Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Right Speech, Again

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.


Mark said...

I'm also fairly curious. I had been taught that Taoism, and in many ways Buddhism, rely on concentrating on creating peace in your own heart, not worrying about others. If one can achieve this goal, others will see this exemplary person and they will be filled with shame, which will cause them to also strive to become an exemplary person. In this way, people only concentrate on those who they view as better at being exemplary in order to achieve that goal. Those who are not as far along as they are shouldn't be neglected intentionally, just not focused upon. I've probably got a few misconceptions here. I am by no means an expert. Perhaps I could be clarified, Carly and Peter?

Anonymous said...

Goya, on a drawing, wrote a wonderful inscription late in his seventies, "Still learning".
I hear you on "divisive speech". I am too brusque to master the art of words in that regard. I am a visual artist.

Lao Tzu was not so concerned about inner peace, I think, in the Buddhist sense. My sense is he may have thought Buddhism was a type of retreat. He had a different idea about movement. He taught retreat as a tactic and that a man may chose to "be removed from the tumult of the world". He was concerned with social ideas, and especially in attaching no blame and non-action in the sense of letting nature take its course. He did warn against intemperate speech, however. And, yes, he did teach how the power of one's presence could influence. He, however, left as his society destroyed itself.

To Taoist and Buddhist thinking in a moment. One thing I've noticed about older people is they become very tired of conflict and seek quiet and the line of least resistance to solutions. The massive nature of the world-wide redneck population and its consequences (Bush, Bin Laden) may require resistance that is appropriate. Heart, head, I don't know. What Ghandi did seemed to work, non-violent resistance based on strategy through deep understanding of the forces at work. His strategy involved the appropriate words. Lao Tzu makes very strong points about passion verses reason. Too many to mention here, a deep, relevant subject. I would think Ghandi admired Lao Tzu, the tactician.

My psychic volunteered a crucial point about me. She said, " You can take em or leave em." She nailed it. I don't care to lead.

I have an aversion to 'rednecks'. And I am disgusted with them. Where I stop is - doing anything about it. My use of 'indifference' is simply, to be honest, is that I don't care about them enough to, frankly, my dear, give a damn. For to hate, is to become attached to the hated object. I wouldn't go so far as to harden my arteries. However, to be unattached is to be numb. Passion and reason, more precisely, equilibrium, is needed, as shown in the ancient arts of yoga and Tai Chi. Taoists practice martial arts.

I recently got into a discussion with a bald young man, who fancies himself as a Buddhist. He extended the idea of simply recognizing what exists to say that there is no right or wrong, that no value judgments should be placed on things. Whereas I believe nature distinguishes what is high and what is low. Now, they can steal my car out of my driveway, but when they break into my house, I won't be saying I simply "recognize what is". I will be shooting with extreme prejudice.

And when they join the military to go somewhere and kill people, they are really pissing me off. But I don't advocate curbing any of their rights, though I am not at all happy about what their actions do to my country and the world. I am not sad about it, I'm angry with them. i don't bear their burden with heavy heart. The book Lord of the Flies demonstrates my insight into them. They are The Unthinking, destructive. Whereas I am a builder. I once admired a redneck-acting guy who was a builder. He taught me a beautiful skill. Builders tend to think creatively about all things. Unheralded lot, the builders. Ill of society: the destroying glory seekers are getting all the attention. The reason? Guess who? Business and politicians cater to rednecks, the biggest target audience.

Buddhists, I have learned, do not spare the rod. Nor do Taoist thinkers, which have specific teachings about raising armies and just actions on a large scale. Lao Tzu has specific teachings about dealing with, as my dad used to call them, "hardheads". LT says they are like pigs and fishes, very resistant to being influenced. LT says one must get into their heads to establish a connection in order to influence them. Karl Rove did that. I've done it, but if it is not part of your purpose in life, it's a whole lot of trouble to bother. I'm more of a why bother? kinda guy.

In a very broad generalization I must say, I believe rednecks shirk their responsibilities as human beings, rednecks in any country. To be uncivilized is to be sub-human. The things I've seen are inexcusable, and as I have said, not being a Christian, I don't believe in forgiveness, unless I see true humility. No charity until I see TRUE remorse. And do something about it in this life. Pawning it off to another life through karma, doesn't wash with me. That's just another rationalization. Like the Taoist said, if the man is not as he should be, he has misfortune. Rednecks, pay heed.