My friend Mendi gave me a book by the Dalai Lama for my birthday. It has a color picture of him on the cover. The words are by him, all right. I started reading, I was sailing along at a nice clip. I got to some lines about family and friends and what they are good for, and did I tell you about the fistfight I got into last night?
Yes, I did. I got into a fistfight. I was standing on the Lido Deck of the Carnival Cruise Ship, Dream, and we were about to make landfall in Cozumel. It was right after dinner, and my kids and my husband had gone back to the cabin to watch Star Wars. I was just standing there, taking the lovely evening in, looking at the way the purplish clouds collided with each other over the water. I was contemplating this bit of heavenly beauty and smoking a cigar.
And then who do you know but that PTA president, Norman Mailer, came over and wanted to talk, and as part of our discourse he insulted my manhood, so I slugged him, and we started to tussle. But then, as I was lying flat on my back with blood in my mouth, I looked up at the stars from the deck of the ship which was rocking me gently as in a cradle, and I forgave him. And then he got up and I got up and we went over to the railing and spit out our separate and personal bloods. And then we hugged, and I am not ashamed to say I cried a little.
Here’s a line I read in the book by the Dalai Lama: “…I don’t think that family and friends can ultimately provide the true inner happiness we seek.” (A Profound Mind, Cultivating Wisdom in Everyday Life by The Dalai Lama, p. 14).
It’s one thing to recognize the truth, but it’s quite another to know what to do with it. For example, I know it is not a good idea for me to continue getting into fistfights with Norman Mailer, or anyone else on the PTA. But ladies and gentlemen, I am sure you can agree that it is very hard to just sit there when someone insults your manhood. I mean, I don’t know about you, but what am I made of, clouds? Stars? No. I am flesh and blood. I am typing this story as I sit on my couch eating a turkey sandwich.
Here are some facts: humans are organized so that they emerge out of other humans. And when you come out of another human, you tend to have a powerful relationship with that human. Sometimes the human you come out of can be a monster, and sometimes it can be enraging to realize you will never get what you want from your monster. Sometimes you can become enchanted with your rage about this situation, and spend years seeing your monster in other people, and you can live always and forever sitting on your couch, typing, at the same time that you are always and forever standing on the deck of the cruise ship, Dream.
I really have no wisdom to offer for this predicament. What I can tell you is that I sat down to the buffet breakfast with Norman Mailer the morning after our fight. I was there with my kids and my husband, and I was cutting my daughter’s pancakes into little bites. My mouth was still a bit swollen. My husband and kids and I planned to spend the day at the pool. And Norman Mailer told me that I was swell, and asked me if I wanted to play some poker later. And then I told him that I was a woman seeking inner happiness, and I asked him if he had any ideas on how to get it. And he flipped me the bird as he walked away and I didn’t see him again after that.