Kleshas and Tanhas

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How Horror Helps Facilitate Happiness

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               AnotherTuesday morning seemed to roll around. My schedule seems to be working itselfout; I did not wake up incredibly fatigued as I have been the past earlyTuesday mornings. In fact, I gave myself enough time to enjoy my Lucky Charmsthis morning without scarfing it down in my timed three minutes and fourteenseconds. It dawned on me that it was cloudy, yet again, and by the time wereached Mercy Neighborhood Ministries (MNM), the sun had peeped out. Moreresidents of the immediate area were outside, maybe as a result of thebeautiful weather. I could not tell. The drive was more enjoyable this go-around;the scenery was livelier in autumn and the community in north Philadelphiaappeared to be appreciating it as much as I was.
               The gangwas finishing breakfast as we rolled up at nine o’clock. The receptionistgreeted us as friendly as ever, and collectively, my service partners and Ireplied in a cheery manner. The familiarity of routine calmed any nerves that Ipreviously had in my new environment. To say that I was comfortable alongsidePaul, the grumpy trickster of the crowd, would be an understatement. I couldsense when he wanted to call me out for looking at him. But I would not givehim the satisfaction of making a wise-crack because I would look away before wewould make eye contact.
               Even as delectableas Paul sounds, he has an angry, disgruntled side. I personally find thischaracteristic of his to be a reality check; he is not an incompetent seniorcitizen whose senile persona leaves him with nothing to do but smile and crackjokes. If anything, Paul acts like an arrogant sixteen year old. He knows he isgood company, yet he plays hard to get. Because he acts more unpredictably thannot, I am consequently drawn to his rollercoaster-like attitude.
               The sameis to be said for Ms. Caroline and Ms. Shirley; both women lack this lackadaisicaltrait that so many residents at a nursing home had that I volunteered duringthe Philadelphia Service Immersion Program. My take on why there are manyengaged, energetic members of the MNM is that they choose to attend theprograms offered. There are no residents at MNM; everyone chooses to come. Ialso believe that one of life’s lessons is that one earns their keep from theirhard work; you only get what you put in. Since the MNM members have leddemanding, urban lifestyles, I think they understand that they would be wastingtheir own time if they did not participate in any of the day’s activities.Ergo, they are all working hard on their puzzles, praying in the prayer circle,and engaging one another in the most pleasant tones.
               Thispast Tuesday, Ms. Barbara, the coordinator, was not present. Ms. KayKay wastaking over for the time being. It was movie day. I was curious to see what wewould end up watching, hoping that it was not going to be a black and whitefilm with some actor I would not recognize. As I sat next to Ms. Caroline inthe cafeteria, after she informed about the recall on cantaloupe that I wasoblivious to, (thank you university for that tip,) she started listing themovies she brought. Within the list, there was nothing but thrillers and actionpacked movies; Diehard 2 seemed to bethe most moderate. Oh, and there was of course Titanic, but when Paul overheard that was an option, he booed. Shockedat the movie choice of an elderly woman, I decided whatever the members chosewould be completely fine with me!
               Mr. Brooks was picked. The back of themovie box claimed that it was one of Kevin Costner’s finest films. It also gavea brief description of a plot in which a psychopathic killer cuts loose andenjoys killing for the excitement. “Hmmm,” was all that I could think. In thepast, when I volunteered at summer camps for children, you obviously would notshow an R-rated movie to a young audience. Subconsciously, I assumed the samerule would be applied in this instance with an older audience. But precedentdepicted that this was not the firsttime the MNM members watched an action packed, potentially gory movie.
               What Ifound throughout the twisting plot, the character development of Kevin Costner’spsychopathic killer, and the odd, dark sarcasm that repeatedly showed up as anunderlying theme was that different things make different people happy. In theinstance of most eighteen year olds, thrillers are enjoyable to watch,especially the ones with many twists and turns. When I realized that I wasenjoying the movie, I could not help but wonder if the members on my left andright who were also sitting around the TV were enjoying this great film. Theywere. Some more than others, like Paul and Ms. Shirley. But to my surprise, asa whole, the group appeared to love the gore and excitement.
               I foundout that day that MNM truly catered to the likes of many of its members. Withsmaller numbers than most nursing homes, the group of members are moreaffiliated with the decision making process in what their daily activities are.I remember Ms. Barbara explaining to me on our service test-run how the memberscan choose to not participate in any of the activities and that the schedulecan change in an instant if the general consensus shows that no one wants to participatein the upcoming activity. I personally think, with some reflection, that thepower to still choose gives many ofthe MNM members happiness. While various activities will always please someparticipants more than others, I think their ability to make decisions empowersthem. What I have found in the members’ comings and goings is the limitation ontheir decision making; many of them are bussed over to MNM for the day, and thentaken back to their homes. As a college student, I find that very confining.Yet, when they choose to come to MNM, they are offered an array of activitiesfor the day, and I feel deeply obligated to ensure that the activities I helpwith are the best they can be.
               Even ifit is a horror film in which only Paul, Mr. Cranky, is left to cackle insanelyover the mutilation of various characters on the screen, I found that allowingfor him to choose to watch the movie made all the difference. So every timeblood splattered on the screen, I heard this maddening laugh in the back of theroom, coming from a very entertained individual…


Written by Jack Viere

October 8, 2011 at 11:54 pm

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