Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Voice, Kindness and Grace

Adam Levine, CeeLo Green, Christina Aguilera and Blake Shelton
One of my secret pleasures -- well, now that I'm writing about it on my blog, not so secret -- is watching the television show "The Voice."  My daughter, who is a professional singer, recommended it to me.  She was impressed with how the four singers who act as coaches to aspiring performers offer real wisdom about singing.

Even though it's a reality show, with all of the strange, scripted manipulative moments and hooey that this implies, there are moments that make me  genuinely laugh and cry.  The Voice is saturated with a sense of respect and appreciation -- for human beings who stand up on a stage and expose their hearts to criticism and judgment.  Unlike other singing competition shows I've seen (briefly, because they're so painful to me), there is no cruelty or mockery.  The coaches seem to go out of their way to say what's true, even if it's direct criticism, and always offer encouragement to the rejected competitors to keep on with their training and performing.  And the eliminated contestants themselves bow down with grace and humility as they leave the stage.

Kindness and grace are rare in the world these days.  Many people seem to make a regular practice of finding fault with others.  Although it's sometimes hard for me to understand why the climate of criticism in popular culture has become so pervasive,  I have come to realize that even cruel comments are simply a demonstration of the desire to connect, to be part of the conversation.   It's so easy to find fault, that making a practice of commenting and also being kind is a rare and valuable action.

As Torei Enji reminds us in his Bodhisattva's Vow: "Even though someone may be a fool, we can be compassionate.  When someone turns against us, speaking ill of us and treating us bitterly, it's best to bow down.  This is the Buddha appearing before us, finding ways to free us from our own attachments, the very ones that have made us suffer again and again and again."

Does this mean that the judges on "The Voice" are Buddhas and Bodhisattvas?  Sure -- and if Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, CeeLo Green and Blake Shelton can lean into being direct and  kind,  than so can we all.

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