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Buddhism in the News


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Ted Williams and his "Golden Voice."

-This is a longer post but it tells a great story of redemption and hope-

When I first came to Buddhism, nine years ago, it really hit me between the eyes and woke me up to a whole other way of viewing the world and navigating through it. It was refreshingly honest to hear a spiritual tradition come right out and admit that, "Life often sucks, but it doesn't have to cause you suffering." Obviously I'm over-stating the first noble truth that suffering is inevitable but it was refreshing to hear after when so many spiritual traditions today try to make life out to be some candy-land world where rainbows shoot out your ass. And, that if you're not constantly, "high on life" that something is wrong with you.

Life has many wonderful, high peaks to enjoy and savor to be sure. However, in America at least, it's a bit taboo to say life is often (but not always) full of suffering. It's considered being a "pessimist." It's not considered "polite" to admit to people when you're having a shitty day. You're supposed to lie when people as you how you're doing. You're supposed to put on a plastic, botox-infused grin and say, "I'm doing great, but I'll get better." Even if you don't mean it. But, thankfully, Buddha laid-out the three other noble truths to show us how to--not, "end suffering" but learn to live with it as a part of life so we aren't constantly feeling over-whelmed and consumed with it.

Well, one of the teachings in Buddhism is that all things are interconnected and that it is through those connections that we find ways to handle the suffering in life with a bit less torment. We don't have to, "go it alone." The Buddhist notion that we are interdependent and interconnected has been given a new incarnation with the internet. It has helped us reach out and connect with people all over the world and help one another navigate the rocks and whirlpools in this raging river of life. This globally interconnected community online, reached out and plunged it's far-reaching arms into the raging maelstrom of the deep, river of suffering and pulled a drowning brother up from the life-crushing undertow--and back onto the shore of hope.

Ted Williams was that man. Who is Ted Williams? No, not the famous baseball player. He was (up until a few days ago) a homeless man in Ohio, USA who had fallen on hard times and began begging for money to start a new life. But, a mindful (aware) journalist (Kevin Joy; an ironic name for an altruistic stranger) from the Columbus Dispatch newspaper stopped and saw the man's sign but said Williams would, "Have to work for his money." According to an article by Christian Red for the New York Daily News. What happened next brings chills of inspiration to my body. Mr. Williams belted out a monologue that one would expect to hear from a radio personality. Out of this raged, tired face came a golden voice for radio:
It turns out that he was a voice-over guy for radio back before he became addicted to drugs. He's been drug-free for two years now but needs a job to return to a better life. Well, Williams got his money for the voice-over ditty from the mindful man who stopped to talk to him. But he got so much more than that. Joy filmed this monologue and posted it on the internet, which went viral. People around the world listen to this man's talented voice, and job offers flooded in. Now he is entertaining offers from the National Football League and the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team!! Rod Mead Sperry over at Shambhala Sun informed me that he has since been hired by the Cavaliers.

So, while life sucks a lot of times, the great part is that we have a whole community to help us live through it and help us actually let go of a lot of trying to control things. And, when we let go, we often find a sense of peace, tranquility and acceptance with the way life unfolds. Letting go frees up our mind to be completely aware (mindful) and open to whatever comes, which often means we can see opportunities that might of passed us by when we were focused so much on how miserable we were. It's o.k. to acknowledge that life sucks sometimes; and it's healthy to admit that life isn't always going to be candy land because then we aren't so crushed when the our expectations don't come true. Expectations rarely do. The way of the Buddha is to live life without expectations--with an open heart. It's certainly never easy; and it's easier said than done but it's possible. That's the important thing. It's possible. It's been done before, and Buddha is that example.

Understanding interdependence helps us ride the storm out with others going through the same shit storm; and that makes all the difference. It helps to know you're not alone. Ted Williams let go of trying to force things but didn't give up and his radical acceptance of his situation allowed him to ride out his suffering until help could arrive. What an uplifting story in a modern world that is so full of ugliness.

~Peace to all beings~

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Paul Garrigan said...

That is an uplifting story. I ended up as a beggar on the streets for a short period of my life. It was due to an alcohol problem. I eventually found recovery in a Thai temple. The monks there had their own ideas on radical acceptance and letting go. They told me that if I made a sajja never to drink again and followed it that my life would naturally move in a positive direction - I wouldn’t have to try to control it or direct anything.

Since leaving that temple almost five years ago so many amazing things have happened to me – I really am living a life beyond my dreams. Of course there are many days that aren’t so good, and even the highs contain an element of suffering – knowing they are impermanent. The most astounding thing though, is that I’ve never wanted to drink during those periods when the shit has hit the fan. My life is now this fascinating journey that I don’t control and I suspect that it is taking me closer to the deep acceptance that I don’t really exist.

Jaky Astik said...

The online community is what makes us live by. One of the biggest benefit is not it's marketability, but it's possibility to make life better.

undumbara said...

This is true, that the speeding of karma has been "enabled" through Web2. There are now so many more chances to both help - but likewise ignore, be the catalyste for a being for both heaven and hell.

It was wonderfully uplifting to see this story and hear about the joyous outcome- Thank you for pointing it out and getting a chance to rejoice, quite naturally.

Brings back the thought that without mindfulness, no such very, very nice or very very horrible stories ever take place. When causes and conditions have ripened for a being, one's moment of mindfulness can be this spark which leads to at least a moment of peace and happiness. If one is blessed enough to provoke such moments more and more for others, then one's happiness naturally arises from watching other's.

Tullik said...

The internet has and will create a lot of problems for certain people however the positive side is the ability to read article should as this and connect with an online community, especially when one lives in a remote area where a local Sangha is not an option. The need in our society for honesty in recognizing the many difficult days we encounter should not be construed as is it as "UnAmerican"

They call him James Ure said...

Recently I have gotten a couple of comments insulting this man and insulting those of us who see him as an inspiration. Also questioning our motives.

The other one was insulting Ted Williams and questioning his faith in Jesus. That person went on to preach their version of Christianity like a Bible-thumper; and of course, both other anonymous names.

I don't print such personal attacks and forceful preaching on this blog. This is a place for civil (thoughspirited at times) discussion. Those comments didn't meet that standard.

I don't print diatribes that insult people and shove another religion down peoples' throats. This is a blog about Buddhism--not Christianity and certainly not about insulting homeless people--or my readers.

Whomever you are, please stop. You won't get your comments posted here. So, either play nice or please leave.

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