My Boyfriend Can’t Stop Meditating!

My boyfriend says so he should meditate for one hour every day. Why does this make me so angry? They work in technology, if it’s relevant. – Seeking Knowledge

Dear Seeking,

I think it’s pretty cool. Meditation, on the other hand, is the most selfish, antisocial habit there is—or one of them, at least. (I can think of another self-care routine that some people insist they “must” do every day to stay sane.) Often the goals are unashamedly self-aggrandizing: self-care, sleep-deprivation, skill-building. On the other hand, it is a spiritual discipline whose main goal, traditionally, is the death of the ego, selfishness, and the enlightenment of the whole world. The opposites collect. It is not surprising that meditation is very popular in technology, companies whose efforts to expand the market often go through utopian language about unifying the world, eliminating human borders, and making the lives of all people the greatest.

I’m not saying you should tell him this, of course. If your boyfriend is very far along his path to enlightenment (may God help him), he will likely show that such “contradictions” are really paradoxes, koans, the highest spiritual truth. The dual mind is filled with either/or thinking, you see, the kind of dual mind that cannot yet see that higher plane where all the 0’s are simultaneously 1’s and the apparent illusion creates a coherent Truth. I’m sure you’ve received this lesson before, and as boring as it is, you can’t go wrong. We spend so much of our lives trying to fix the logical conflicts and contradictions that make our world meaningful in the first place. The thorn is essential to the beauty of the flower. The bug is actually a form. The faults of our loved ones cannot be separated, in the end, from their strengths.

All of this is to say: Be thankful that your boyfriend hasn’t changed so much that he avoids all disagreements. The only thing more infuriating than human conflict is someone who has won.

Why is it that when my friend asks me to take a picture it’s fine, but when my dear mother does it I want to scream? – Brett

This question may be above my pay grade, Brat. A psychologist will tell you that every image is a container – the artist is trying to contain, capture, not move – and that the most happy women have the image of the Oedipal mother, who is trying to swallow her own children. Maybe your hatred comes from your obsession with the camera and the mother’s gaze, the ever-present eye that threatens to destroy your mind. Or maybe violent cartoon language (to shoot, to catch) evokes, at some unconscious level, a subtle attack on the mother-child relationship that must be suppressed in order to maintain family life.

You may not find these explanations convincing. I don’t either. The truth is, I could probably name countless things—asking about your day, checking on your health, buying gifts you didn’t ask for—that operate on the same double standard: good as a friend, annoying as a parent. The problem has nothing to do with the pictures and everything to do with the approach. It’s easy to be angry with your mother because she is your mother, who loves you and supports you in all her endeavors, whose goal is to be more attentive to your needs and to care about what makes you angry. It’s easy to forget that he’s also a self-contained person who may be entering the second half of his life and is just trying to document, in some small way, the fleeting moments of happiness that seem to quickly pass each year.

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