At our sangha yesterday we were discussing the 11th of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings as interpreted by Thich Nhat Hanh. It is about right livelihood and responsibility as a consumer and as a citizen.
It spurred me to revisit an issue that arose from our recent trip to Manhattan. Zenchild had her huge mane of hair cut at a fancy salon's training school. She flounced into the waiting room and announced "We HAVE to go to Canal Street to buy pocketbooks...all the stylists say so!" So off we went the next morning to this incredible row of stores some only three sided entities, laden with bags, watches, jewelry,and sunglasses. Zenchild was buzzing gaily from vendor to vendor and before long we were being ushered into secret back rooms and even a basement labyrinth of yet more "designer replicas" or "knockoffs". Even I, a Birkenstock wearing, sensible bag toting mom, fell victim and purchased a fake Vuitton. Ok, a fake Prada too. Almost all the vendors were Asian and I'd guess English was a second language for the vast majority.
When we arrived home, my Dad, a retired city cop, reprimanded me
for buying good which are illegal to sell, by illegal immigrants, and which possibly fund other illegal activities, maybe even involving children.(He knows how to get my attention.) Oh jeepers, I thought...all that just buying a pocketbook! How could I be so naive? I'm not usually on the wrong side of the law!
Then a friend of mine offered her idea that the knockoff business is allowed to continue because it is a tourist attraction. She contends that if I can get into the back rooms so can any police officer and the whole thing could be shut down in a minute. I'm not sure if that was a argument for or against or just a comment on my non-threatening looks!
Then zenchild offered her observation. She noted that each little store appeared to be operated by a mom and a dad and as it was school vacation week, there were a lot of children around too. She said "Since these people are 'illegal' they probably can't get a job in a regular business and they have children they need to buy food for.." And it made me think about what kind of risks I'd be willing to take if it meant a better life for my children. Maybe a lot.
So what does this have to do with the 11th mindfulness training...quite a lot I guess. Things are just never as black and white as I think they are, or as I'd hope they could be. But the mindfulness trainings are just that, trainings in being mindful. I may not have any answers but I am sure thinking about it.
Breathing in for all the people who are struggling to create a better life for their families. Breathing out, food, shelter, and safety for all.
All in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty.
Authentic Kindness of the Heart