Tuesday, May 3, 2011

hypocrisy and shadows

It is a marvelously delicious exercise to point out the hypocrisy of others. It's damn near better than chocolate in its savory satisfactions. It is bitter and hard, by contrast, to recognize and take responsibility for our own hypocrisies ... damn near worse than anchovies.

What brought this to mind somehow was a news report outlining the best and worst places in the world to be a mother or a child. Norway took the gold medal, according to the Save the Children's 12th annual Mothers Index while Afghanistan brought up the rear.

Who has not heard the blessed states of childhood or motherhood exalted? We've all been kids and all have had mothers, so not only is there a social elevation involved. The matter is also personal. This lends passion to the pastime when it is exercised. Mothers and kids deserve our kindness and protection and nurturing ... and yet the world does not always provide what we may claim to want to provide. What is beloved in the heart is not always beloved on the ground.

This disconnect between thought and action allows our Virtue Gnome to utter the chocolate-y word, "hypocrisy." And it's not as if the disconnect were limited to mothers and children. Take a look or open the ears and there is a vast arena in which hypocrisy is apparent. War, peace, smart, stupid, kind or unkind, rich, poor ... it's a wonder if the Virtue Gnome ever gets any rest. And some people make a real profession out of dissecting the hypocrisies of others.

But what it all makes me think of is this: At a very personal level, any elevation of any topic brings with it a shadow. The shadow consists of the stuff that is put on the back burner where accolades and exaltation arise. In order to pay attention to one thing, you automatically ignore others. I may choose to go to the movies or practice meditation, but in order to do those things, I must set aside other concerns that the Virtue Gnome or the Enjoyment Sprite might find compelling. I choose one thing, but the fact is, life presents everything at once ... it is all connected and separations are of my own doing, not life's doings.

The excuse for ignoring that in favor of this is often pretty simple ... hell, I can't do everything at once. I cannot be aware of all things simultaneously. And this is true ... but it is an excuse and living a life propped up with excuses is not terribly satisfying or peaceful. Living a life layered with excuses is to accede to the shadows that "good" and "bad" things bring with them.

All of this strikes me as pretty ordinary, pretty human. But the question may present itself, how can I step out of the shadows, the hypocrisy, of my own making? And the best I can figure, the only way to clear up the matter of shadow and light is to take responsibility. Any time I exalt in one thing or despair of another, it is time to reflect -- not so much on the horrors and delights that others can arouse in my chocolate/anchovie mind, but rather on my own willingness to play the darkness-and-light game.

This -- whatever 'this' may be -- is my choice and my responsibility. It is a choice that may be inspired by virtue or wickedness, but first and foremost, it is my choice and I act on it. In action there is no light and no shadow, no accolade and no excuse. There is just action ... minus the extras, minus the excuses. If I indulge in the extras -- the hypocrisy and the explanations and the accolades -- then that too is just my choice.

It may take some effort to revise a life filled with excuses and shadows, but the payback is better than chocolate or anchovies. Pay attention. Take responsibility. It may later appear that this choice was "right" or "wrong," in which case there is room for correction or better understanding. But standing in the midst of this choice, this moment, this responsibility, there is no room for hypocrisy or darkness or light. Obviously this too is just a matter of choice.

But who chooses?

That's a good question too.

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