There’s a woman I see on the bus when I come home from work. She smiles constantly – a subtle, creepy smile — even when she’s sitting alone. I heard her say something bitter with that smile on her face. “What’s wrong with people? Why don’t people move to the back of the bus when it’s crowded? That’s what you’re supposed to do!” She waved her hand indignantly, before smiling again with a slightly glazed look in her eyes. “I knew it!” I said to myself. The smile was an affectation. I thought, maybe it covers up negative feelings that she can’t face; maybe her parents told her that she should never show anger — to always be nice. Perhaps they told her that she had to smile otherwise people wouldn’t like her.
It turned out that this woman and I knew the same person, a nice Jamaican woman whom I met on the bus. I approached the bus stop one day and the smiley-creepy-lady and nice Jamaican woman were there. The Jamaican woman introduced us. “Hi,” I said, planning never to say hi to her again. I’ve seen her quite a few times since. I look away or turn my head in the other direction when I’m sitting on the bus and she walks by. I fantasize that she thinks I hate her, that she thinks I’m a snob, that she thinks I think something’s wrong with her, that she thinks I think I’m better than her. I fantasize that she’s desperate for people to like her. Ha ha ha – what fun for me! She’s someone I have an aversion to. I don’t like her. She sits very straight, and wears plain clothes, drab colors – with that smile the whole time.
Too bad for this lady because I read in a zen book once that when we get mischievous thoughts, we shouldn’t freak out and try to suppress them (These were not the exact words.). The book said that we should accept the thoughts, to let them come in then let them go out, because it’s who we are and we can’t escape it. We have that side to us no matter how hard we try to cover up the stench. The writer said also – I’m paraphrasing – that sometimes it’s healthy to act out a little mischief. I suppose as long as it’s not evil. I’m not going to look at the book to make sure that I’ve paraphrased correctly, because I really like the definition I just quoted. What if I’m not remembering it correctly? I don’t want my belief of what the reading was about to be shattered – so there.
This smiling woman was forcing a countenance which made me uneasy. I think that this is the same as me listening to music generally thought of as uplifting merely because it is a common belief that it would lift a person’s mood. Perhaps I would listen to a song like the one below, which is really really good by the way – Mahavishnu rocks! But believing that I should force myself to be ‘lifted’ from a mood by listening to a type of music that is commonly thought of as uplifting is supporting a false idea. The song below has the mantra, ‘Let me fulfill thy will. Oh lord supreme, supreme. Let me fulfill thy will.” It’s a kickass song and I’m not dissing it – I’m just using it as a palatable example because I think inserting an actual Jesus Lordy Lordy gospel song would be too extreme and distracting from my point. I could easily listen to this song with these lyrics and imagine that I’m merging with the idea, “Oh lord supreme, supreme,” and that I should release myself unto this vibration for an all around harmonious rest of the day. But I would listen to a nice song like this and feel murderous, absolute angst, fear and self-loathing after going to work and confronting a reality that only required me to take a really deep look at myself in order to iron things out, instead of trying to escape my mood with some superficial means, or forced method.
Really what I might feel inside is this:
I listen to this and feel invigorated, relieved of the feelings that the mood of the song mirrors. I’m in touch with the reality of the anger and pain that I’m feeling. I’m not smothering it. I’m not going to church on Sunday and on the way home in the car suffering bouts of road rage, or gossiping or judging people on what I believe to be inappropriate based on what “God” told me. I’m looking at me, the reality of me and a wild, imperfect, confounding life .
Awesome post. Better to acknowledge the feelings and let them pass through than put some sort of creepy, smiley mask over it all. It’s all you, so why suppress it?
Besides, some of the most evil people on earth hide behind some sort of smiley mask.
Yes! It’s true about evil people — makes me think of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest, how she spoke in that sedate voice with one of those smiles, while being a total sadist. Some of the kindest people are grumpy old curmudgeons!