We were up bright and early at 8.15 a.m. for Clare's Christmas Mass. 9.30 a.m. found us sliding through the slush to the car to drive across Caversham bridge to the church of Our Lady and St. Anne. I was quite surprised, at 9.45 to see the church car park so full. Anyway, we walked in to find the church packed to capacity. I was amazed at how devout and well-prepared the congregation was for a Mass starting at 10.00.
After a few well-chosen words, the presiding priest uttered the immortal words "Now the Mass is over, go in peace," or something like that. I looked at Clare, a spontaneous smile breaking out all over my face. Yes, we had got it wrong once again.
So having missed the 9.00 Mass, we had a chance to sit in quiet contemplation before the advent of the 10.30 a.m. reprise. We spent our time admiring the bright Baroque colours of the walls and discussing Buddhism, the subject of Clare's next Open University assignment.
I have given myself ten days to turn Alex into a Buddhist. I pointed out to him this morning that he was wasting his time in samsara (the cycle of birth and rebirth; the world as commonly experienced) when he could be seeking satori (awakening; understanding; enlightenment). The term nirvana (extinction or extinguishing; ultimate enlightenment in the Buddhist tradition) is, I think, much misunderstood.
I explained that correctly grasped, nirvana is the state of acceptance of things exactly as they are without self-deception and with a maturity not subject to the drives of unconscious passions. Achieving such harmony with reality does not mean that one instantly vanishes or something. Like the Buddha one can live one's life as a competent, assured individual and then die. The point is - you then don't have to come back and try again.
I believe he was very grateful for my advice. It's hard to tell with someone lying back on the recliner with their eyes resolutely closed simulating sleep.
My follow-up question was going to be:
"Is the reason you haven't asked me to explain quantum mechanics to you is that you feel it's intrinsically too complex for you to understand?"
But I decided not to bother.