Friday, December 14, 2007

A Change of Consciousness

After seeing this story on the news on NBC, I just had to write about it. People at a Starbucks in Pomano Beach, FL, have been paying for the drinks of those in the car behind them -- all day long. An act of kindness that simply spread? Not quite:

"Employees said the chain of kindness started with anger. Arthur Rosenfeld said the man behind him on Thursday morning was honking and yelling at him, so Rosenfeld, a Tai-Chi master, responded with a bit of Zen.

"It wasn't an idea to pay anything forward, nor was it even a random act of kindness, it was a change of consciousness," he said. "Take this negative and change it into something positive." "

This is the kind of thing Lou Marinoff recommends in his book The Middle Way in advocating a change to Buddha-consciousness and Taoist balance (Tai Chi is, after all, the martial arts of Taoism, with come Buddhist practice thrown in). Try to understand what happened here. Rosenfeld had ordered a coffee and was pulling through to pay for it. The man in the car behind him was honking and yelling at him. So Rosenfeld paid for the man's coffee. Faced with someone acting like a complete jerk, Rosenfeld responded with kindness. Now here's the interesting thing -- how did the chain of people buying coffee for the car behind them get started? The man Rosenfeld bought the coffee for HAD to buy the coffee of the person behind him. Can you imagine how the man behind Rosenfeld (we'll call him Mr. X) must have felt to find that the man he was being so rude toward responded to that rudeness with generosity? He had to have felt ashamed of himself. That feeling of shame caused him to buy the person behind him their coffee. And the chain of coffee buying was off. An act brought about by shame resulted in a beautiful act that lasted the entire day, making many more people's days happier and more beautiful. The philosopher-poet Frederick Turner says that beauty is rooted in shame. What happened in Florida is certainly supporting evidence for that belief.

Can you imagine what this world would be like if everyone reacted as Rosenfeld did -- as Marinoff recommends? Can you do it? Can I? I can only say that I will certainly try.
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