We all know that famous line uttered by the joker in Dark Knight… “Why so serious?” Personally I found it quite creepy; Heath Ledger really redefined the Joker with that one. But recently I’ve been hearing this phrase used in commercials and jokes and, well, I’ve been hearing it quite alot.
Which is fine. Because…
It is a very good question to ask ourselves.
Personally, when I’m becoming filled with fear or anger, when I feel the muscles in my neck start to tighten, it’s a sign, a clue, a not so subtle hint that I’ve lost sight of reality and fallen into taking thoughts and things (and myself) too seriously. In the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha says to Subhuti:
As a lamp, a cataract, a star in space An illusion, a dewdrop, a bubble A dream, a cloud, a flash of lightning View all created things like this. *
Buddhism is about realizing reality and recognizing or seeing through the illusion of solidity our thoughts deceive us with. How often do we see someone or something as definable and solid. Jim is a man, a jerk, a nice guy, a …. And how often do we fail to realize that that is only our singular perception and is not “Jim” at all. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche used to play a game with his students. He called it the qualities game, and from what I’ve heard, he’d play it into the wee hours of the morning, never tiring of it, even long after his students were begging to end the game. The game essentially was one person leaves the room. The rest of the people decide upon a person, place, or thing. Now the person who left the room re-enters and must ask questions pertaining to the qualities of said person, place or thing ( if this person was a tree, what kind of a tree would they be?) in order to guess what or who the others chose. Trungpa Rinpoche emphasized often to his students that they should relate to the energy presented rather than react to something solid called “Jim.” Of course it can be easy to see when we are pigeon holing someone. It is harder to see when we are pigeon holing an experience or a thought.
What is success? What is failure? What will be my undoing? This can’t happen! I can’t let it happen. It would destroy me. Deviate me from life plan. You have to see me in a certain way. Things have to go in a certain way. I have to be this person. I have to get this job. Seriously.
There is a really fabulous movie I recently watched called INK. Here is a clip from the movie. Let me know if you watch it and are blown away as much as I was.
Slán go fóill
*This translation is from Red Pine’s translation