a year made up of delightful days.