Friday, December 30, 2011

stubbornness and determination

Here it is, almost 1030, and I haven't gotten in my daily writing fix. Before I could get off on some choice thoughts about "stubbornness" and "determination," I got a phone call from a woman who I always think of as my sister and we gabbed as brothers and sisters do ... a long, easy-going, sometimes profane, sometimes serious, sometimes silly conversation that was miles more interesting than my ruminations.

And now, returning to "stubbornness" and "determination," I can only vaguely remember what it was that enticed me before the laughter and gabbing. Vaguely, but still....

I think it's a decision everyone makes alone, the distinctions and similarities between stubbornness and determination. Stubbornness is a quality that can carry a good meaning or a disapproving one. But it seems reasonable to say everyone is stubborn about something. Maybe a belief, maybe a religion, maybe a taste or leaning or activity.

I am quite stubborn about disliking anchovies, for example. I cannot imagine anyone's liking them because I do not. And likewise, I cannot imagine not-liking chocolate. On more amorphous grounds, maybe there is a taste or distaste for money or enlightenment or a group of people or some generalization about friends or enemies or the French.

Stubbornness ... I want things my way. My way is the right way. My way or the highway. Maybe the stubbornness is just in my mind and I don't lay it off on others. Maybe my stubbornness is something I am willing to shove down others' throats ... my god is the right god and your god is the wrong one.

But it interests me to notice in my stubbornness about god, to use one example: Is the god about whom I can be so stubborn stubborn or not? How much of a god could a stubborn god be? It sounds like a two-bit god to me ... but that's just my stubbornness.

Determination, when distinguished from stubbornness, doesn't strike me as having a down side. Determination is what anyone conjures up when seeking to accomplish something. Determination is getting up after falling down...and then keep on getting up after repeatedly falling down. Determination is needed where inexperience currently rules. Right, wrong or indifferent, effort requires determination.

Well, this is all a bit wussy, a bit too airy-fairy for my taste. The thing that interested me about "stubbornness" and "determination" is the facet that seems to link the two and make them indistinguishable: Ego. No matter how they are distinguished, no matter how they are elevated or parsed or praised or criticized ... still, without ego, without a sense of self, neither achieves liftoff. Ego-tripping R Us -- that's what crossed my mind. Stubborn or determined ... no ego, no liftoff.

And since the ego is a dubious customer at best, perhaps anyone might like to consider (for their own purposes) whether liftoff was actually necessary in the first place. Whether Ku Klux Klan member or determined Buddhist aspirant ... practice makes perfect, but perfect makes perfect as well.

As Shunryu Suzuki once put it more or less, "There are things to-do and there are things not-to-do -- that's all." Figuring out which is which may require effort, may require stubbornness, may require determination, but in the end or before the beginning, there are things to-do and things not-to-do.

Perfect makes perfect.

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