Framing experience

I've always loved this barn, which sits in the middle of Crow Valley, on Orcas Island. But what makes this picture especially appealing is the lacy frame around it created by the branches.

... which makes me think of how often our perceptions of people and events are affected by the way we frame the situation -- whether consciously or unconsciously.

I was reading a description this morning in Alan Jones' book, Soul Making, of historian Lytton Strachey, who "stood for the virtues of tolerance, enlightenment and humanity," and yet, operating out of a hypersensitive awareness of his own failure, insignificance and isolation, he persisted in poisoning the world around him, and operating out of "a scathing contempt for the mass of humankind -- the ugly, the boring, the stupid, the ambitious, the powerful and the ordinary."

Clearly the frame through which Strachey viewed the world was not this idyllic embrace of graceful trees but rather the desert of his own perceived emptiness.  And how often do we see that -- high-minded people with admirable standards viewing the world (and presumably themselves as well) with utter contempt.  It's the ultimate curse of perfectionism, and cripples not just the viewer but those around him who attempt to show love and affection.

... and now I'm thinking of a video of the Dalai Lama which my daughter sent me this morning (warning; there's a lot of advertising on the page).  In it he explains that he is not enlightened, and that he gets angry -- in short, that he is not perfect.  And the look on his face as he says it is so kind, so compassionate, so filled with generosity and humor that it is absolutely irresistible. In fact, it looks remarkably like enlightenment, even if he claims it is not.

And what would make him more enlightened?  Practice, he says.  He just doesn't have enough time to practice.  But something tells me he has other ways of practicing -- and one of them has to do with how he frames his experiences.  We may not be able to meditate as much as we like.  But we can choose, with the Dalai Lama, to view the world more kindly; to accept our own and others' failings with generosity, curiosity, acceptance and affection.

I'm not there yet.  But I'm working on it...


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