Laughing Buddha’s travels

To: The Chief Gaslighter

It’s been a while, for sure, so it’s super unlikely that you’d remember that in addition to ceramic Cranky Buddha Baby, plastic Green Glow in the Dark Buddha, and inherited Ivory (sadly) Buddha, we have wooden “Laughing Buddha.” Laughing Buddha stands about 12 inches tall from his toes to his outstretched fingertips and he really looks like he’s got a belly laugh going.

Well, on one of the many trips upstairs to my “office” yesterday, I noticed that Laughing Buddha’s heels were hanging over the edge of the open shelving lining the stairwell. He’s normally situated several inches in from the edge but apparently the copious jackhammering that’s been going on out front for weeks (and will be going on for months longer) caused him to shimmy about four inches north. He wasn’t in any real danger of toppling off backwards, at least not yet. Still, it was disconcerting to see his little self hanging over the edge and not where he should be – safe and sound away from the damn edge. I did double-check and all the glass jars full of beach rocks and shells haven’t moved like that (they’re much heavier), but once the jackhammering is directly in front of the house, we’re probably going to have to batten down the hatches.

Things are like that, aren’t they? When the world starts shaking and trembling (literally or politically), the heavier, more stalwart stuff tends to stay put or at least not move perceptibly, but the lighter, more fragile stuff can’t help but respond in ways that are visible and that indicate some impact. That said, it’s fair to ask whether I would have noticed if Laughing Buddha had happened to migrate four inches to the south, more towards the center of the shelf instead of the four inches north that put his heels over the edge? In all honesty, no, I wouldn’t have. I’m positive that it took seeing his heels backed off over the edge to get my attention. Of course had he gone the other way, he might have eventually shimmied forward enough that it was his toes that were hanging off and then yes, I would notice that – I hope.

The other observation to wring from this analogy is that there actually hasn’t been active jackhammering out there for several days (they’re more in dirt moving-mode right now) so Laughing Buddha’s heels were almost certainly hanging off the shelf for quite some time, which means I walked by him dozens (and dozens) of times without noticing his newly more precarious state. This is also how things are, aren’t they? When things change subtly and aren’t directly impacting us (and even sometimes when they are), we don’t tend to notice. Super concretely, Laughing Buddha wasn’t in imminent danger of falling on my toes or whatever and since I don’t scan for the position of all house stuff all the time, I didn’t notice what was happening. To be clear, I don’t think I should be scanning everything all the time, but it’s disconcerting that I walked right by bunches of time and didn’t see what was happening.

You know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Even though it’s a double or triple stretch, I actually think it’s pretty cool that it was Laughing Buddha who got my attention on this whole deal about being awake to subtle changing conditions that if left unaddressed, could lead to bad outcomes – for somebody. Lately it seems like there’s been nothing subtle about much of anything with all the horrible-in-our-faces-all-the-damn-time political, health, economic, racial, gender, and environmental happenings that comprise 2020 so I’m afraid there’s not been much bandwidth left for all the less urgent, hair-not-on-fire stuff or for the scary shit that’s outside our view (catastrophically melting glaciers, for example).

But, as I think all the Buddhas would have us remember: we ignore the creeping rot at our peril.

May we be safe and pull our democracy away from the edge.
May we be willing and able to see what is.
May we have the strength to contend with the obvious, immediate dangers and the subtler, looming ones.
May we accept that this requires staying present.

Tracy Simpson

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