Christopher Titmuss Dharma Blog

A Buddhist Perspective

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Transition Towns, Transition Streets

My hometown, Totnes, has rebranded itself, not intentionally, of course, for the third time since I came to live here in 1982. It’s in transition, too. I knew next to nothing about Totnes when I came to live here with Gwanwyn Williams and our year-old daughter, Nshorna. Continue reading 

Silence is golden for the athlete

If you go to Facebook,  you can watch a short advertising clip of Jonathan Barbour, a former winner of the 100 metres in the European championships. He sets off with electric speed and finishes a few second a later with one hand triumphantly raised in the air.
It is Epson announcing that they support World Athletics as well as  promoting their new range of fast colour printers. Rather oddly, the  filmmakers  for the ad have changed his eyes from brown to blue. Jonathan, who lives in London, is the father of my two of my three grandchildren, D’nae and Milan. (Milan means union or connection in Sanskrit).

There are some sportsmen and women who are genuinely concerned with global issues – war, natural disasters, climate change and the actions of governments and big business. They hesitate to speaking up due to the risk of endangering their position, their contracts with large corporations and their self image. If sports people take a stand, they risk rejection from those who have a different view, as well the probability of losing the potential to sign for lucrative advertising contracts.

Athletes will remind us that their career runs for only a few years and they know full well a sentence of political or corporate criticism ends their sponsorship deals.  Every time an athlete appears on television or in a newspaper he or she receives extra money if the logo of the name of the sponsor is visible. It is a cheap way for a major business to advertise. Contracted to a company, the athlete keeps his or her mouth shut. Silence is golden. Literally.

The days of the fearless Muhammad Ali, Tommy Smith and John Carlos belong to sporting history. In the Mexico Olympics in October 1968,  U.S. athlete Tommie Smith won the 200 metres race in a then-world-record time of 19.83 seconds, with Australia’s, Peter Norman, second and U.S.’s John Carlos in third place.  On the podium, the two U.S athletes received their medals shoeless –  wearing black socks to represent black poverty, a black scarf to represent black pride and tracksuit top unzipped to show solidarity with all blue collar workers, as well as beads for those Afro-Americans lynched and murdered in US history.  Both athletes gave the clenched fist salute to show solidarity with fellow Afro-Americans. The photo of the two athletes on the podium with an arm defiantly raised became the most iconic photograph in the history of Olympic sport.

Even when athletes have enough money for a thousand lifetimes, they still keep a low political profile. Last year alone, Tiger Woods earned $128 million including  $110 million in endorsement deals, especially with Nike with its history of cheap labour in Asia.  How much money does he need to feel secure?  When he was asked about his decisions, he replied: ““It all depends on how much risk you want to take on. . . The things I do are very conservative. . . . I guess you don’t become billionaires by making bad decisions.”

Tiger Woods, the world’s richest athlete, is a billionaire several times over – a billion is one thousand million dollars.  His doting father, Earl Woods, one said his son ““will do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity. He’s the bridge between the East and the West. There is no limit because he has the guidance. I don’t know yet exactly what form this will take. But he is the Chosen One. He’ll have the power to impact nations. Not people. Nations. The world is just getting a taste of his power.”

The Dharma is the bridge between Eest and West, not an overpaid golfer. Tiger Woods wrote to the Queen of Thailand to tell her that his “heart is Thai.” He has  expressed appreciation for his mother’s background in Thai Buddhism and her impact on keeping him single pointed in his profession. Sadly, his single pointed concentration goes to getting a small ball down a small hole, name and fame, making money plus giving foundation grants for young people. He is the best at what he does. Sadly, what he does is not very significant. Our poor world itself is disappearing down a black hole. Sadly other athletes follow his example of the repressed voice.  Silence is golden.

I don’t expect Jonathan Barbour to become all of a sudden an activist athlete. He has retired as a top athlete, works with young people, plus earns a little extra with the occasional photo opportunity, and sees his two children on a regular basis. All credit to him.

Auto Rickshaws, a Naked Picnic, a Primary. Only in Totnes

I am in the 27th year of living in the same house in Totnes in a little street of 60 homes, a few minutes walk from the high street. I have had the delight of watching the town develop a progressive and thoughtful vision. Continue reading 

Car boot sales, Markets and e-Bay

On a heavenly Sunday afternoon two days ago, Nshorna, my three grandchildren and I went off to a car boot sale in a large field just outside Totnes – the first time for five years that I have strolled around a local car boot sale. Wow! Hundreds of cars poured into the field with drivers, passengers and families looking for bargains. [More…]

Amidst the sunshine, there were countless numbers of holiday makers in Devon wandering around checking out the hundreds of stalls set up from backs of cars. My grandson, Kye, eight years of age, and I bought a bag full of goods – a new football, DVDs, computer games, baseball cap, small models of sports cars and so on. We still had a little change from our £10 spending money.

Kye’s capacity to hassle in the sweetest way to get the price down won over the stallholders. While walking around, I felt much appreciation for the culture of the car boot sale, local markets and e-bay. Last week my daughter bought a wonderful bed and an unused firm memory foam mattress on eBay, She sold her old bed on eBay for more than she had bought it for a couple of years ago on eBay.Her cheap old mattress only offered discomfort.

She could never have afforded the bed and mattress if she had gone into a store or would have landed herself into a monthly debt for the next two or three years. Markets, car boot sales and ebay are a wonderful way for people to buy and sell goods outside of the consumerism of the debt infested shopping malls. There is an extra buzz in bidding online or bartering in the market. We are used to bartering in India. It is good to see that the same culture is developing here.

There is a rich tradition of markets around – food, clothing, household goods etc. Markets go back thousands of years. They act as a meeting point, a chance to be in the open air or join others in the covered top markets, still found in most small towns. It is a chance to bump into friends and pick up a real bargain at a stall. Markets offer a relaxed, chatty, informal atmosphere – such a contrast to the soulless and clinically cold environments of shopping malls, inhabited by isolated selves We need to give as much support as possible to car boot sales, markets, ebay and reduce our dependency on the shopping mall.

Incidentally, I don’t own a car but am currently looking for a cheap mountain bike with a rear passenger seat for my two year old granddaughter, D’nae, so we can join Kye on his mountain bike on the local cycling and walking tracks. (It’s hard work jogging after him). We were outbid on eBay. That’s the beauty of it all. We don’t have to live in a culture of “I want it now.” We can develop patience and quietly keep focussed until the bargain emerges.

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