gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

the selfie.

on facebook, i decided i should update my profile picture. the one i had on there was really quite fine, all things considered. it was taken with perfect lighting, i was wearing a clean white shirt, my best glasses and i was nicely poodled. but, i'm a few years older now and, like anyone, i want people to accept me for who i am.

i began taking selfies for the new profile picture. unfortunately, once i looked at a few of those, i thought: jeez, maybe it's ok to be accepted for who i was. i mean, what the fark(?) i looked like a combination of uncle morris and aunt phyllis, with a hint of mom and a dash of dad. and they didn't even like each other. i tried adjusting the lighting, the angle, my shirt, my glasses. i combed my hair. i ruffled my hair. it did not go well. unfortunately, i couldn't find the previous picture. it was deleted, gone, like my youth, gone forever. i was left with the reality of the present moment and it felt kinda harsh. so i decided that, until i could get a reasonably presentable current photo, i would simply use a shot of my garden. the problem with using a photo of a shrub as your profile picture, however, is that it's kinda like saying you have the personality of a bush, or the intelligence of a leafy green thing. it just felt wrong.

it was a great relief, therefore, when i recalled the true story, repeated often in india, about a sage by the name of ashtavakra. ashtavakra was pretty ugly. he couldn't stand up straight, couldn't walk properly. he moved slowly and with great trouble. his neck, chest, knees and feet were all deformed. one hand was withered but, on the other hand, he was a highly enlightened being. he had realized something along the way very pure, very freeing.

a nobleman went riding with his entourage one day through the forest near where ashtavakra lived. the nobleman's name was janak, a wealthy, handsome, proud and widely feared man. his procession was stopped because ashtavakra happened to be slowly crossing the path at that precise time. irritated by the delay, janak rode up to the front and ordered ashtavakra to hurry up or be trampled. ashtavakra laughed at that and carried on as best he could. seeing ashtavakra laughing made janak fly into a rage. "you dare to laugh at me!?," he yelled. "of course, because it's laughable," ashtavakra said as he moved ever so slowly forward. janak hollered: "you insolent, ugly creature! i have killed men for less." at that, ashtavakra stopped, turned and smiled disarmingly up at janak. "you are undoubtedly very fearsome, sir, sitting majestically up on your magnificent horse" he said, "but your understanding is as horribly malformed as my body. you cannot destroy that which has no beginning nor any end. think about it."

remembering that old story, of course it occurred to me that if ashtavakra could smile in the face of certain death, i could at least smile into my iphone. and it made a world of difference. "let us always meet each other with a smile," mother teresa is reported to have said. "for a smile is the beginning of love." 

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