Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Along the peace picket line yesterday, a young fellow with long hair stopped to ask if we needed a permit to stand where we were on Main Street. When he was told we did not, he seemed relieved: He was planning, he said, to mount an anti-Mother's Day effort to draw attention to ... well, I only heard him from a distance, but it sounded as if he found the holiday exploitative in some way

Earlier, while driving to the location where the picket is held, there was a radio discussion about YouTube's pulling the plug on a parody of Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Germany before and during World War II. Apparently those who sought removal of the parody felt that it was too touching a subject for levity. There was some criticism of early-comedian Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator," a Hitler spoof that appeared before World War II. It was argued that Chaplin trivialized Hitler's demeanor and outlook and thus, in some sense, was complicit in supporting his eventual depredations in the actual-factual world.

Is there any topic -- any topic at all -- that cannot be seen from myriad points of view? Funny, horrific, serious, sad, important, trivial, elevated, debased ... the list is endless and always will be, I think. To suggest that any topic cannot be seen in some other way is to suggest that human beings are limited and that there are topics on which everyone must or should agree.

But even when people agree, they don't agree, so I think the argument falls on its face. Say the words "love" or "freedom" or "compassion" or "enlightenment" or pick-your-favorite-topic for example, and, although there may be some group-hug of an agreement, still the agreement is only approximate. Human beings are more interesting than their agreements or disagreements. And the underlying premise of the approximations they agree to or disagree with is this: Each person is responsible for his or her own reactions or thoughts or feelings.

And I suppose that's the rub. Each might wish the warmth and support of those who 'agree' with them ... in part because it seems to eradicate the need for a responsibility that cannot be evaded. If you and I agree about something, then, perhaps, I can rely on you and you can rely on me ... and the fact that I can only rely on myself or you on yourself is placed on some back burner as each of us asserts the foundation of our beliefs or affections and support the argument with a "they" or "them" who is separated from the "me" who makes the decision.

Responsibility may feel anti-social or cold or group-hug-averse, but for anyone with a mirror, it keeps staring you in the face. And trying to escape the mirror is an endless and fruitless battle ... I am responsible for my spoofs and serious considerations and solemnities and religions and wars and ... well, it's my doing and if I cannot come to terms with that responsibility, there is likely to be a constant uncertainty ... nagging, whispering, needling.

Once upon a time, a young man asked Soen Nakagawa Roshi why he bowed to the Buddha statue on the altar. Why didn't he spit? And Soen replied mildly, "You spit. I bow."

Every now and then, you run into a grown-up in life.


  1. There is an anime which deals with this issue. Responisiblity (it said strength) and somewhat anti-social behaviour on one hand, and less responsibility (less strength) but more friends on the other hand.

    It becomes as a choise between comrades/friends and strength/honor.

    It is definetly demanding great strength and maturity to keep your strength/honor by repulsing the need for comrades. But for me, i can't ignore the fact that I am social being.

    That anime is called Shaman King and the story relevant here goes around the 20th episode if i remember correctly.

  2. The reason we like groups is that we have a feeling that we share the responsibility, so that's just group karma. I think that when you have standards, you set yourself up for responsibility. The same thing applies when groups say they have standards. Let's say the group is composed of twenty people and they each do some quick internal math and feel they only have 5% of the responsibility their fair share, then that will seem sufficient.
    I've always like this made-up (mine), statistic; 91.4% of the work in this world is done by 8.6% of the people
    Applied to responsibility that would hold true except the ratio reversed. Bottom line is that responsibility means accepting consequences i.e. life, as it appears in front of us and that's very difficult for 86.3% of people and moderately difficult for 7.7% percent the other 6% shun it entirely.

  3. You are serioous with these numbers friend? :)
    Can you explain that most of the world are not working?

  4. It was an attempt at humor. Many of my attempts go astray.
    I was trying to say that responsibility is in the eye of the beholder. It is all subjective. Not one of us is in the position to judge another's actions. or their motives.
    Most of us probably don't know why we ourselves do anything, let alone what prompts another to act, or not to act.
    But, we do all reap consequences, irrespective of what we do or don't.
    I'm sorry if I got too "cute".