DHARMA AND THE MODERN WORLD: News from a Buddhist Perspective
I’ve always loved contemplating cause and effect. Well, on the gross level, that is. I love to look at my life thus far and marvel at how one thing inexorably leads to another, how – when put in motion – events and even the course of entire lives tend to take on a momentum of their own. I like using the teachings to examine strings of occurrences even more deeply, taking into consideration yummy intangibles like emotion, intention, motivation, perception – not to mention those all-important karmic tendencies that whisk us through every moment.
I find that the very best teachings are often found in odd places – movies, the news, overheard conversations, the mutterings of a “crazy” person on the bus. So it was with particular pleasure that I happened across three commercials recently put out by DIRECTV, a satellite TV company.
Each commercial begins with an ordinary moment in an ordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. That ordinary moment leads to another, which leads to another. Suddenly and seemingly inexplicably, the ordinary guy finds himself in a strangely uncomfortable situation, one that would have been avoided, of course, if he’d only had DIRECTV. The commercials are brilliantly conceived and funny little films. And each one is a profound meditation, not only on cause and effect, but on what happens when we succumb to anger.
Remember the meditation on how expressing anger never solves our problems, but only makes things worse?
And the one about how no one likes to be around someone who is angry, how it makes you ugly and ultimately lonely?
At least the guy started taking in stray animals. There has to be some positive outcome there, right?
And has anyone else read Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teaching on parenting? The one where he says, “Children … should be educated in a good heart and tolerance, to have compassion and be kind to others. Otherwise, it is like giving birth to the children to suffer. The children will have a life full of suffering, and they will also cause so much suffering, torture to their parents, and also to other people.” Well, DIRECTV has that covered, too!
Of course, even non-Buddhists know that getting DIRECTV is not going to prevent life’s difficulties from heading their way. As spiritual practitioners, we know happiness absolutely cannot come from the outside, from giving up our cable company or acquiring an iPhone 4S. Sometimes popular culture needs a little editing. So we press our mental delete key and give these ads a new tag line: “Get rid of anger and upgrade to wisdom and love.” And that perhaps is the most compelling (hidden) message these commercials convey, that even one moment of patience, of humorous tolerance, of compassion, can truly change the course of our entire lives.
Sarah Shifferd is a freelance writer, editor and movie subtitler. She lives in the often bizarre and continually enlightening world of Portland, Oregon.Tags: popular culture, sarah shifferd