Thursday, June 10, 2010

right on!

Of all the scrumptious trip wires in life, I sometimes wonder if being right isn't pretty close to king of the castle. The scrumptiousness comes, of course, not from actually being right but from the warming sun of imagining you are right.

The other day, I ran into a heart doctor with whom I have had some personal contact and, since he seemed to have time to chat, I said to him that I had always been grateful to him for an observation he once made after I retired: "Your health is now your business." Depressing in one sense, still the advice was good, I said. He took that conversational ball and ran with it: "You can't imagine how many people I tell that too -- guys with a gut out to here and can't even walk across a room without difficulty -- and they just don't listen. It's like spreading grass seed on concrete."

His eyes and mouth tightened slightly as he issued this judgment. It was a small nod towards a what-a-bunch-of-assholes assessment, scrumptiously cranky-making. He was right. Why wasn't the world listening to him? He wanted to help, was offering help and much of the world he inhabited was spurning his good intentions and experience-based virtue.

And the same trip wire is visible in many nooks and crannies. Spiritual life is littered with people who may, in fact, be right, but then add on an insistence that they are right. And when people agree with them, it's Nellie-bar-the-door ... suddenly it's OK to insist you are right when there is a lot of applause for your being right.

There's only one fly in this ointment: It doesn't work and it engenders uncertainty. Being right is OK. Thinking you are right means you must constantly buttress your position, shore it up against those who, implicitly or explicitly, suggest you are off the mark.

The exterior versions of being right -- politicians, Tupperware salesmen, virtue merchants, etc. -- are really not so bad as what people can do to themselves within, basking in being right when in fact they may merely be right. In Buddhist lingo, this is called attachment ... and it is so scrumptious that it's a hard habit to break. The Buddhists are right ... but there's no telling that to others, even other Buddhists.

In Buddhism, for example, there are the Four Noble Truths. These are observations about the way the world goes around:

There is suffering.
There is a cause of suffering.
There is an end of suffering.
There is a way to end suffering.

But there is no convincing anyone that such observations are true or right. There is only finding out that they are true or right and then working forward based on your own discoveries. The fact that anyone can quote these lines or write these lines or agree with others about these lines ... well, it's all piss in a snow bank...a scrumptious relief, perhaps, but lacking ease. It's right, perhaps, but there is no need to be right about it. In fact, the need to be right will stand in the way of being right no matter how scrumptious being right may be.

And if this depiction rings any bells within and if it suggests investigation and attention, then I think the same investigation and the same attention might be warranted about being wrong. Nothing wrong with being wrong ... unless of course you think (scrumptiously) that you or someone else is wrong.

Speak your piece. Spread the grass seed. As the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki once observed approximately, "There are things to do and there are things not to do -- that is enough."

But I concede that scrumptiousness requires some effort.

1 comment:

  1. I am tired from reading.
    Not a pro in reading, you know.
    So i'll give up on trying to make a point of mine.
    And leave you chant ... it sounds good and i want to join. But now i am tired.