Friday, May 14, 2010

if at first you don't succeed, fail anyway

An interesting koan is this:

Where is the line between an issue -- any issue -- and what I may think of that issue?

On the one hand, there is the issue itself -- the bomb explosion, the jammed parking meter, the love affair, the starvation and death in a dry land -- and it is important to consider the issue on its own terms if you want to do anything about it. On the other hand, the moment you start considering it, the issue is muddied by what "I" see it as being.

What makes all this a 'koan' is the desire to encapsulate or control circumstances.

Have you ever listened to anyone who is hell-bent on telling you how touching or offensive some aspect of life is? On and on they may go, emoting, explaining, delving for meaning, expressing belief ... and it can get a bit tiresome: Yes, there is something worth considering, but what you or I might think about it tends to diminish the importance.

On the other hand, have you ever listened to someone who assumes a cool and collected distance from the topic at hand. It has a cold and somehow inhumane feel to it ... people are being affected -- sometimes hurt -- and people are not cold and distant entities. They live, they think, they feel, they get hurt and looking through the wrong end of the telescope seems somehow heartless.

As in journalism, there is no such thing as "objectivity." Nevertheless, journalists try to keep their feelings and wisdoms to themselves and report, to the extent possible, the facts ... just the facts, just the issue, just the events. It never works perfectly because how the story is shaped is always personal, always limited ... no matter how many others may share that limitation. Nevertheless, they do their best because opinions and thoughts tend to blur what may be a quite important issue, something worth fixing or avoiding or employing to good ends.

What is more important -- peace or what anyone thinks peace might be? war or what anyone can expound about war? love or what all and sundry may agree love is?

It is impossible to find the line between the issue and what "I" think about the issue. This observation cannot elevate great gushing appreciations to the level of useful fact but it also cannot elevate a distanced appreciation to anything close to the truth.

All I can think is, if at first you don't succeed, fail anyway.

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