Recently I was on a flight from Seattle to San Diego. I rarely board an airplane early (typically preferring to board last). However, for some odd reason (and I forget why) I found myself to be one of the first people on board. I took my window seat, fished out my book and relaxed during the boarding process.
Not long afterward a woman sat down in the aisle seat across from me. She didn’t smile, didn’t move out of the aisle while taking her magazine and water out of her bag and when the person behind her said, “excuse me” so as to pass her, she ignored him, rolled her eyes a bit and at her own pace put her duffel bag overhead. She also placed her yoga mat overhead. I began watching her. She wore a tee shirt that said YOGA on it and the magazine she was reading was International Yoga. She must’ve sensed her being watched and when she looked over to me I simply smiled back at her. She didn’t return the smile and instead turned her attention to her magazine.
The plane began to fill. The flight attendant on board then approached the woman and politely asked if she would consider moving a few seats back so that a family could possibly sit together. The woman/yogi respond with a curt, “No. I paid for this specific seat. Find someone else.” The flight attendant, without responding to her rudeness moved on to the next row (where the people graciously agreed to switch seats for the family.) I closed my eyes and shook my head to myself – sad.
I wondered how a woman who so blatantly advertised to the world that she is a yogi could be so callous and rude to everyone around her. Her hypocrisy really bothered me. I once knew a man who wore either a Caduceus (wasn’t Mercury a protector?) or a Shiva pendant around his neck every day, had a collection of spiritual figurines in his home and was well versed in the yoga sutras and philosophy. However that same man, when asked by an old man to help him move his car on the street of Rome, ignored the man and walked away; refusing to help a senior citizen. Although his Caduceus dangled around his neck he held little compassion in his heart. The man I was with wasn’t a bad man altogether, he had just become so conditioned to say no to those on the street, asking for help. And who else was the old gent going to ask for help in protecting his car then someone advertising their spirituality? We all come across rude and unhappy people on an almost daily basis; and personally I am rarely put off by them: but, when someone announces to the world that they are a Yogi, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Taoist, a fill-in-the-blank-here….and then behaves as such a hypocrite – I want to cry.
How many times have I seen people advertising their faiths with tee shirts, crosses around their necks, WWJD bands, OM pendants, Mandala beads, spiritual tattoos, Shiva bracelets and such, only to watch them put down, strike out and otherwise ignore the humanity around them? Why is it that there is a need to market our beliefs anyway? And, if we choose to market them shouldn’t we hold ourselves to a certain standard towards our own social graces. Perhaps we have simply been taught false advertising. Even when it comes to advertising our beliefs and core values.
In no way am I stating that I have not been hypocritical in my life. I most certainly have. There were times that I have asked of those around me something I was incapable of giving back to them and so on. At one time I called myself a vegetarian and continued to eat fish; a hypocritical act. However, although I have been hypocritical myself, I have never once announced to the world that I practice yoga, believe in the serenity of Buddhism and so on, only to then denigrate those I had held myself to a higher standard to. Also, I have always shied away from advertising my beliefs for some reason. I’ve always felt that words never go so far as deeds I guess.
Maybe we are all just looking for something to belong to. Perhaps we hope that one day we can live up to the standards we advertise with our words, wear on our shirts, our necks, our arms and our hands. But in the meantime….is it so hard to just give up our seat to a family…or help an old man move his car??…