Today a man accused me a being a witch. On the face, that’s a rather funny thing, and I tried to be amused by it. The fact that the man doing the accusing was a drunk bum at the bus stop at nine o’clock in the morning made it less amusing. There are a number of bums in downtown Lincoln, all generally harmless, as this man doubtless was, but some more verbal than others. I made the ‘mistake’ of saying hello to this man before I got a good look at (and smell of) him.
I say ‘mistake’ because I wonder if my aversion to this man is symptomatic of my own problems rather than his. Buddhism teaches us to let go of attachments, of which aversions are the flip side of the coin and must be dealt with similarly. It teaches us to be open to the present moment, maintain equanimity, and generate compassion. The fact that this man made me so uncomfortable I felt it necessary to get up and walk down to the bus stop on the next block shows me I have progress yet to make.
I tried to be polite, but I really didn’t want to encourage him and nothing I said or didn’t say seemed to disinterest him. First it was the way I pulled my ponytail through the back of my hat and when I had explained that to his satisfaction he caught on the fact I must be a witch, but he wasn’t afraid of me. He even showed me the pentagram he had drawn on his hand to prove it. He was a warlock and I didn’t have the kind of magic he had. I couldn’t make a pentagram out of blood or turn a stick into a snake or make the oak tree bear fruit. At that point, I decided avoidance was the wiser policy.
But I wonder, how bad would it have been to wait the few more minutes for my bus at that stop? The man probably hadn’t had anyone to actually talk with for a long time, though he said hello to everyone who passed, all of whom ignored him more successfully than I did. Would it really have been that bad to talk to him? I don’t know. It was a rather strange encounter.
Can aversion of someone unpleasant cause them more suffering or is it just a moot point?