I’ve been thinking a good deal about what Carly wrote yesterday in his comments. I respect the fact that he’s unwilling to duck issues or tolerate stupidity and ignorance. I’m also acutely aware of the possibility that certain “Buddhist” attitudes could make me sound like some kind of milquetoast, and it bothers me a good deal that I might be perceived as such. I don’t like waffle, and I don’t respect tolerance at any cost. I’ve noted in the past what Than Geoff has said: Being Buddhist doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat. If anything makes me cringe, it’s the fear of being perceived as one who lacks convictions, and lacks the strength of character to follow through with them.
That said—and a shared impatience with rednecks notwithstanding!—I still think that the concept of Right Speech serves me better than speaking out of anger and intolerance. If anything demeans me, it’s my own attachment to the rightness of my opinions and my own harsh words, much more than the judgments of others. Carly speaks—unconvincingly, to my ear—of “indifference” as a possible solution. As I understand the word, it implies a studied lack of care, and I don’t get that from the tone of what he writes. I get aversion, even disgust. Indifference suggests a hardening of the heart--and with it, possibly, a self-harming hardening of the arteries. I'd personally far prefer to have a hard head than a hard heart. For me, the Buddhist notion of equanimity is far more appealing than indifference—and far less harmful in its effect on me and on those around me, since it seeks to avoid both aversion and approval. It simply recognizes what is.
I want to believe, also, that such an attitude reflects a strength of mind rather than a weakness. It’s a challenging refusal to be drawn into senseless conflict either by instincts or by intellect (as I've said, I do share Carly’s instinctive and intellectual distrust of ignorance, prejudice, and intellectual indolence) in favor of a willing suspension of judgment which spares both the heart and the gut, not only emotionally but physically as well.
I’m honestly not sure how Taoism differs from Buddhism in regard to the way in which we talk to each other, and the way in which we deal with what we perceive to be dangerous ignorance and prejudice. But I’d sure be interested to hear. I’m also not sure whether Carly was speaking out of his Taoist convictions, or giving vent to a more personal view. Carly?
A final word: after watching the victims of Imus's intemperate remarks on the news this morning and hearing their sense of having their wonderful achievement in some way tarnished by what he had to say, I think it's important to remember that his words have the power to shame no one but Imus himself.