There's just one catch: the beads discolor after they are wet. It's not a huge deal, more of an inconvenience if anything. All I have to do is wipe them with some wood cleaner and they're as good as new. No big deal, right?
The first time I polished them, I thought, "This is pretty cool. It forces me to be aware of how impermanent things are." How naive of me.
Every time I wash my hands, I have to roll the bracelet up my forearm to keep it from getting wet. This happens about ten to fifteen times per day, as I have the bladder of a little girl.
Okay, no problem, I tell myself, I can handle this. I'm a good little Buddhist who appreciates the fleeting nature of reality.
When I bathe my kids, I have to take the bracelet off entirely. Same goes for when I go to the gym--even perspiration will discolor the beads. Then I have to remember where I left it and to put it back on. Admittedly not a big deal for your normal person, but lately I have the memory of a jar of tomato sauce.
You get the picture. What began as charming is now getting annoying!
We live in world of immediate gratification, where practically any material desire can be fulfilled with literally the push of a computer button. Entire books, virtual libraries containing the oldest spiritual wisdom the world has to offer, can be downloaded in mere seconds. I can get in my car and within minutes purchase a new TV that's premanufactured, buy a cheeseburger that has been slaughtered in the event that someone wants to eat it, even refill my prescription with life-saving medicine, all in mere seconds.
And here I am, a citizen (or "product," might be the better word) of this digital culture, foolish enough to believe that I'll have the patience to tend to a bracelet that keeps inconveniencing me. Maybe it's the English teacher in me, but I can't help but notice the irony--I buy the bracelet to remind myself of the Buddha's teachings, and within weeks I'm annoyed by its impermanence!
That's the rub.
For the most part, America is a "throw away" culture; we don't lie to be hassled with the details of maintenance. If a product or appliance breaks, it's probably cheaper to replace it than to fix it. So to the pragmatic American., the choice is pretty easy: buy a new one and get on with your day.
Now more than ever, I think the Buddha's claim that the Dharma goes "against the stream" is true. Every impulse in my body--from years of enculturalization, conditioning, and schooling--tells me I should have bought a "maintenance free" bracelet. But that defeats the its purpose.
There are two ways to read "care free" products. The first is that you don't have to tend to them. The second is that you need not "care" about them at all.
I don't want to fall into the latter category. It's the enemy of mindfulness, the anti-thesis of Buddhist practice. And yet, I'm a really impatient person.
So what's a Buddhist to do?
Who knows? Maybe I should just polyurethane the darn thing and get it over with.