Must we be pure?
Whenever we confront the depths of our corruption we hear this whining plea. Ego deflates us,
How can I meet such a standard?
A false question. We are what we are. We will do what we feel we must do. What is in question is what do these questions mean?
Who are we?
What must we do?
We are all familiar with how we wish to slip-past our own shame after we’ve acted badly out of contingency. When we behave in a way we see as beneath our better natures.
We rarely consider questions of power and the brutality it demands of us when it is in our hands. We don’t consider questioning our motives. We never feel fortunate to have just survived a bad situation while hoping to sidestep Fate’s retribution. Instead, we feel inflated. Intoxicated by a self-important sense of Justice. We justify our indiscretion. We defiantly challenge anyone to find us wrong. Find that we lack integrity.
And just as we each do this ourselves so do those we oppose do it back at us. No one sees himself as an abuser. The most vile despot or killer sees himself as a victim. And so the cycle continues….
The first essay left us between this feeling that we might resist a compulsion to react to impose some ideal and the impression that what is on offer here is just another importation to wait and see….
These binary traps are not inevitable. Certainly not what is being advocated!
To limit ourselves to either of these polarities is to abdicate our potential and remain in the cycles of suffering and its perpetuation. “Be good!” or “Time will heal all!” Are both traps.
“Be good! Traps us in the false position of fitting life into some ideation. Holding the abstraction of an ideal as more important than a direct confrontation with each moment as it unfolds, we ignore how we might fulfill this moment to its fullest. We fall for a bait and switch.
“Time will heal all!” Is a handy excuse not to face what is before us. A platitude of the Religion of Progress™. We wallow in the effects of this perverted belief. A convenient dodge for those ready to make a killing, distracting us with, “A better tomorrow!™”
We cannot wait until we can all be good. Nor should we. What the hell is being good supposed to mean? There is nothing within the nightmares of reason that can guides us in resolving this question.
Waiting on a better future is the same idiocy repackaged.
It’s easy to be confused. If the trails out of our morass were not so hidden. If the ruts threatening to bring us back to where we have been were not so deep….
Compassion as attention and attention as compassion offer a way in.
There are two sides to proprioception. Its first aspect is hard enough to grasp from within our pre-conditioning. We insist others are responsible for our emotional states. Their actions determine and justify our reactions to what they do. Proprioception demands that we see this is false. While so much else is beyond our capacities this is the one thing we do have control over.
The second is even less intuitive from within our conditioned state. Just because we practice proprioception does not make it possible for us to insist that others take responsibility for their own. Let’s say that again:
If we accept and take responsibility for how we react to external triggers on our emotional response this does not mean that we can expect or demand others will respond in kind.
Proprioception is not a path into an ideal realm where quid-pro-quo rises to another level. Proprioception is not a bargain we can make to arrive at a negotiated fairness.
Proprioception brings great gifts. But this panacea is not one of them. We can say proprioception is its own reward. It brings us the strength to do without projecting an idealized fantasy bargain. It gives us the strength to confront the unfairness of the world as it is.
Proprioception and dissensus feed each other. Together they bring us into a greater coherence, into a closer relation with what-is. Proprioception and dissensus take us out of our delusions-of-power. Allow us to see past the oversimplifications of cause-and-effect.
With proprioception we can face this lack of perspective others may bring to our shared situation. Proprioception brings us the peace of mind to be able to consider an unbalanced situation from an attitude of dissensus. Sidestepping the need to convince or conquer anyone who sets themselves in opposition to us. We focus on how we may approach each moment as it arises. Fulfillment achieved by fulfilling the moment, not by trying to shoehorn the moment to fit it into some preconceived ideal.
No action or inaction is predetermined or prohibited a priori. We are not limited. This is very different from what is commonly referred to as freedom. Freedom in name only. A marketing ploy, propaganda intended to throw us back into perpetuating the old cycles. Trapping us in reactive poses that hem us in. Suspending these reactions claiming to “Keep us free!” is precisely what frees us to discover creative responses.
Let’s define what this entails. A creative response is not a plan. It is not imagining an ideal that we wish to reach someday.
A creative response is an act that breaks the cycle of suffering.
What we do can be anything. It need not appear to have a visible conclusion. It might not appear to have any effect at all if we look at it with old eyes. What it does is change the existing pattern at some level without bringing down an opposing reaction that swallows us all in increased misery.
This is hard to describe. Difficult to grasp. Especially in the heat of the moment. Unless we’ve established a practice of proprioception.
A dramatic example that illustrates this last point…
We are confronted by a nuclear power. They fears us and we believe they aim to kill us all if we push them too far. In this situation any action might work so long as it doesn’t compel them – in their non-proprioceptive delusional projections – to launch their missiles.
Insisting, “We’re better off dead than red!” Is never a coherent response!
Then how might we respond?
It needs to be understood that we do not fall back into strategy.
The whole notion of strategy is based on assumptions of cause-and-effect. It’s a fantasy of reason. Just another subset of the idiocy encapsulated in a belief in images like The Invisible Hand!™ Or any attempt to negotiate with a rational player.
Strategy as a mode of action evolved from a particular habitual way of seeing story. In our loss of imagination we have lost sight of the borders of this kind of story. We cannot even imagine any other kind. It’s become impossible for us to imagine a story that doesn’t follow these arcs. Even though these stories repeatedly deny what we know to be true in our own experiences. A type of story that is still held up as the model. As if it did faithfully capture the way things work. Even when following these stories inevitably leads to unintended consequences.
What else is there?
Stick to what we can know. Describe the limits of the known.
When we find ourselves in opposition we face others who are; no matter how we insist to divide ourselves away from them; still us. We break off fragments from the whole. Dividing, we do violence to existence. This act of separation is the source of conflict. Any other is also us. When we negate that we do so out of fear. We project our fear onto and create an opponent. We react against this projected fear we see reflected back at us. Our reaction reflects back on us. This guarantees that we get precisely what we feared most.
And the same is true for “Them.”
We skirt the question of non-violence.
None of this limits our responses to any given situation. There are times when the threat of violence traps us into responding in kind. Sometimes this may lead to a better situation; but only if we remain truly horrified at what we have allowed ourselves to do in return. We cannot take a violent action; rest on our self-justifications; and not lose coherence and the capacity to continue to respond to what-is. If we have done violence. We are challenged to atone.
This is not some commandment or rule. It’s a reflection of the way things work. One way lies delusion. The other way clarity.
There are times when we may deflect a threat of violence.
There are times when we may accept violence done to us without responding.
None of this can be predicted or prescribed or proscribed in advance; outside of the moment that has brought us to this extremity.
We may be wrong.
We may make things worse.
Our conception of what is right may be wrong.
Our actions may fail to bring about the result we hoped for.
None of this uncertainty can be bargained away by blinkering our attention and avoiding what we can know:
The unknown is a mystery at the heart of existence. It cannot be explained away.
Still looking for answers?
Stay with the question.
Act as seems appropriate.
Be responsible without expecting responsible action in return.
Feel shame for doing less than what we are capable of.
Forgive all. Including ourselves.
These are preconditions we must take seriously if we are to meet our responsibilities with creative action.
Reaction, even self-preservation, can seem inevitable; but there may be a time when we cast this option aside.
One heuristic we can take from this is that:
We cannot accept remaining complicit in brutality when there is an opportunity to change the situation.
This is not an excuse to perpetuate the cycle. Wrap ourselves in Justifications.
We cannot do otherwise. We cannot be creative in our response unless we are clear about what is implied:
What do we mean by:
4 thoughts on “It’s a crime, part II”
An old preacher friend of mine told me once, that when in seminary, an old professor of theology proclaimed that,”The roads of hell are paved with the skulls of priest”. The closer that we examine right and wrong, the more blurred the lines of distinction become. Compassion and attention require one to stand back and take a softer, less surgical view of the world. Definition comes in a soft interplay between perception and reality.
Yes. Well put: “Definition comes in a soft interplay between perception and reality.”
And of course, this kind of definition can’t be locked down. We keep shaving and adding back….
I read something somewhere that spoke a great deal about cause and effect. It was an interesting exercise to mentally rewrite the approach he took so that events didn’t lead from one to the other like bouncing balls banging into each other. For the most part it was possible to replace cause and effect with some version of the word “manifest”. This didn’t cause that so much as this manifested that. This small change brings down whole pyramids of dependent assumptions that “manifest” from that starting point of cause and effect. It changes our whole relationship to the world, because we act according to how we think the world is organized. Or as Bohm said, a change in meaning is a change in being.
Yes. So long as we don’t let “manifest” creep around to be just another way to say “causes.”
Not to say you were heading there. Another case of our need to stay close to an awareness of the Mystery of Being. All our hunches are only glimpses. Only partially reveal something that can only be revealed as it manifests itself.