Lately I’ve been aware of, thinking about, noticing the fact that so often when I open my mouth I am spouting opinions. I hadn’t particularly thought of myself as opinionated, before, but now I think I am very opinionated. And I don’t even have to have thought about an issue before — hell, I don’t even have to have heard of it before, I will instantly have an opinion.
Opinions, “things I hate,” “things I adore,” “things that are outrageous!” Lots of categories of opinions. It makes me wonder, though, what I mean by opinion. Is a preference an opinion? I think so . . . is it? Here are some definitions:
- a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge
- an estimation of the quality or worth of someone or something
- a personal view, attitude, or appraisal
I have a favorite nine-word phrase! Do you? Mine is from Ulysses: “the heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.” That rolls around in my mind like a loose marble, always echoing. And then that line connects to my favorite poetic description of evening:
Evening (Rainer Maria Rilke)
The sky puts on the darkening blue coat
held for it by a row of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands grow distant in your sight,
one journeying to heaven, one that falls;
and leave you, not at home in either one,
not quite so still and dark as the darkened houses,
not calling to eternity with the passion
of what becomes a star each night, and rises;
and leave you (inexpressibly to unravel)
your life, with its immensity and fear,
so that, now bounded, now immeasurable,
it is alternately stone in you and star.
I could go on and on, one preference/opinion connecting to the next, to the next. My favorite cities: Hanoi, Luang Prabang, Ubud, Cusco. My favorite countries to visit: Vietnam, Laos, Bali. My favorite month: May. My favorite sound: baby laughs. My favorite spot: my sweet little home in Austin. My favorite drink: my coffee early in the morning. My favorite this my favorite that I am full of opinions.
Perhaps I’m thinking about it so much because I’m spending so much time with Marc — just over a month, now — and he is an advanced student of Buddhism. He takes classes every week and attends workshops and weekly meditation meetings. So the whole idea of attachment / not attaching is in the air around him, and I realized he doesn’t state opinions all day. There are aspects of that position that I struggle with and disagree with, but I don’t want to throw the whole idea away. So I’m thinking about this opinion thing. Keeping them to myself isn’t the solution — it’s less about saying them and more about the question of having so many of them. (However, I think my most common experience is to have constantly growing categories instead of points. A growing list of favorite cities instead of a favorite city, for instance. An increasing number of “our best trips ever” instead of a revolving point.) (Somehow I think this makes it OK.) (Though I’m not sure what’s bad about having opinions, as long as you aren’t using them to hurt other people.)
Are you this way too? I’m hoping you are. Please say you are.
I’ll leave this post with some sayings from a Jewish Buddhist — Marc is a Jewish Buddhist (a JewBu, as they’re called), but not as funny as this:
Be here now.
Be someplace else later.
Is that so complicated?
Drink tea and nourish life;
with the first sip, joy;
with the second sip, satisfaction;
with the third sip, peace;
with the fourth, a Danish.
Wherever you go, there you are.
Your luggage is another story.
If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
Accept misfortune as a blessing.
Do not wish for perfect health, or a life without problems.
What would you talk about?
The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Oy.
There is no escaping karma.
In a previous life,
you never called,
you never wrote,
you never visited.
And whose fault was that?
Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
The Tao does not speak.
The Tao does not blame.
The Tao does not take sides.
The Tao has no expectations.
The Tao demands nothing of others.
The Tao is not Jewish.
Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.
Let your mind be as a floating cloud.
Let your stillness be as a wooded glen.
And sit up straight.
You’ll never meet the Buddha with such rounded shoulders.
Deep inside you are ten thousand flowers.
Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.
Each blossom has ten thousand petals.
You might want to see a specialist.
Be aware of your body.
Be aware of your perceptions.
Keep in mind that not every physical sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.
The Torah says,
Love your neighbor as yourself.
The Buddha says,
There is no self.
So, maybe we’re off the hook.