Sitting on a bus beside me as I waited for the departure was a couple with a baby daughter. She was an especially happy and active child and I couldn’t help but smile when she looked over and grinned, her huge eyes aglow. Her father looked over and noticed me and smiled in turn toward me. Without that unifying joy in the beauty of childhood, would he and I have shared smiles? Likely not, which certainly leads me to reflection on that. How little does it take to find commonalities and how often do we overlook them?
Before the bus started moving a gaggle of grade 6 or 7 students boarded the bus, bound for my old alma mater, Dalhousie University (I just discovered that my favourite professor from my time there, Srinivas Sampalli, recently won a much deserved 3M Teaching Fellows award). They immediately filled the bus with their chatter and made it rather crowded for a mid-morning route. Not being around young people very often, I often forget the naiveté and sharpness thier words can hold as they banter back and forth. It was not this typical talk that captured my attention, though.
Behind me I heard a deeply saddening conversation between two of the young girls of the class. They spoke quite clearly of themes of eating disorders (a topic I’ve become increasingly familiar with in recent years because some of my dearest friends suffer from them).
One girl spoke proudly of skipping meals and the other said, “My parents don’t make me eat dinner. I’ll eat breakfast, but they don’t make me eat at dinner.”
To this the other girl said, “My grandmother asks me to eat then, but I stay in my room and do homework. When she asks if I ate I tell her yes.”
I was shocked, though I shouldn’t be, that kids so young have been sucked into a disease so vile and pervasive. What can we expect in a world where we are bombarded daily with reinforcements of the messages eating disorders thrive on, when our very cultures are harmful? My friend Helen shared a timely piece, “Killing Us Softly,” that eloquently links eating disorders and self-esteem problems; consumerism and ad culture; and forces working counter to feminism. I think its message is important and would encourage you to read it.
Downtown I stepped off the bus and headed for Point Pleasant Park, one of Halifax’s great treasures. There I walked along the trails and later the coast, seeking out shade and breezes to find relief from the summer heat. At Purcell’s Landing I stopped under the ample shade of a blossoming tree and spent some time enjoying the still cool it offered. I spent some of the most relaxing time I have in weeks lying on my back beneath that tree, observing the tree, the sea, the sky and all else that came to my attention.
During my walk home I was approached by a young man wearing a dhoti and carrying a stack of books. Initially I was wary as I’m not fond of forward proselytizing as practiced by many groups (especially Christian evangelists) but he seemed like a nice enough person so I decided to give him some time. He asked my name and if I was familiar with eastern spiritual practices. As soon as I had answered yes he handed me a copy of Bhagavad-Gita that I recognized as the same version that had sat on the shelf of my high school library and shook my hand. I was rather surprised by it being thrust upon me, but remembering that I’ve wanted to read the books of Hinduism for a while, I took it in stride. He then explained that he and his group, The Travelling Sankirtan Party, were travelling across Canada and distributing books of their faith. We talked for a short while and I gave him a donation before walking on.
My spiritual path has been most influenced by and compatable with Buddhism but I’ve had a peripheral interest in Hinduism. I find some aspects of the faith to be counterintuitive and, frankly, opposed to my own beliefs. I do think there is plenty to learn from it and I would like to see how it intersects with Buddhism and other faiths more, so I look forward to reading this core book I was lucky enough to be offered.
I returned home after the hours outside to discover my face was sunburned. I hadn’t needed sunscreen for many months so I hadn’t thought to buy any to wear that day. i’ll not forget it with this bright red reminder, that’s for sure. It seems to always take the first summer-hot day of the season to make me remember to use it, which I surely must as a redhead.
I took a couple photos during my walking (and lying) and some of my self once I had returned home and you can view them in my photo gallery.