“I remember her saying that a fly is as likely to land on shit as on pie. So she thought everything could be divided into two categories. Either shit or pie.” – Carrie Fisher, Postcards from the Edge
Human beings are creatures of extremes. We prove it everyday from our politics to our religion, from how much we eat, drink, sleep, work, and even exercise. Few, if any of us, do things in moderation. We either do too much or not enough. I guess that is simply our human nature.
“Monks, these two extremes ought not to be practiced by one who has gone forth from the household life. There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.
Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana. And what is that Middle Path realized by the Tathagata? It is the Noble Eightfold path, and nothing else, namely: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration”- from The Buddha’s first teaching, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
I am a firm believer in the Middle Way but putting my beliefs into practice can, given our societal pressures, be very difficult. When we see an obese person what do we immediately think, eats too much, drinks too much, and certainly doesn’t exercise enough. How about a very skinny person, doesn’t eat enough, doesn’t drink enough and probably exercises too much.
Think about the people that we work with. When the clock hits 5 pm some are crashing the doors to get out and then there are those who may stay until 6 or 7 pm. We think differently about these people, and their work ethic. We judge them based on one criteria, discounting everything else that might be happening in their lives. The person that leaves at 5 pm has a child to pick-up. For the person that stays until 7 pm, work is their life.
Like our faiths, each person’s Middle Way will look different. My Middle Way may include eating two cheeseburgers instead of three to my wife’s one. Or carrying twenty extra pounds to my cycling buddies no extra pounds. I am okay sitting on the sofa and watching six hours of college football on Saturday, which would drive my Father crazy. But he will spend six hours trying to catch one trout, that he won’t even eat, which would drive me nucking futs.
We are a nation of extremes. These extremes may be easy to see but can and should be very difficult to judge. Certainly we each have our own opinions and images that we fall back on but in the end, my Middle Way will look very different from yours. Judge for yourself, I am sure we all will.
Yes, life may seem like either “shit or pie” at times. And the one thing I am certain about is they both taste and smell differently so it should be pretty easy to recognize where you are standing. But you can’t have one without the other, life is like that. It just isn’t feasible. Living is about ups and downs, highs and lows, happiness and grief. That is why it is called living. And somewhere between the shit and the pie is the middle. A place that should be your North on the compass. Try to find it and most importantly try to spend a little time there each day. It is hard to locate when you lose it and even harder to make up for the time you have lost.
“It’s a dog eat dog world, Woody and I’m wearing Milkbone underwear.” – Norm Peterson