I have a new word for you. Well, not new to all of you. It’s a very popular word in buddhism, probably only after the words dharma and dukkha. (Dukkha being suffering, so you know that’s popular).
Partly we love papancea because it sounds so funny – pah-pahn-scha (accent on the second syllable and the whole word said fast) — it’s fun to say.
It’s the perfect word to describe my mind state the last few days and writing this blog post. I wrote another one yesterday, but didn’t post it. I really liked it, but it was too long (for a blog) and all over the place.
It covered these topics: having the blues (as in sad, not music), minor vs major keys, the yiddish phrase Oy Vey izt mir, the military policies of Israel and the United States, being an aggressor vs being a victim, PTSD, postpartum wedding blues, Christmas trees as emoticons, Christmas trees in Jewish homes, the many holidays celebrated by observant Jews, my mother’s Chabad rabbi, having projects and collaborators (and not having them), a Zen buddhist koan about a potential christmas tree in the forest (just kidding about the christmas part of the koan), Standing Rock, Syria, comparing mind, and Mara (a demon in buddhist cosmology). A plethora of papanacea!
Papancea! The shortest definition I know is proliferative thinking. One thought leads to the next. Papancea can be like improv (tangentially charming, fascinating, and creative) or it can be like A.D.D. and make it hard to focus (like Donald Trump) on anything. The story can go somewhere, or it can just go round and round and end up nowhere, or like Dorothy and Toto Not in Kansas anymore, or in Timbuktu, or even downriver or down the drain.
Between postpartum wedding blues, being project-less and collaborator-less at the moment, and the whole Trump fiasco, I am papancea-ing all over the place.
The Buddha was maybe the first human psychologist, understanding deeply how the human mind works, and offering guidance for living a life without additional suffering (additional suffering being the part we add to the pain which is unavoidable in life). His teachings stand the test of time. In the last few decades they have been discovered not only by me, but by western thinkers in scientific, psychological, and medical communities.
Another great thing about the buddha was that he was so non-judgmental. At least that’s my take on him. I’d say the vast majority of people are pretty judgmental. In America (but not only in America) we’re kind of hyper-judgmental. The Buddha distinguishes between judging mind and discerning mind. Discerning mind sees clearly and can take appropriate action based on that clear seeing. A judging mind causes harm to self when it’s directed inward, to others when directed outward.
The Buddha didn’t expect us humans to get this all at once. He always said Don’t believe what I say. See for yourself. Sure enough I’ve noticed when I’m suffering, my judging mind is hard at work on me or someone else.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Pali word Mudita. A few days after my post, a blog I’ve read for years written by an American living in France posted an essay titled Mudita. I found myself wondering if the blogger had learned the word from my essay. (I hadn’t known she read mine but as we are Facebook friends, it’s possible). I felt bad that she didn’t acknowledge my post in some way. Then I considered that maybe I could just feel good that a great concept like mudita was getting out in the world, whether or not she learned it from me. I wanted to feel mudita, to be happy for her happiness at encountering the concept.
But the truth is I wasn’t entirely happy. I felt frustrated, writing my itty bitty heart out here, and feeling like either people aren’t seeing it, aren’t “getting” it, and/or are just not moved to respond. I think people and bloggers have that in common. If I speak, does anyone hear? There’s that zen koan about the tree in the forest again.
I feel the need to write, so I’m probably gonna keep doing it. I know there’s a million blogs and news stories, and FB feeds to keep up with, not to mention the rest of life. I know that people feel overwhelmed. I try to keep my expectations low, but probably they’re too high. I had thought they weren’t for a long time, but now that I’m starting to feel frustrated, I’m thinking I need to re-assess.
I think we’re all just longing for some conversation or connections that are — or feel — real. I know I do. When we don’t get what we need, papancea arises, as surely as night follows day. In that, I know I’m not alone.