My friend Rick is a Buddhist.
One of the things Buddhists believe is that nothing is permanent. People, for example, change out every cell their bodies once every seven years or so. So you’re a whole new person every seven years. Plus, because matter is constantly moving through space and time, permanence is an illusion. Everything’s always in a constant state of flux.
This is confusing to me because Rick pretty much always seems like Rick, not new Rick, or Ricky Bobby, or Ricky Ricardo, or Rick Slick, or whoever he seems to think he is at any given moment. That’s why I like to call Rick every once in a while and say, “Is this Rick?”
“Yes,” he says.
“How do you know you are?” I ask.
“I just do.”
“You don’t seem the same,” I point out.
“I know, it bugs me, too. But I don’t get upset about it.”
“Buddhists don’t get upset. They meditate to avoid strong emotions,” he says.
“I could never be a Buddhist. There are at least 10 people I’d like to kick the shit out of this very moment.”
“What?!” I exclaim. “I thought you were a peace-loving Buddhist.”
“I know. It bugs the shit out of me.”
“Are you sure this is the same Rick I was talking to less than 2 minutes ago?”
“No,” he says.
“I don’t even know who you are anymore. Hell, I don’t even know who I am anymore. I don’t feel like me anymore,” I say.
“Do you want to go get a sandwich?” Rick asks.
“What kind of sandwich?”
“Does it really matter?”
“Not now, I guess,” I say. “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know who I am. I don’t even know if the sandwich I order will be the same sandwich it was by the time I sit down. Or if I’ll be the same person who ordered the sandwich. Maybe, by the time we sit down, I won’t like the roast-beef sandwich the person I was at the time wanted when that person ordered it. Or, to be less accurate but more specific, maybe the roast-beef sandwich will be a turkey sandwich, I’ll be Johnny Depp, and I won’t like turkey sandwiches because I get free turkey sandwiches all the time when I’m filming Pirates of the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the table will probably be a lampost, or something else completely useless for sitting at. Assuming we still have butts to sit on, or course. Or that the restaurant hasn’t become a Jiffy Lube.”
“Okay, if it’ll make you feel better, I will buy lunch,” Rick says.
“I like Buddhism. And thinly sliced roast beef.”
“I thought you might.”
“Whatever Buddhism is. I suppose it changes all the time, too. It’s hard to define. Even the definition must change. How do you have time to keep up with it, even with all the new Ricks that keep cropping up to help you out?”
“Fuck, you’re irritating!” Rick says.
“You mean the new me that is the me you know now, or the old me that said those other things to the old you a little while ago?”
“Now you’re buying,” he says.
“I love you, Rick…”
“I love you, too, Mike.”
“…whoever you are.”
“Shut up now,” he says.
“Sounds like somebody needs some meditation time,” I say.
Sounds like somebody needs a good thrashing,” he threatens.
“I still love you, Rick, whoever you are—even if you’re the most violent Buddhist on the planet. Even if your new name is Nancy. Hi, Nancy!”
“I still love you, too,” he says.
“I know you do, Nancy. Or did. Maybe I don’t know it now since I’m a whole new person and all. Just keep saying it over and over again so all the new Mikes I’m becoming don’t forget.”
“Okay. I love you. Can we eat now?”