Like Day and Night
If you are someone who grew up with a Western mindset, then you might likely strive to determine once and for all what is right and what is wrong, so that you can be in the right and can relax.
You know the result of this quest: opinions differ.
We don’t have to look far to see how this dichotomy between good and bad works on us. Social media and news media play us—and prey on us—by presenting events in a hyped-up, dramatic light. It’s easy to be agitated and upset constantly from viewing media. We just want it to stop—“it” being whatever the currently designated evil is.
Things that have nothing to do with me are made my business. I am invited to be outraged by injustice, broken by tragedy, frightened by the actions of others, even terrified by the weather forecast—until the ad break, where I’m assured that with the right beer, a better cellphone, a new car, or a doctor’s prescription, I can be okay again.
Chögyam Trungpa is using the light-and-dark analogy to attempt to explain a difference in perception—but it’s easy to misinterpret what he means.
He does not mean that light and dark are the same thing. Everything does not exist in a monochromatic gray fog where anything goes. Bad acts and good acts do happen, and we can discern the difference.
He also does not mean that light and dark never change. Looked at from high Earth orbit, we see that at any given moment, half the world is in darkness and half is in the light, but each area is continuously moving from one to the other. (Does this sound like Taoism? There’s a reason for that. Chinese Chan Buddhism, the originating tradition of Japanese Zen Buddhism, incorporates much of the older Taoist philosophy.)
The Buddha-Tao mindset invites us to view events in a dispassionate way: suspending judgment, preference, and conditioning, if only for a moment. By doing this, we can see what is happening without a knee-jerk reaction based on prior emotions, favorite ideas, childhood conditioning and beliefs—or on being manipulated by a party line or a media ad campaign.
One of the values I learned growing up was that repairing and restoring a damaged or broken item was preferable to tossing it out and buying something new. It’s also really satisfying to fix things.
I want to share one small aspect of a recent experience I had when I assembled and installed a wall cabinet in our guest bathroom. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go through the whole process!
The story has to do with repairing the wall on which the cabinet was to be mounted. This bathroom had been wallpapered before we owned the home with an attractive, old-style wall covering. Whoever did it knew how to do it right.
Or so I thought. When I removed the towel bar from the wall, I found that the bar had been installed prior to the wallpapering, and instead of removing all the hardware, the installer had just cut around it.
The wall damage had to be fixed, but we no longer have any extra wallpaper with this pattern. Fortunately, some of the wall would be hidden behind a backboard of the new cabinet—so I set out to make some patches. In the hidden area, I located, cut out, and carefully peeled away matching pieces of wallpaper about 1/4" to 3/8" larger than the holes, and I rounded the corners. I then used wallpaper seam adhesive to glue the patches in place. I decided to just cover over the old molly bolts.