Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"manipulative cowardice"

"Manipulative cowardice" -- the tart observation came unbidden into my mind after a phone call I received yesterday from a woman seeking information about a woman who used to run a Zen center here in Northampton. It was a cold call: I didn't know the woman calling and was forced to say that I was pretty much out of the Zen loop of teachers and centers and various activities. I did point her towards various sources that might help her.

I might have shut the conversation down sooner, but I spun it out partly because I was interested in my own reactions.

The caller's voice was top-heavy with that treacly and little-disguised self-congratulation of being willing (and by extension able) to help others. She pressed the go-to buzzers of "mindfulness" and "being centered" and "enlightenment" and "we" and ... well, you get the drift. She had practiced for ten years, she said, and had written and lectured and ... well, you get the drift.

It was nothing I hadn't done myself at one time, so I was equipped to recognize the activity. What interested me was the fact that her observations and threads yesterday failed to surprise or even irritate me very much. Who knows what will inspire whom to find out something useful ... or useless: there's not much difference?

I did stop her when she got around to the word "we" and said I wasn't much interested in what "we" did or thought, but I was curious about what "she" did or thought. Yes, I could sympathize with the unwillingness or inability to speak a singular truth or appreciation. But not to give a gentle nudge to the "manipulative cowardice" -- the need to be buttressed by some amorphous and presumptuous group that agreed with you -- seemed unkind. She paid my query little heed. She was neck-deep in her formulae and, well ... sometimes that the way things are... having an answer or explanation or improvement for everything.

OK ... let 'er rip. No one can outflank or sweet talk life into submission. Talk as much as you like. Be as "kind" as you imagine you are. Life is not a place that offers or promises safety. It's just life.

Anyway, I wasn't as irritated as I thought I might be. I listened and I asked if she had ever thought of giving it all up and then listened to the answer "we" might long to hear and she could round up kudos for.

Without disrespect, it was a bit like listening to a drug addict who, despite his or her best efforts, simply cannot put a cork in the self-referential miasma. Calling it "cowardice" is a bit too tart, perhaps, but it's in that neighborhood, I think. And "manipulative?" Well, everyone (did I just say "we?") has to put spaghetti on the table.

I was pleased I wasn't more crabby. Being crabby presupposes that my own lift-off yardstick in spiritual trekking ("I don't want to convince anyone else; I just want to know -- for me -- whether spiritual adventure is bullshit or not") is somehow correct or without confused flaw.

1 comment:

  1. Just because it might attract bullshitters doesn't mean it's bullshit. Nor does it mean it's not.