Wednesday, September 21, 2011

there really is weeping

I don't know if it is a true memory or a fabricated one, but I seem to remember a tale in which Gautama (the one generally referred to as the Buddha) looked into the future, saw the war and discord of the times and wept. Weeping is such a popular pastime these days -- politicians and others expressing their versions of regret seem capable of turning on the spigot at will for TV cameras -- that I hesitate to mention the function at all. And yet there really is weeping and there are things worth weeping for.

I don't much care if the story of Gautama is true or not. I don't put much stock in seeing into the future, but I wouldn't discount it either. In my Swiss-cheesy memory an enlightened Gautama saw war and discord and wept. A weeping circle jerk is still a circle jerk ... and still there is weeping.

In the video posted following this post, a psychological counselor is shown talking with a former soldier who is wracked by is war experience and his inability to find a peaceful way in a peace-time society. And the counselor points out to this young man who might well be my son or yours, my brother or yours, that his country has asked him to set aside his deepest values, his sense of right and wrong, and to kill others. And the young man -- my son and your brother -- did it as a matter of survival. It was the only way he could survive. And he did survive ... but the price he paid, the shredding of his own deepest values, finds no forgiveness or perspective in a world where his survival is no longer so directly threatened. The counselor tries to comfort the young man ... it was not he who was wrong, it was not he who made a mistake. It was the war that was mistaken -- the assumption that setting aside our deepest values is worth the price ... as a matter of manufactured survival.

It is one thing to set aside those values as a matter of survival. Which one of us would not do that? But the placing of one man by another into survival-mode conditions is ... is to weep. The shredding of what is decent and nourishing in any human being ... is unconscionable ... and ... to weep. To force another to forsake enlightenment for delusion ... is to weep. Why would anyone in a position of leadership and power do that? Because s/he believes in power too much and peace too little. To do this to yourself is one thing. To do it to another ... is to weep. To tear out a man's deepest heart and tell him to go forward with heart ... is to weep. To take advantage of a man's love for and understandable desire to nourish family and friends and even country ... it is beyond despicable ... it is to weep. The underlying revulsion and despair can be seen in the U.S. creation of drone bases -- weapons that will not subject as many men and women to the shredding of their own deepest understanding.

There is no cool distance that can be brought to bear. No religious smarm. No philosophical dissection. All that can be suggested is ...

Don't you do that.

In Georgia, Troy Davis is scheduled to be executed today for killing a police officer in 1989. He has exhausted the appeals that rested on witness recantations and lack of evidence and excited worldwide appeals. A picture of one protest showed a woman bearing a placard that said, "Not in my name."

Not in my name.

Don't you do that.

Save your tears.

Don't you do that.


  1. I doubt it requires mystical powers to see suffering in the future.

  2. "All that can be suggested is ...
    Don't you do that."

    Or, in a slightly different but fundamentally equal perspective...

    "Do unto others as you would like to be done to yourself."

    The Golden Rule...

    Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to undo so many things I am deeply sorry about, but I can't. And while regret may be a humbling feeling, one that may help me avoid repeating past mistakes, it can also be deeply self-destructive and paralysing, fuelling a fear of taking the next step, to avoid repeating those same mistakes, and the very same anxiety that so often leads to making the wrong move and repeating such mistakes.

    I try to keep in mind, parroting Francisco Xavier, that "we cannot change the past, but it's never too late for a new beginning". Unfortunately, this is all a thousand times easier to say than do, especially in difficult times and since it depends so much on a (hopefully) growing conscience of our own actions and their consequences. If I am not fully aware of the consequences of my words and actions, what am I to say? What am I to do?

    We may like chocolate, it brings us up, yet it hides a bitter truth. Truth feels more like anchovies, if you don’t like them it will bring you down. Truth has a way of surfacing, so the longer we go on choosing chocolate, the higher we will be and the higher may be the fall if(?) and when the truth finally surfaces…

    This is why silent practice, alongside continuous trial and error, so often feels like the only option left. And still, it often feels like it isn’t enough. Someone once said that my silence is destructive. Maybe because, more often than not, it hasn’t been a true silence, one that is founded on inner peace. Maybe because it is misunderstood, from a point of view lacking those past experiences when my words (both positive and negative) caused much pain to others. I don’t know. Still, it is the kind of remark than can make me feel like I’m damned if I speak and damned if I don’t.

    "Do unto others as you would like to be done to yourself."

    I’m not so sure what I would like to be done to myself, but one thing I do feel...

    "Chocolate coated anchovies" sounds disgusting...