Q. Where would you like to be?
A. In a cooler place.
Q. What wouldn’t be cool about the nice mellow little artistic community in which you live?
A. Ha – you’d know if you lived here. But I’m talking about wanting a cooler temperature, birdbrain.
Q. Grouchy, are we?
A. How would you like to be burning up in 107F degrees?
Q. Is that how hot it is?
A. Not sure. Let me check.
A. Yep. 107 is what it says.
Q. Haven’t you lived in very high temps before? Even higher than 107?
A. Yes on both — in California’s Central Valley. In the San Joaquin Valley in particular, where once it hit 117.
Q. How did that feel?
A. Need I even answer?
Q. Do you think this has something to do with global warming?
A. Well, considering it usually doesn’t top 89 or 90, I would say that’s a strong possibility.
Q. How long will this heat wave go on?
A. Who can say?
Q. How do you feel about it?
A. Well, the heat itself doesn’t feel too bad. It’s the fact that there’s no AC in my apartment, causing me to toss and turn all night. I’m not getting the sleep I need, and my appetite is next to nothing. Sleep paralysis is aggravated, my nerves are on edge, and I’m movin’ kinda slow.
Q. Did that answer my question?
A. Repeat the question.
Q. How do you feel about it? You know, feelings?
A. Well, first of all, I take issue with the current culture’s emphasis on feelings. I could say that I’m a bit irritable from protracted lack of sleep. I could say that I’m a bit on the angry side. But of what value is it to indulge such feelings? Are not feelings only a function of the natural?
Q. The natural?
A. Yes, the natural — as opposed to the spiritual.
Q. Are you dividing yourself into two?
A. Maybe not exactly a division. More of a spectrum or continuum.
Q. What do you mean?
A. The first reaction to anything unpleasant is naturally an unpleasant reaction. In the case just cited, irritability and anger are the initial responses. These are what I call the natural responses. Naturally, one is irritated and slightly peeved about the inconvenient increase in temperature. But the spiritual person is committed to overcoming these natural reactions. After all, what good do they do?
Q. Don’t they inform you of your feelings? Isn’t that good?
A. Certainly it’s good to be aware of your feelings. But it is even better to use that awareness in order to overcome them. This is why Scripture says: “In your anger, do not sin.” (Psalm 4:4, Ephesians 4:26). It is natural to be angry. It is sinful to use that anger in a way that is injurious to self or others.
Q. Do you mean that, as long as you don’t throw a temper tantrum or beat your head against a wall, it’s okay to be angry?
A. Something like that.
Q. But since the weather won’t change for a long time, won’t you be in a constant state of anger?
A. Perhaps. But even that is not sinful, so long as I remain aware of it, and hold it in check.
Q. How is this any different than what your previous teacher said, before you became a Christian, when you were still a Buddhist?
A. Glad you asked. It’s not essentially different. Chogyam Trungpa said: “Emotions are neither to be suppressed nor indulged, but merely acknowledged.”
Q. And your pastor agrees with this?
A. I once heard the very same words come out of his mouth, almost verbatim.
Q. Was he also a Buddhist?
A. No. He is merely a very meditative man.
Q. So you’re saying this is a universal truth that transcends religious differences?
A. I like to think so, yes.
Q. Then why didn’t you remain a Buddhist?
A. In a way, I still am. You might call me a Buddheo-Christian.
Q. But what is the advantage of Christianity?
A. The emphasis in Buddhism is to meditate, gradually expanding consciousness, and finally reaching Enlightenment — sometimes called Awareness or Nirvana. The emphasis in Christianity is in trying to do good things for others, serving others more than your own self, loving God, and loving your neighbor as yourself. One could conceivably do this all one’s life without any particular expansion of consciousness or awareness. Similarly, one could conceivably meditate all alone their entire life, reach the highest state of Awareness, and never help another soul.
Q. Then why meditate at all?
A. Because meditation makes me a more effective Christian, if that’s the spirituality I choose to practice.
Q. Are you “picking and choosing?”
A. Not all. I believe that Buddhists, Muslims, Hindi and all people, whether religious or not, are going to have to appear before the same Christ. In that light, Christianity is not a religion — it’s a Reality. All I am doing is acknowledging that there is value in other spiritual practices.
Q. What’s all this got to do with the weather?
A. The weather spaces me out and makes me go onto long tangents. Since I’m a person who lifelong has been obsessed with religion and spirituality, my tangents are likely to be religious in nature.
Q. Have you been getting your work done today?
A. Why do you ask?
Q. Didn’t you say you were spaced out?
A. I am indeed. It’s getting pretty difficult to function.
Q. What would be the next best move from here?
A. Sleep is most desirable. It’s really been a pretty lousy day.
Q. See me next week?
The Questioner is silent.
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