Contempt

Peeling away layers of Ego I found anger and disappointment blocking the way to compassion. There’s another block hiding beneath them, contempt.

We see it all around us. This is a society choking on contempt. Every faction and group is held together by the contempt in which it holds the rest.

The path to anger, to disappointment, to hatred passes through contempt it seems.

It also appears, as it did passing from unreflected anger into a realization of its roots, that contempt begins at home. Contempt attempts to present itself as “realism,” as a defense against those who “don’t get it.” But, in the end, contempt begins and does its greatest damage within us.

I used to be extremely sensitive to respect, or the lack of it. At least as I perceived slights that were most likely simply indifference, or the result of an overall lack of awareness in someone that happened to be turned my way. They could – most probably were – in large part simply reflections of this burning knot of contempt that lay within me.

Shining awareness on the reflex of anger; the way anger only makes sense as a way of making us aware of our own shadow as it is projected on the world around us, onto the people we come into contact with, did much to dissipate the damaging habits of mind that led to depression. Similarly, letting go of disappointment had an effect on the chronic anxiety that underlay my depression. These were tremendous changes and the way they came about – “Just like that!” – did much to confirm for me the lessons of Krishnamurti and Jung.

But this question of contempt….

It seems to reside somewhere deeper. It is clear that left unexamined it would easily lead back to the old habits. This reflexive contempt – for the bad driver, inattentive, texting most likely! – to give just one example, brings both disappointment and anger back into the picture. There has to be a conscious effort to stand-down each time, to suspend the movement towards a violent reaction. Compassion is left hanging. There is no peace from which to discover where its quiet urgings might lead us.

And, just as with anger, there is the realization just out of sight that all this fury has its roots within. An awareness, however tenuous, that without finding a way to release this blockage, everything else is at risk. At the least everything else is in danger of turning into a sham if this burden of contempt is not challenged.

Ego likes to hide its tricks where we think our true core lies. We react to probing as if it will destroy our center when what really happens is that by seeing past Ego’s illusions we are able to see where that center might actually reside. One could say that the dissatisfaction that manifests itself as contempt – for any failing, in our selves or another – is at the core of an urge to discover and look beyond the common traps.

I do feel the pull of such “reasoning.” I also understand it is most likely specious.

What appears to be happening is that contempt is another short-cut short-circuiting attention. It is a trap set for those who think they can see farther than the rest. But what it does is stop us from seeing anything at all. We are no longer in a position to stay within the moment when we have jumped to the conclusions prepared for us and so tantalizingly presented by contempt. It is just another fiendish habit of separation. By cleaving us from the object of our contempt – whether internal or external – we distance our selves and force a gap. We commit violence. Subtle or blunt, but the kind of violence that underlies all the others.

There are no answers here. Just an examination and a turning to the tools of writing as a way of slowing down and making explicit what was tacit but hidden.

A first step – and these are never ordered segments of some recipe – is to be aware of the way so much energy has been bottled-up in contempt. How it has robbed me of openness and joy.

To be able to put these lacks into perspective, to see that instead of further reasons for self-contempt, they are the harvests of dwelling in contempt itself.

This impasse has been a tough one to attend to. The most potent glimmer of awareness has been the way the word itself has bubbled-up into mind. I’ve found myself mouthing it. First as I reacted to the apparent contempt in others who treated me as just a convenient outlet for their pain. Then, slowly, a dawning awareness that I was pushing out more contempt than I was receiving. A sense of hollowness, of emptiness returning, as contempt did is work of disrupting and dividing.

One thing does seem clear at the bottom of this screen. Contempt kills. We see this around the world today. We cannot be gleefully complicit in horrendous violence without the damage done to us by seething contempt. It may begin turned outwards. It may attempt to convince us that our “problems” will disappear when we rid the world of the objects of our contempt. We may unleash a horrible energy – a simulacra of vitality that is only a devotion to death and destruction. But it will consume us if left without a response. A response, not simply another reaction….

It might also be of use, or help, to someone else to see how this mechanism plays out in another. There are so many excuses available for justifying contempt. There’s just no good reason to give up on life to follow its demands.

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3 thoughts on “Contempt

  1. Hits a little too close to home…. I’m a regular reader of the Stoics. But I find my life lived too often in smugness and contempt. Sigh.

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