Sunday, May 22, 2011

GPS Mind

Our four-part discussion series "Buddhist Christians?" wound up today. Nominally based on Paul Knitter's Without Buddha I Couldn't Be a Christian (which not many people had a chance to read) it ended up being a more informal experience-sharing thing. While knowledge about Buddhist traditions is pretty thin on the ground, it turns out a good number of people have some significant experience with meditation or contemplation - and that's the kind of experience they're interested in, not my wonky questions about American lay Buddhism, dual religious belonging, etc. (though they were intrigued by what I described somewhat ambitiously as the "new normal" of exposure to and participation in multiple traditions)! I'm cool with that. How cool? Our discussions gave me an image for it. Jewish-Buddhist teacher-psychoanalyst Sophie Boorstein, interviewed on my old fave Krista Tippett explored the spiritual lessons in a car's GPS system:

Boorstein: I've never said it in a public audience, but I just thought about it recently. I decided that — I'll find out soon if this is a good analogy — but I was thinking about the GPS in my car. It never gets annoyed at me. If I make a mistake, it says, "Recalculating." And then it tells me to make the soonest left turn and go back. I thought to myself, you know, I should write a book and call it "Recalculating" because I think that that's what we're doing all the time.

If something happens, it challenges us and the challenge is, OK, so do you want to get mad now? You could get mad, you could go home, you could make some phone calls, you could tell a few people you can't believe what this person said or that person said. Indignation is tremendously seductive, you know, and to share with other people on the telephone and all that. So to not do it and to say, wait a minute, apropos of you said before, wise effort to say to yourself, wait a minute, this is not the right road. Literally, this is not the right road. There's a fork in the road here. I could become indignant, I could flame up this flame of negativity or I could say, "Recalculating." I'll just go back here.

Tippett: So this is an example of technology instilling us with spiritual discipline — we find so much to criticize.

Boorstein: And no matter how many times I don't make that turn, it will continue to say, "Recalculating." The tone of voice will stay the same.

Tippett: That's good. I think it's a good analogy.

No comments: