Father's Day, Redux
I am not much of a computer-game player - I have to admit that my short foray into video games ended with the Monkey Island franchise (a fact that will allow some of you to work out exactly how old I am).
This week, however, we have been completely engrossed in an online game called Geoguessr. The premise is quite simple - the game drops you into a random place in the world (in Google Street View), and your job is to guess on a world map exactly where you are. You can look, move and zoom around in Street View trying to get clues for where you might be - street names, the writing system, street furniture, web-addresses on store fronts and signs, types of trees - you name it, anything can be a clue. Rounds can be really easy - such as when we were dropped right by the sign for London Bridge - or quite tricky. When we were dropped in the middle of China Town in Manila in the Philippines there were many conflicting clues!
The story we tell ourselves, of course, is that this is an educational game. For instance, over the last week I have learned that:
It is truly amazing that I have arrived at the age I am without knowing any of these facts. Now armed with them my life going forward should be so much easier.
Despite all that, it is not unusual to be able to pinpoint the location to within five feet or so - which is a great feeling - and quite amazing really when you consider the starting point can be anywhere in the world.
One of the things that makes the game so interesting is the fact that you are using real images of the locations. The people you see are real people, living in the very locations you visit. The buildings, cars and garbage bins are all real and are exactly as they were when the Google Car drove past. What is strange is how places can appear both unfamiliar and familiar at the same time. The writing script, the climate and the trees in Indonesia might look very strange to us, but the people, the cats, the bus stops, the auto-repair stores and the direction signs seem much like those at home.
I wrote a couple of years ago about the practice of "Sending to the Ten Directions." This is the final part of the traditional Metta-Bhavana practice where we take the feelings of lovingkindness and goodwill that we have been generating for a small number of specific people and set our intentions to feel and act with lovingkindness to all the people in the world - wherever they are and whoever they are. In doing so we recall that despite any surface differences all beings wish to be happy and well, and we should wish the same for them and treat them in that way.
Playing Geoguessr may not be teaching me an awful lot of practical life skills, but it is wonderful to be able to see those who are living in the Ten Directions, and see where and how they live. And that is something that is valuable to me.
I have linked below a fully-guided meditation on Sending to the Ten Directions. Feel free to use it in whatever way helps you in your practice.
There is a recurring joke that goes around new-age and 'alternative' circles. You may well have seen it, as it is one of those things that gets posted and re-posted on social media, often with the poster claiming it happened to 'a friend of mine' - and who know, it may have. I can totally imagine it happening in real life. Anyway, there are various versions of it, so here is my attempt at a re-telling:
Yesterday I went to our local alternative store looking for a Crystal Ball. I searched among the many different ones they had until I found the perfect one. It was large, about eight inches in diameter and completely clear. I took it to the the older lady behind the desk. She wrapped it carefully and held it towards me. I took hold of it, and before she let go she looked me straight in the eyes.
"Be sure to cover it completely with a cloth when you aren't using it, dearie" she whispered, without letting go of the ball or my gaze.
I trembled. "To... to stop the spirits getting through?" I asked, weakly.
"No dearie - so that your house doesn't burn down if the sun hits it!"
I was thinking about this joke earlier this week as, once again, a version of the story had popped up on my news feed. It reminded me of an equally-apocryphal story that is often told in Buddhist circles. Often it is told as a Zen story, sometimes directly attributed to the Buddha (which is false). The story goes like this:
An elderly Zen master is sitting quietly in the zendo when a group of young monks burst in excitedly. "Roshi, Roshi, come quickly!"
"What is it?" he replies, "what has got you all so excited?"
"Roshi - come down to the river and see - Sensai Ko is walking on the water!"
"And tell me, young sirs, how much does the ferryman charge to take one across the river?"
"Two pennies Roshi, but..."
"Then two pennies is what Sensai Ko's trick is worth!"
I find both these stories funny, and there is something about each of them that makes me think more deeply. In both cases there is the juxtaposition of the magical with the mundane. And in both cases the mundane wins.
I suspect that many of us sometimes wish for something more magical in our experience, wish that we could get some superhuman capability or divine insight that will drive us forward in our path. And, don't get me wrong, sometimes that might happen. But for the most part we have what we have.
One of the most important lessons that I have learned is that I have, right now, everything I need to progress on the path. There is nothing outside of me that I need, and for as long as I spend dreaming or yearning for something else then I am wasting energy and missing the point. What I have right now is enough for right now. And that's what matters.
I have linked below a fully guided meditation on the concept that 'This is Enough.' Feel free to use it in whatever way you feel helps you in your practice.