Friday, April 17, 2009

learning from Susan Boyle

I'm sure every talking head and public intellectual has taken a swing at this, but I'm on a pure positivity kick, and so here's what I think. It has nothing whatever to do with India directly, so you can ask for your money back if you want. Maybe there will be some non-germane gratuitous India pictures in the mix.

I think the reason everyone loves this is that we are all, on the inside, just a little bit, Susan Boyle. Hers is sort of the grown-up version of 'some day my real parents will come and take me back to their castle.' I know that I secretly believe that I am, perhaps in some way I don't know yet, secretly and deeply wonderful, and I think most other people do too. We hope that somehow, some day, some one will realize that. Better yet, maybe several thousand someones will realize it all at once. But we know that we probably don't have the courage to go find out if we've really got it in whatever it takes.

Lesson 1--you probably are wonderful.
Lesson 2--go find out, even if you're afraid.

Another thing that's really delightful, and really different, is the absolute anti-schadenfreude that is sweeping over millions of people. Are we not all just purely and unselfishly happy for this obviously deserving person? And doesn't that feel good? I've been reading a bunch of Sanskrit, Pali, and Prakrit stuff lately about three kinds of sins: those we commit, those we cause others to commit, and those in whose commission we rejoice. At the same time, there is a virtue and an exercise called rejoicing in the merit of others. (See my no doubt brilliant forthcoming dissertation, but don't hold your breath. The more I write of chapter two, the longer it looks like it's going to need to be.)

Lesson 3--Go be happy for someone else.

And if we combine lessons 1-3, go find out about someone else's wonderfulness, notice it, tell them, and be happy for them. Encourage its development.

Gratuitous picture of Indian traffic:
Which brings me to an entirely unrelated point. In the last three days I've lost the keys to the scooter and gotten a flat tire. Caitlin gets the VIP for knowing exactly where to find a locksmith (or nine, since Indian shopkeepers seem to like to be near others of their kind). Two nice young Muslim guys met me at the scooter, and then did the trick that TD did in Great Brain 4: put in a blank key, crank hard, notice where the marks are, file there. Check. Repeat if necessary. The entire operation took about 7 minutes and cost me Rs 400 including two new keys, which is like $8.02 now that the rupee is back under 50 to the dollar (sigh). The puncture (spelled pungk-char in Marathi/Hindi) revealed a tube with six holes and a tire with a serious gap--that is, after I pushed the scooter around most of the neighborhood and large parts of several adjacent ones looking for the 24 hour flat tire shop. Total cost for new (to me, not to the world) tire and tube: Rs 300 installed.

Next, who cares if its over 95 every day, mangoes are in season and are going Rs 30 per KG, that's per 2.2 pounds. And they are SWEET. Maggie is getting really good at filleting them.

Which brings me to my final point. I went to the gym again this morning--have to get there by 6:15 or its counterproductively packed. I stepped on the scale and was a bit perplexed by the results, especially after I got home and plugged 81.7 kgs into the Dashboard converter. 180lbs. That's the most I've ever weighed. I was around 165 in September in Madison. Those of you who remember the 99, 2001, and 2002 returns from India will recall the, um, drawn appearance of the Nag Champion after lengthy tenures in the spiritual motherland. Some of you may recall the Tibetan goat pills for liver malfunction. Back then I was going on $10/day when I was travelling, and under a dollar a day when I was standing still. I was also living mostly in monasteries, and trying to be as veg as I could. Now I have funding. I'm going to call this the Fulbright Fifteen. Of course, I wear it well.

Gratuitous picture of me in the back of a rickshaw holding Ben the electric blanket's head
up while he sleeps on my chest in stockstill rush hour traffic. Mrs. NC really nails this one for Art Photo Of The Week:

OK, one more. Ben and I were playing soccer today, and I was doing the Grandpa George 'Oh, you're too fast for me, I'm so old and tired' schtick. Ben said, 'You're not old,' and I said, 'Oh yeah, what about all this grey hair?'
'You don't have any grey hair!'
'I don't? Look at this.'
'Wow. That's a lot.' Starts heading with the ball towards the wall of the compound that we use for a goal. Over his shoulder, 'That's actually what we call white hair, Dad.'

Tomorrow my new tire and I are taking Caitlin to the last dance practice for Bharat Guides at 6 a.m. WTH, Bharat Guides? Day after tomorrow, we all leave at 7a.m. for the Mumbai airport--MCB to Goa, and myself back to Varanasi for a whirlwind attempt to sort out some paperwork.


Anonymous said...

Excellent lessons. I have to wonder if everyone appreciates the Susan Boyle's in their lives even if they are NOT on nat'l t.v. and don't get recognized? Is it the recognition? The acceptance by Simon? Would we accept her if we saw her on the street? This is the lesson I have taken.
Have a wonderful wonderful time in Goa!! I hope you will blog from there!

Susannah said...

excellent post, brudder. I love you.

Grandpa George said...

Yes, we need feel-good, redemptive stories, particularly in the middle of an economic downturn that unsettles even the most secure.

There is a bit of Rodney Dangerfield in all of us.

Now, I am going to watch it one more time.