June 18, 2017, John Æonid
One of of the Zen precepts that I have sworn to is to “fight no one and no thing.” And, I've found new meaning in the oath. Along with this, I find myself studying what I've come to regard as an optimistic Philosophy, that of Stoicism and related thinking. The the founding Stoics, Asian Stoics, and modern self-help Stoics. Having been a student of Zen, I've been a great fan of the Daoists, which many regard as relating to Stoicism. I became aware of the Greek and Roman Stoics when I was finally able to attend college-level Philosophy courses. And, I should name a few of the modern self-help Stoics that I've been intrigued by. This includes Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, and Matt Kahn. Ekhart Tolle is the one who explicitly acknowledges his association with Stoicism, as admitted in his talk on Epictetus.
In recent months, I've been concerned about the divisiveness that has arisen in the cultures of the World. I feel I should have noticed it sooner. But, I have the honor of experiencing the same kind of emotions as everybody else. In fact, it's become clear that one can be reasonably clear and still have worries that quietly haunt deep in the background. I've been allowing such feint worries, yet I now see the influence they have. They put me at odds with things that are natural and unchangeable. Yes, it's natural to have these feelings, but they aren't really productive. Why fight what is unavoidable? Even a relatively happy person will be pulled down a bit by such thoughts. Negative thoughts only serve when they lead to solutions. They do nothing for the impossible problems—except harm and undermine our wellbeing.
So the clear solution to the divisiveness is to fight no one and no thing. I don't care who profits from the divisiveness; personal empowerment comes by not being at odds with anything—especially those things that can't be beaten. Seriously, there are things in this World that will last beyond your lifetime and will crush you if you dare challenge them.
Culture does not change as fast as social movements claim they should, and I think it is possible to push too hard. That doesn't mean ignoring injustice. Speak out when inspired. But, don't let the injustices quell your joy for life. We are not meant to be miserable just because others create suffering. All emotional misery is something we only think we are meant to endure. Don't do that. It's not productive.
However, “Fight Nothing” doesn't make for a particularly effective mantra. Our emotional selves don't respond well to negations. The word “fight” is still felt as oppositional, and the emotional self will respond in an oppositional way on some level. A better phrase would be “surrender to all.” But, even that won't feel right. The more appropriate perspective is that whatever the nature of things is what is, and loving the beauty of reality is a happy thing. Odd that it may sound, but even the turmoil has its beauty. As a result, I've recently started saying: “I'm so happy to be here.”
Try that one on for size. Say it: “I'm so happy to be here.” Some have said that we are here for the purpose of having a particular experience. That's not a view that works well under empirical thinking, but it does work well with our emotional selves. So, it makes sense to see our experiences as allowing a manner of growth, and whatever we endure evolves into the beauty that we become. In this, we have the opportunity to love our own beauty—even though life sucks. The dualism of the Stoics is that we can't change everything, but we can love the opportunity to have the experience of our beauty. And, this makes me so happy to be alive—so happy to be here.
It's an odd thing—this thing that the dualism of the Stoics says. It's about the way that we think. We have to make decisions, often in haste. The hastiness is necessary in fight or flight situations. Often these are binary decisions—do or die decisions.
I've wanted to write about this separately, but I haven't gotten around to this yet. I call it the decision engine. It's a part of our brains that says that a decision has to be forced—lest we stagnate and decay. That is, we have an impulse to come to a conclusion; we have a need to make decisions that result in our survival. And, the decision engine will make us nervous when are “sitting on the fence.” But, the need to make decisions, regardless of our need to survive, leads to a false sense of reality. That need colors reality into things that we label as good or bad—even when such judgments serve no reasonable purpose.
But, the impulse has an incredible force over our view of reality. If a thing is not a particular thing, then it must be something else. If a thing is not good, then it must be bad, and if a thing is bad, then it has no use whatsoever. These are artificial labels we put on things, and we don't need to do it for everything. Nor do we need to make them singularly absolute. So, you don't need to think your situation is bad—until it's time to change something. And, the only time it's useful to be dissatisfied is when there's something you can change. And, when the change occurs, you get to feel good again.
This new mantra, “I'm so happy to be here,” arises out of another thing that I've been wanting to write about. Let's call it temporal angst, and let's define it as cravings that are at odds with time itself. I can remember experiencing it as a kid, and it's been with me throughout most of my life. It typically arises when I'm on the way home and only about ten or fifteen minutes away. The thought that comes with this intense craving is generally “why am I not yet home; why can't I already be there?”
And, the craving will result in this intense wishing, as if there were a magical incantation that I could invoke to somehow instantaneously teleport myself home. And, then I'll be amazed at how silly that craving is. There's nothing really wrong with being where I am. I'm not in any pain or discomfort. I just want to be someplace else and I'm frustrated with reality for not letting me bend time. It's a silly craving, but it's amazing how intense it can be.
Lately, I've been noticing thoughts that are like a low grade craving of this sort. Such thoughts are generally along the lines of “it'll be good to get home.” And, it includes any thought expressing a dissatisfaction with the now and thinks later will be better. These thoughts kind of murmur in the background, they impart a vaguely haunting dissatisfaction. And, that doesn't serve me. If anything, they breed more dissatisfaction.
I'd rather allow myself to recognize how blessed we all are to be anywhere and to experience the beauty in our hearts and in our lives. And, that's what allows me to say: “I so happy to be here.” And, I don't have any trouble believing it because I've experienced the beauty around me and in me, and I know that it's always there. So when I acknowledge the beauty, I am—I really am—I really am so happy to be here.
We are now faced with the survival of humanity, and the less-than-true reasonings of the decision engine are creating problems. We are allowing things to be labeled good or bad, and we are destroying each other over these labels—even though the labels we fight over don't really serve a productive purpose. I don't want to turn this into a reason for sacrifice, but I do want to liberate those who feel forced into decisions they don't want to make. And, if such decisions create turmoil, I would like to see them calmed.
There are things in reality that we are forced to do. These are the natural things that happen no matter what we do. We can see these as beautiful, and we can choose to do so. Too many things are fought over, and the fighting is tearing us apart. Better to let go of unnecessary decisions and perspectives, and let the beauty through.
Unfortunately, the divisiveness will continue in the majority of people, and the World will be stuck in opposition for a long time. Again, culture does not progress as quickly as we wish it would. But, this time of turmoil, these ever so interesting times, are giving more and more people reason to question the way we respond to these things. Gains in emotional intelligence naturally arises from this. Growth in spirituality naturally arises from this. And, opportunities to see the beauty in others become so easily apparent.
Men who would never have hugged another man just a few decades ago are doing just that. That means that men who were supposed to be stoic in the conventional sense are finding reason to connect at a much deeper emotional level. This is a hint that Stoicism proper is being embraced (pun intended) by more and more people. Find a way to release the attachment to external control. And, find a way of loving the beauty in us all. This is the divinity of our consciousness. It is the true gift of God.
Is there a way to make this stick? With the sluggishness of spiritual change and a majority that too easily buys into the divisive rhetoric, can this expansion overcome human nature and heal the World? I'm somewhat skeptical (in the conventional sense) about that, but I am confident that the tools we find in Stoicism—our ability to find beauty in our human condition—offers us, offers anyone the opportunity to be happy and non-oppositional—even when everything sucks in a big way.
So no matter what's going on in the World, we are free to be empowered—simply by recognizing the underlying beauty and recognize that we are blessed to be here and have these experiences. And, this makes me so happy to be here. I hope you can feel that way too.
One thing bothers me about this. When we appear to accept everything, those caught in the turmoil think we're Pollyanna zombies (picture that). And, that's not true. We clearly know that the World is full of injustices. Do you have any inkling about how many genocides have been attempted in recent decades? It's not a trivial number. Tyrannies abound. Seriously, this World sucks, and in a big way. And, it can make us feel so powerless.
But, we don't get to fix anything by being oppositional. War only breeds War. I, in my own weakness, have wanted my government to use the military machine to go shut down various tyrannies. And, I don't have to name one; you can find them in the news with little effort. Yet, I now know that the real answer is to breed Love. It will not be a quick fix to the tyrannies; but if we can make it stick, it will forever change the virtue of humanity. Otherwise, we are a lost cause.
Speak out against injustice as you see fit. But, do not do it an oppositional way. Just say: “that's not right,” or “that's not good.” Write to representatives as often as you are moved to do so and on any topic that moves you. But, any attempt to oppose those with contrasting views will only breed divisiveness and more violence. Doing that is not healthy, and violence of any kind is the worst thing you can do.
If you think you can succeed in shutting down those who oppose your views, you will implant an emotional energy that will come to harm others—including those you care about. This is not a trivial thing. Don't fight anything. If you do, it will only breed more fighting. Better to accept that we are still trying to figure things out. It will take time, but feeding the opposition, the divisiveness, will only slow things down.
The real answer is in the hearts of the people. Despite the failings of our fears, we have the ability to recognize that fears are a problem. Even great leaders have acknowledged this. Our strength comes in loving our own inner beauty, and setting fears aside. The divisions between peoples are healed when we acknowledge that beauty is in all—even those who are in opposition. Love everyone. Love those in opposition—lest you fall in to opposition yourself. Stop finger pointing. Any finger pointing is oppositional.
You are blessed, and you have every reason to be here. And, in this incredibly sucky World, you have every reason to believe that your experiences make you stronger, and you have every reason to be so incredibly happy that you are here. Be a lover of life, and you will be loved. And, there are many of us who will love you anyway. I love you, whatever your failings, and I'm not the only one. That is the divinity of Love.
I cannot ever abandon this message of Love. Whoever you embrace as a great teacher of compassion, you can look to such teachers and look to their teachings to breed Love. Divisiveness will tear humanity asunder. If you regard the beauty of humanity to be divine, that this is the essence of all that is divine in us, then you must reject that which is tearing us apart. You must embrace that which brings us together. And, the universal term for this, however ill defined, is Love.
Love of all makes us stronger and more connected—including to those who suffer. I'm so happy to be here. I hope you are too. And, any suffering that makes you doubt this, I aspire to love that too. I aspire to love all that is. But however difficult such aspirations may be, it's just natural that we find our salvation in Love. I'm so happy to be here.
Peace, Blessings, Insight, and Clarity