I saw the Dalai Lama speak earlier this week. It was entrancing. He is entrancing. There’s a spell he weaves with his presence (I think it’s because he’s one of the few living humans who just does It All right. My theory.), and I sat for four hours, listening to him talk in broken English just to feel a bit of that presence. He makes me want to try harder to be a better person. Halfway through his speech, I found myself thinking “The Dalai Lama is a lot like Bill Cosby. And toddlers.”
Where I’m coming from: I dislike organized religion. Intensely. That’s important to know about me. It’s important for me to say if only because I feel most of the time like I’m supposed to choke down that opinion, since it makes people uncomfortable. And of the many things I’m supposed to be/do in this society as a nondescript white girl, I’m never supposed to purposefully make anyone uncomfortable. I’m getting over that as I get older, but it’s slow going.
A few years ago, I went to see Bill Cosby perform stand up. I was excited! I’d watched Bill Cosby as a kid, doing his stand up and his show. I LOVE Bill Cosby, and think he’s hilarious. So seeing him live was amazing. But when he first came out on the stage, he opened his show by requesting that everyone stop and pray for the troops that were currently in the early years’ of harm’s way in Iraq. And then he knelt down on the stage to lead a prayer. Now, I enjoy being told to pray about as much as I enjoy wearing a wool sweater stuffed with crabs. Crabs that have rabies. But the sheer presence and dignity of the man himself, the gravity of the person that is Bill Cosby, was so great and dignified and sincere, that when he says he’s going to open his stand-up comedy show in prayer…well, you shut your damn eyes and you pray right along with him. Because he’s a moral force you can’t ignore. His request was sincere in a way that I’m just not used to encountering. So we prayed. All couple thousand of us. And then Bill Cosby made us laugh our asses off for two hours.
There are some things you just do because the force of the person/event is so strong that it points to something higher and bigger than it could possibly be on its own. And there are some things that are more powerful than the sum of their parts can make them. Personally, I think things/events/people that come from a place of pure Truth have this moral force, and they are so rare that encountering them in daily life is almost paralyzing. Certainly it stops you in your tracks. I can count on one hand the number of times in my life that I’ve been in the presence of that type of Truth. Bill Cosby was one, the two times I’ve seen the Dalai Lama was two and three. The other one was hard to describe because it was a feeling in a moment, unattached to any event or person. Just a small whisper from something with no Voice.
Cause there are just some things in life that you do because there is absolutely nothing else you can do. When Bill Cosby asks you to pray with him, you pray. When the Dalai Lama talks about working to make the 21st century different than the 20th century, you re-think your purpose. And when a toddler hands you a ringing toy phone, you answer it. It’s just what you do.
P.S. The next post will have more details about what the Dalai Lama actually said. For now, let’s just leave it at “He was a paralyzing moral force.” I like that description. It fits.