Wednesday, April 25, 2012

sincerely yours...

What a scrumptious and in some cases imperative commodity sincerity is. Sometimes, sincerity is what one person hopes to impart to others as a means of being taken seriously. Sometimes sincerity is what a person invites within as a means of finding some peace in an otherwise superficial lifestyle.

An Internet dictionary defines "sincerity" briefly as, "an honest way of behaving that shows that you really mean what you say or do." The definition is not exactly deft since it opens the door on another realm of scrumptious and often amorphous assumptions: Honesty. The definition also offers another fly in the scrumptious ointment: "Behaving" ... sincerity more generally is relegated to mental, rather than physical, fluctuations.

Oh well ... for the moment, let's pretend we all know what sincerity means and what it supports and what benefits it may impart.

Last night I got mesmerized watching a public broadcast program here in the U.S. called "Frontline." "Frontline" sometimes strikes me as the only remaining program that offers a credibly thoughtful look at whatever topic they have chosen to investigate. The program offers a weaving of facts. It does not -- for once, in this sincere age -- comment on the sincerity of the situation or lay claim to any sincerity. What a relief. Last night's program -- a two-parter that kept me up past my bedtime -- was about the economic meltdown of 2008.

I can't pretend to have understood the complexities of the meltdown presented. From the signing in 1933 of the Glass-Steagall Act with its regulatory aims to the gutting of that act in 1999 ... and on to the weed-choked front yards of abandoned houses and the harried families left to cope ... the program did not paint a pretty picture. The creation of unregulated and largely hidden financial instruments represented a bonanza in money-making and people are pretty sincere about money.

Those interviewed or assessed on the program were almost entirely white, well-educated, well-dressed, and carefully well-spoken. Barack Obama was only coincidentally black -- a black man who knew the levers of a white man's world. No one on the program was anything less than sincere. No one overtly blamed anyone else although it seemed clear that each felt s/he was not responsible. No one got spitting mad. No one said things like, "What a bunch of fucking assholes!" Derivatives trading had been invented and then took on a life of its own -- a life whose ramifications even the inventors had not envisioned and only later understood ... but for which, in any case, s/he was not responsible. The sincerity of money-making had led to a sincerity of explanation. Everyone wanted to be well-thought-of and, in many cases, perhaps they were. The vast majority of those interviewed was well-dressed, well-educated and white.

Talking about the economic meltdown of 2008 is numbing these days. So many people are actually suffering that talking about the causes of that suffering represents an expenditure of energy that is taken away from the factual suffering that exists. Who gives a shit why it happened when the fact that it is happening and saps the soul ... right now, day after day. Who even wants to read another take -- like this one -- on the soup so many are drowning in?

Well, using the Facebook-mentality approach: Calamities are a dime a dozen. Look at the number of activist efforts around and it's pretty clear. Activists set out to correct the wrongs they sincerely envision. Their efforts may be well- or poorly-grounded ... but one thing's fershur: Those efforts are sincere.

Thank goodness for activists ... up to a point. The problem I see is that activists can get so ensorcelled by the 'good' they hope to accomplish in a calamitous world and they are so sincere in their efforts that they neglect the examining of their own sincerities. I cannot tell you how many activists have come to the zendo in my backyard, looking for some peace of mind, wondering why their good and sincere efforts have left them feeling slightly or profoundly out-of-kilter in their own lives. They have been so sincere and that sincerity has, in some strange way, not produced a relief within that they implicitly assumed would be the result of their oh-so-sincere sincerities. Why oh why, when I love my scrumptious sincerities, do those sincerities fail to bear an equally scrumptious fruit?!

And this, to my mind, is the important learning curve about sincerities: On the one hand, in order to behave better, in order to be more honest within, a balls-out effort, a sincere effort, is required. On the other hand, an unwillingness to dig deeper than the scrumptiousness of sincerity leaves this activist feeling hollowed out ... and somehow insincere. How come I do all the 'right' things and come up with results that are somehow 'wrong' ... or, if not 'wrong,' still, somehow, lacking in peace and relief?

This is a one-(wo)man investigation. No one else -- no activist group or well-intentioned religion or well-coiffed philosophy -- can look into our own, very personal, sincerity. No one else can "behave" for us. No one else, no matter how sincere, can promise and deliver peace.

From scrumptiousness, individuals may muster some courage to investigate precisely how honest they are actually being. Some will always remain in the realm of self-serving scrumptiousness ... I want you to think well of me; I rely on you for my own self-image; I will therefore act in ways that ignite your approval.

But then perhaps the dime drops a little: Hitler was sincere; Osama bin Laden was sincere; Mother Theresa was sincere: Wall Street machers were sincere; activist groups of all stripes were sincere; friends and enemies have been sincere ... and most of all, I have been sincere. To borrow from another sincerity-prone expositor, Sarah Palin, "How's that sincerity thingie working for you?"

It's not a joke, setting aside the scrumptiousness of sincerity in order to make a sincere effort. Gautama, the Buddha most commonly credited with getting "Buddhism" up and running, is said to have said, "It is not what others do and do not do that is my concern. It is what I do and do not do -- that is my concern." And whether he actually said it or not is immaterial: The observation and implicit suggestion are correct. All the activism and good works in the world won't avail much if there is no effort -- sincere effort -- to examine the implications and sources of this very convincing sincerity that may delight and yet throttle our own lives.

If the intellect (sincere intellect) is not enough and emotions (sincere emotions) are not enough to insure a sincere and peaceful lifestyle ... well, what is? I wonder what would happen if anyone stopped trying to be "sincere." Would such a person really be any less sincere?

I don't know. Check it out.

How's that sincerity thingie working for you?

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