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A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Sunday, 3 April 2016


I met a bloke called Brian last week who made me realise that I may be lifetimes away from enlightenment. Brian runs a shop on the South Coast which I shan't identify for fear of defaming the man and driving customers from his shop. It generally takes quite a bit for someone to get up my nose, and Kazalette thought I managed myself quite well in the process, but nonetheless Brian ranked highly with me as one of the most irritating human beings on the planet and I reckon I only scored 3 out of 10 on the enlightenment scale, the points being awarded for restraint and not being rude.

The sign at the entrance to Brian's establishment invited first time visitors to report to the management for a "non-optional welcoming chat". "Quaint", I thought. "A bit presumptuous, but if it's advertised as welcoming how bad can it be?" 

Well the welcoming chat turned out to be a recital of a number of rules and warnings about not taking photographs, not touching the wares, not leaving without buying something, a mandatory inspection of 15 year old used wares to show how well they had worn over the years and prove how good the craftsmanship was, advice that Brian's new Great Dane had just completed its training and was likely to bite anyone who didn't purchase anything and generally in-your-face marketing which, in its politest terms, was bloody annoying and anything but a 'welcoming chat'. We were both ready to run a mile and would have done so but for the fact that I had been asked by a friend to call in and collect something for him. (I later found out that he couldn't face Brian for a second time, which is why he had asked me to go. I hope there's some bad karma coming my friend's way.)

We escaped the moment we could, amidst a frantic hustle by Brian for us to try out his coffee shop and apple tart. We made our excuses and fled, both feeling overwhelmed and almost violated by Brian's pitch.

Anyway, what's the point of the story? Well, it was pretty clear to us that Brian's pitch wasn't working. It chased us out of there, his coffee shop (in a gorgeous setting) was empty on a morning when it should have been full, there were no other customers in his shop and the pitch was as desperate as it was insistent.

With hindsight, it might have been more helpful for Brian if I'd given him a bit of bold support and suggested that he rethink the content of his welcoming chat. Although every instinct of mine said "run!", and my mind told me I'd be starting a fight if I shared with Brian how unwelcoming his welcoming chat was for me, perhaps that would have been the enlightened and more thoughtful thing to do. There was of course the other part of me that thought that Brian was un-rehabitatable, that it wasn't my job to rescue him and that Life would help him learn what he needed to know. 

So now I'm left wondering if the path to enlightenment is to try and help people to help themselves or if it is to trust that Life will help them to see the way and my job is not to get in their way. 

With hindsight, perhaps scoring myself at 3/10 was a little generous. I clearly have some lifetimes to go before I attain enlightenment.

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