The Rules of Life

I sat in Boston Pizza yesterday afternoon, watching the women’s final of the US Open tennis tournament. The sound was off.

Naomi Osaka was playing beautifully and Serena Williams, probably the best female player in history, was struggling to keep up. At one point, Serena started gesturing at the umpire. It looked like she was yelling at him. Then she smashed her racquet onto the court, breaking it. More gestures, including finger pointing. More yelling. Two more officials walking onto the court to talk to Serena. Then she was crying.

What was happening here? I wished I could hear.

Naomi won the match and both players were crying at the awards ceremony. Virtually no smiles from the victor.

Only later could I piece it all together:

1. Carlos Ramos, the umpire, gave Serena a warning when he saw her coach giving her advice from the stands, using gestures. Coaching during a match is not allowed.

2. Serena complained to the umpire with words and gestures.

3. After losing a game to Naomi, Serena broke her racquet, also a violation. A second violation means that the player is assessed a one-point penalty. Carlos did that. (For those of you unfamiliar with tennis, a point is sort of one quarter of a game. You need to win six games to win a set. And usually a match is the best two of three sets.)

4. Serena continued to complain to the umpire. She called him a “liar” and a “thief” and said that he’d never again referee a match of hers. Carlos, again according to the rules, gave Serena a third violation, this one for “verbal abuse”. A third infraction comes with a one-game penalty, which is clearly far more important than a one-point one.

So … what to make of all this? Here’s my take on it:

In any human endeavour, there are rules to encourage appropriate behaviour and to penalize inappropriate acts. For life to work, these rules need to be applied to everyone, regardless of their status, wealth, gender, age, personality, or any other variable you can think of. The act determines the consequences, not the person performing the act.

If someone thinks that a rule is unfair, he or she needs to work through a democratic process to get the rule changed. In the present moment, the current rule stands.

In the tennis world, Carlos is known as a “stickler” for the rules. That term is often seen as derogatory. To me, though, it feels like a commitment to the truth, and should be applauded.

Do we want a society where it’s okay to berate each other, to cast aspersions on the integrity of another, to use one’s power to make inappropriate things happen? Well … I sure don’t want that.

Standing On Guard For Thee

On Wednesday, a terrorist killed a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa and then walked into Canada’s Houses of Parliament. He engaged in a shooting battle with security guards and was killed while standing only one door away from federal politicians.

Kevin Vickers is the person responsible for order in the House of Commons. He wears ceremonial robes and carries a large golden sceptre into the Commons as proceedings begin.  Many people see his role as a symbol of the past, as an example of unnecessary ritual.  Kevin shot and killed the intruder.

What should a good person do when faced with evil?  What would I have done?  “Thou shalt not kill.”  “Do not harm any living being.”  The calls of Christianity and Buddhism are clear.  And yet …

Kevin is a good man.  As his niece Erin expresses it, “He’s a thoughtful and considerate person.  He’s halfway to a saint in my opinion.  He’s a very capable human being.”  Clearly.  And he had never shot anyone before Wednesday.

I like to think that I would have shot that man as well.  That, in order to save the lives of others, I would have been willing to live the rest of my life knowing that I had killed.  And willing to grapple with the daily emotional pain.

I see sporadically that I’m on the planet not to become a better person, not to accumulate experiences, not to be smart and witty and rich.  I am here to serve and love.

Why Am I Doing This?

I drink Gatorade on my cycling excursions, and I’m an equal opportunity guzzler – blue, green and orange.  A couple of weeks ago, I looked in the orange container and there wasn’t even a scoopful left.  So I poured the bits into the blue.  Before my next ride, I tried to get as much of the orange pieces into the scoop as I could.  Same on the ride after that.  Lately, though, I’ve been taking a teaspoon and picking out the orange grains and dropping them into the scoop, unavoidably accompanied by some blue.

Today I was like a surgeon, moving aside the blue stuff with the teaspoon and getting every orange granule that I could lay my eyes on.  It took me about fifteen minutes to fill that scoop.

So the question:  What am I doing and why am I doing it?  And then it came to me:  I am purifying the blue container as a symbol of purifying myself.  All this time I’d spent and the true meaning of it was just under the surface of my awareness.

So what else do I do as an expression of Spirit?  And not doing it as a way to get something or arrive somewhere, but as a way to deepen what is already inside of me.  Here are a few of my idiotsyncrasies (Jody’s word):

1.  I replace burnt out lightbulbs quickly.  (Having my light and others’ shine)

2.  A small statue of the Buddha sits on the hassock near my man chair.  I turn it so that my friend is looking directly at me.  (Making contact with people, a timeless kind of contact)

3.  When I turn on my laptop, a little sign appears in the bottom right corner of the screen once things are booted up, announcing that I’m connected to the Internet.  I watch that sign until it gradually fades away to nothing.  (All things – good, bad and indifferent – must pass)

4.  We have a ceiling fan in the kitchen.  When I pull the cord to shut it off, I watch the blades turn … slower and slower … until they finally stop.  (I will die.  The body that is Bruce will weaken gradually and someday come to a halt)

5.  I could use a wall switch to turn off the ceiling fan but I prefer the pull cord.  (I am drawn to ancient rhythms rather than modern conveniences.  But I still use light switches!)

6.  I sometimes take my right hand and draw it to the right, palm up, and hold it there for a few seconds.  (In moments of spiritual awareness.  And the palm is up to open and connect)

7.  I park Hugo and Scarlet facing in to the space.  (I want to be with whatever’s next, rather than turning away from it)

8.  When I’m doing walking meditation at IMS on the circular drive, I walk right in the middle of the road, and step aside if someone is approaching me on the same line  (To be balanced in life.  And to yield to others rather than pressing forward)

9.  I place the coffee mugs on the shelf right side up instead of upside down. (So they’re open to the world, not insulated from it)

10.  I stand with my arms falling loosely by my sides.  (So the energy will flow)


I haven’t put all this on video yet
Maybe someday soon in a theatre near you