I have been meaning to tell this story for a long time but I never could find the time to write it down. It is just one of my many observations of human beings which I find completely astonishing and unbelievable. Recently, I was at a seminar with a couple of ladies. Now after the seminar, we all decided to grab lunch together but before that, I had managed to pick up some books. A couple of the books were from this author while a couple of others were from other religious teachings including Christianity. Now, after picking up these books, I went straight to lunch so I did not have time to buy a bag or anything to put them in. I had just my laptop and these mountain of books. I figured I'd eat first before solving that problem. Hence, the books were on the table when I started my lunch. None of the other women noticed my books and especially not Lydia who sat beside me.
Now, half way into our lunch, a very dishevelled looking guy stopped in front of our table and just seemed to be staring. The other ladies of course immediately started holding unto their bags and making sure all their properties were accounted for. I don't blame them though cos this guy would not be the sort they would feel comfortable with. He had long unwashed hair, flared pants, and some tired looking shirt. I knew it was the books that had attracted him and from the beads on his neck, I reckoned he was a Buddhist.
Finally, he decides to speak and comes to my side of the table. Again, these women shift further away and are giving each other "eye signs". Apparently, we were now all in a very dangerous situation. Anyway, this guy asks me if I am a Buddhist, I say no, I am just reading the books because I enjoy them. He says he has never read any of the books but he is interested cos he belongs to that particular Buddhism path (or however it is called). He asks me if he can sit next to me and look through the books. By this time, all the women are shaking their heads and their eyes are getting rounder. I say yes of course, he can look through them. As he sits down, the ladies automatically shift further down the table. God forbid any of them should be caught dead in the company of such a man!
Anyway, this guy and I get into some deep conversations cos he notices the other religious books as well. Turns out he studies theology and is writing his thesis on "suffering and pain" or something like that. Hello! If there is anybody that has theories on "suffering and pain", it has to be me. We get into all sorts of theories and it is at this time and he starts explaining some of the things he is writing about and of course mentions a bit about Buddhism. Now, at this point, Lydia finally gets it that he is Buddhist (praise Jehovah!). She jumps in the conversation and here below, is the conversation as much as I remember it.
Lydia: Oh, so you are a Buddhist?
Lydia: Oh, I was thinking of starting Buddhism, where do you think I can start?
Buddhist: ehhhh, it depends...you know there are different ways and you have to find the right one for you...
Lydia: But which one would you recommend? I was thinking of going for the trade fair coming up (yes, that's right, there is actually a fair for Buddhism)
Buddhist: Well, I don't know if I can "recommend" anyone, but I am meeting up with a couple of friends at "so and so" cafe, there are all from different Buddhist paths...you are very welcome to come along.
Lydia: But this fair...its going to be on the 27th...I think I'll go there.
Buddhist(totally not getting it): Yeah, so maybe you'll get a feeling of what is it all about. Its by 6 o'clock. I could give you my phone number if you want to come.
Lydia: I was thinking I 'll just go to this fair, you know, look around.
By now, I see that the poor man is totally confused, so I decide to jump in and save both of them from further suffering.
Waffy: I am gonna go there as well, I want to buy some more books, we could go there together if you like.
Lydia: Because at the trade fair there would be different types so maybe I'll find one I can start with.
Buddhist: Well, here is my number if you decide to come anyway...or anything you want.
Very awkward moment as Lydia has now decided to move away...obviously she ain't giving her number to this man.
Waffy: Oh great!...yeah, here is mine as well...in case you ever want to discuss books or whatever.
We exchange numbers and say our good byes.
Lydia: About the trade fair. This is very personal for me, you know, its a journey I must take alone.
(IN A FUCKING TRADE FAIR!!!! GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK!)
Waffy: Oh, I really don't care. It's "whatever" for me.
Lydia: I just want you to know that I am a very social person, I mean I do love going out with people, but this is just so personal...
Waffy (interrupting): No, no. You don't need to explain. I really really do not care.
My point: This is something people do all the time, everybody is looking for something. People will take the time to go to the church every Sunday, or mosque, or in the case of this woman, a trade fair. Everybody is looking for a way. People are ready to read books, sing hymns, chant prayers, we can do all the superficial that can confirm that we are actually finding our paths. Yet, when it comes to the extremely simple things in life, like sitting next to someone that is not dressed as you think is "proper", or shaking hands with someone that does not seem "clean" enough, lo and behold, it becomes impossible. Yet, come Sunday or Friday, you will enter traffic and struggle your way to where ever it is you are going to confirm once again, that you are on the right path.
Oh, another point. It always baffles me when people have opportunities to learn and they can not see it. I have seen many people wave away golden opportunities to learn something new because they are too focused on something else. I guarantee you that Lydia would have learnt much more about Buddhism in two hours from hanging out with them than she would if she spent three days in a trade fair.