As some of you may know, my latest book, Zentauria, is based on the interaction with a highly-evolved, utopian society and a lot of Zen-like philosophical tenets. One of the key tenets highlighted throughout the adventure is mindfulness, which is essentially the deeper-consciousness awareness of the present moment and everything you are able to perceive about it.
Mindfulness is an invaluable tenet, probably most associated with Buddhist monks, and its faithful practice will lead anyone to a more evolved, peaceful life. And it is something we have to diligently and deliberately practice, since there is very little in our daily lives that organically encourages it.
Accordingly, it turns out that one of the key barriers to this high-level of awareness is judgment. This is because when we judge negatively, we have – in almost every single case – arrived at a narrow, one-dimensional conclusion about someone or something that is not the whole Truth; only an embarrassingly small, biased fragment of it. This cripples our thinking, because once this conclusion is reached, it’s game over… we’ve made up our minds and, in our temporary ignorance and short-sightedness, we are unable to perceive the deeper Truth about someone or something. And if we are attempting to walk any kind of higher path, this is not such a great idea!
For me, this has meant that I constantly try to practice non-judgment – all the time, everyday. I attempt to observe first, without any kind of judgment, and look more deeply into things, with the understanding that there is always more to the “story” than what meets the eye. I tend to do pretty well with it, but then I notice that there are occasionally a few “hot topics” that pop up… things that I immediately jump to judgment about.
One such thing for me is the paparazzi. My basic, knee-jerk position has been: I don’t get it, I don’t understand how someone can make a living doing such a thing, and I don’t understand how there’s even a “market” in the world for this asinine shit. (Ya see…more judgment!) Furthermore, it’s challenging for me to physically stomach more than five seconds of shows like TMZ, which, believe me, I would only ever encounter on accident. That has more or less been my position, although, I have found it to be an interesting ritual to practice non-judgment in the rare case that I’m stuck in front of a TV playing one of these shows. Breathe in – breathe out… seek to understand the deeper layers here… seek to know the bigger story at play…. etc.
Most recently, a deeper perspective on the matter was delivered to me rather poignantly. While on the way to LAX (LA airport) for a run of shows, I had overheard by way of a phone call to our soundman that one of my bandmates – already waiting for us curbside – was annoyed that the paparazzi was trying to take her photo. Our soundman told her to excuse herself from them and to hang tight… we were almost there. And then when we arrived about 10 minutes later, I discovered that the camera-wielding paparazzi guy in question was someone I actually knew; an old gym buddy from way back in the day who I always liked. I was stunned. What the hell? I thought. “Maury” (we’ll call him) was now a motherfuckin’ paparazzi guy? No!!!!
This was my initial judgment.
But when he saw me, he busted out into that mile-wide smile of his and we hugged. And I smiled, too. It was great to see my friend. He told me he was doing this part-time, in addition to some other non-related ventures. I asked him a bit about the gig… like do people get mad at him, etc. He said that sometimes they do and, if that’s the case, he immediately puts his camera away and refuses to shoot someone against their will.
Sure enough, when I introduced him to my bandmate and we all had a laugh, she ended up really liking him. (And yes, she later confirmed that as soon as she asked him not to take her picture, he immediately withdrew his camera.) We visited a bit more and he laughed and joked with us about stuff for a few minutes before returning to his “post” to wait for Joan Rivers… who, apparently appreciates the platform and has no problem obliging pics and vids.
This whole experience became an interesting “hypothetical” for me: what if you found out that a dear old friend was participating in a profession that you disagreed with? Would you feel differently about it? Would you reconsider your opinion in any way? Would you have a bit more empathy towards the subject?
Obviously, there are still intrusive elements of the profession – and many unethical participants – so I’m not trying to make this a black-and-white issue where suddenly I’m a fan. And I’m clearly not suggesting that mindfulness is always about “loving” (or feigning affection) toward people or things that don’t line up with your moral compass. I’m only suggesting that there is always another side to the story; a part of the narrative or subtext that we might not agree with, but will at least gift us with deeper insight, and perhaps a little more empathy. And this is our way into a more mindful observation about something. But we will never be able to experience that in-point unless we set aside judgment for a moment and truly seek out that deeper peek.
The “practice” continues…