Thursday, February 07, 2019

Sprituality and the Speaker of Bad Words

Last year for a while I was reading about Buddhism. I had a couple of short books on it loaded into my phone and I read them on the subway. There was a lot about it that I found appealing. I've never been particularly religious, and Buddhism did not seem to make the kind of demands, other religions did. You remember the Laura Nyro line?

I swear there ain't no heaven, but I pray there ain't no hell.

I've never been comfortable with the notion that everyone from my religion was bound for paradise, while everyone from yours was bound for fire and brimstone. (And no, I'm not comfortable with you going to heaven and me getting the fire either.) Buddhism didn't seem to make that threat. One point for Buddhism.

Honestly, I don't remember much of what I was reading or why I was interested. But one of my colleagues, who is Buddhist, told me I was on the wrong track.

"You use too much bad language," she told me.

I was pretty surprised at that. It was true I'd used bad language, and it was true I used it while speaking with her. She'd never complained. If she had, I would have stopped. I don't use language like that in the classroom, and I don't use it with people who object to it. Nonetheless, I find it kind of expressive, and it's my go to when I think it works.

I read somewhere that people who use bad language are more honest than people who don't. Now people like me, who use this language, are inclined to immediately believe stories like that. Is it true? I'm not sure. But I don't have what you call a poker face. I'm probably not the best person for intricate negotiation, because if you come up with a notion I deem ridiculous, I'm likely to just answer with one word, and it won't be a nice one.

I have a lot more patience for kids. It's kind of my job to let them know better, and show them how to be better. I speak to them a lot more carefully than I do to adults, in general. That's not always a good thing. But my Buddhist friend had never even given me an inkling. In fact, I'm still not completely sure that she personally objected to my disgusting language. We got along very well before having that conversation, and we still do now, at least as far as I can tell.

"What about Ms. X?" I asked her.

"What about her?" my friend replied.

"She uses language at least as bad as I do, and she's a Buddhist."

"That's different," my friend said, with a tone suggesting that was the end of our conversation.

I haven't pursued it further. I wonder if you get a pass for being born Buddhist. I'm pretty sure nothing in any of the books I read said you had to refrain from using bad language to be a Buddhist. I wonder what Siddhartha said when Kamala was bitten by the snake. I'll bet it wasn't, "Oh popcorn balls." or "Oopzie." I know what I'd have said. Of course we have 911, and ambulances, and hospitals, so things are different.

I'm not sure whether or not I'll pursue this much further. But one of these days I'm gonna get a second opinion on this language issue.
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