On Saturday Boxer Tony Thompson clashes with the world’s top Heavyweight, Vladimir Klitschko. A capable fighter in his own right, Thompson is nevertheless the clear underdog, and has a difficult time ahead of him. For him it is kind of like being booked in for a nasty car crash, on Saturday evening.
This is a lot of pressure on him, and he has been reflecting this in his blog:
… after my recent tough week of sparring and working which unfortunately included a lot of hard right hands from [heavyweight boxer] Jameal McCline and a lot of fussing from my trainers…
Feeling pressured and drained from his continual efforts, he took refuge in the movies, going to see the Happening, which he found disappointing and a waste of 6 dollars. So he snuck out and comforted himself with a bucket of chicken wings.
I know what you are all going to say: why sneak? Tony you’re a grown ass man. Well everybody know I don’t have the [the perfect athlete’s ] body we all crave FOR AND THAT I HAVE BEEN PREVIOUSLY DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BY THE NETWORKS AND SO CALLED EXPERTS OF BOXING BECAUSE OF MY SLENDER AND NO HGH TYPE OF CHEST AND I HAVE FELL INTO THE HYPE OF TRYING TO GET ME SOME MUSCLES SO I’M STAYING AWAY FROM CERTAIN FOODS. BUT AFTER SEEING THAT MOVIE I FIGURED I HAD SUFFERED ENOUGH AND I WAS GOING TO HAVE THOSE GARLIC WINGS WITH RANCH, AND OF COURSE I FELT GUILTY SO I WENT TO RUN AND LIFT TO ELIMINATE THE GUILT.
According to Buddhism, vedana – the feeling of liking or disliking – can only arise with one thing at a time. That means you can’t feel liking and disliking at the same time. You are either enjoying or not enjoying, or neutral. With Thompson the pressure, and then the bad movie creates the unpleasant feeling (vedana). So he tries to knock that unpleasant vedana away with some pleasant sensation – the chicken wings. While you are enjoying the wings, you are not feeling bad about the pressure of the boxer’s training schedule. Naturally, the change is only temporary, as thoughts of the job soon return him to the former dukkha.
The point to highlight is the human reaction to not liking – the reaction to suffering. It is to try and eliminate it with some kind of pleasant feeling, even though wisdom reveals that pleasant sensation to be very temporary, or in this case, guilt causing in its own right. Dukkha needs to be tackled head on, to be accepted, understood and let go of, and not just avoided by finding some quick sense pleasure to take its place for a few moments. Sense pleasures, especially as an escape, do not work for more than a few moments.
Knowing this, there is still the question of what to do? You can still have your chikcken wings (or not if you prefer). But the relationship to your experience is different. There is not so much grasping; not so much ignorance. A sense of balance returns, and experience becomes more of a challenge to grow from than a battle of the different parts of the psyche.
Lets hope Tony had a tin of spinach with his wings this week – he will need it on Saturday.