The other day I put metta into a Google Image search hoping to find a picture illustrating the concept or perhaps a beautiful picture with some words from the Metta Sutta on it. All the pictures that came up were of a black American basketball player. Intrigued and a little confused I did a bit more searching and discovered that this high-profile sportsman recently changed his name to Metta World Peace, Metta being his first name and World Peace being his surname. The Wikipedia entry on MWP quotes him as saying: “Changing my name was meant to inspire and bring youth together all around the world” and his publicist explained that he chose Metta as his first name because it is a traditional Buddhist word that means loving kindness and friendliness towards all”. It is a laudable sentiment and it’s nice to know that something of Buddhism is getting wider coverage with the general public. The letdown was not long in coming.
It seems that MWP was arrested for domestic violence four years into his marriage and his wife filed for divorce two years later. He has been involved in violence on an off the court several times as well and in a recent interview he stated that he regretted changing his name.
High profile sports stars behaving badly is nothing new but this sportsman’s name change thing raises an interesting point, to me at least. The word love, whether used in a romantic or a religious sense, is thrown around often and very liberally. The quality itself is quickly and ardently professed, everyone gets all warm and when they use it or hear it being used, it is lauded and put forward as the solution to many, sometimes to all, human problems. But let’s face it, love of any type, especially metta, is a rather rare quality. Getting all tearful and chocked up while saying “May all beings be well and happy” is one thing. Genuinely trying to be forgiving, patient, kindly and generous, especially when it is hardest to do so, is another. This is not to say that we can’t have metta but just that it takes more than talking about it or giving yourself that name.