Sunday, October 18, 2009

Strange Attraction

My good friend Edward told me once, "They will try to put it on you: don't let them put it on you."

I have always lived a more alternative lifestyle. Alternative in the sense that I did what I thought to be right, and tried not to be concerned about what others thought of me. Usually this works fine, but sometimes prejudice still hurts. These are wounds that carve memories into the heart: to be called lazy by someone who beat you down, by someone who has benefitted from your free labours, to be considered to have less moral fiber by someone who follows the pack without thought -- the betrayals of hypocrisy. Then when even a casual faux-pas from someone...  touches these wounds, the reaction is out of proportion to the situation, but not the feeling -- betrayal.

Our ego personalities ultimately lead us to happy success or wretched failure. Good luck and bad luck certainly play a part, but I think most of what befalls us comes because we were outgoing or not; cheerful or not; kind or not; and so on.

Our personalities, our egos, are like the tracings of a chaotic system. While there is no solid thing at the centre (and hence the spouting of sages that the ego is nothing) there is a tendency for the pattern to stay mostly in the centre. We are not block of stone, we are clouds. It is my opinion that the strange attractor at our ego's gravitational centre is our attitude. The emotional state we choose to tend toward. What in days gone by they would have called 'character.' Therefore, change the attractor: change the life.

Now anger is not the best feeling for me. It's a terrible strange attractor. It is a chosen self-flaggelation. Why stay a victim of another's opinion?
1.) To not have to try.
2.) To justify your failures.
3.) To be right.
So why be mad at their hypocrisy? Surely if they want to be right so badly that they will bend the universe into a pretzel, your chastising them will lead nowhere. Am I looking for thanks? Gratitude?

In fact they will be mad at you for being mad. Emotions are infectious. It is amazing to me how some emotions are so easily transfered. Petty people make you feel like being petty. Angry people get you angry. Bad strange attractors. Being angry is my own undoing. It will eventually make me sick, I suspect. I think I'd rather let go.

The question is how. We are angered by many things. Siddhartha in Hermann Hesse's book of the same name has a son who is angry with him. Why? Because of the constant good deeds done toward him, make him feel indebted. And the easiest way to be free of that, is to blow off the debt. To get angry. And then to put that upon another.

The strange attraction of being angry is enticing. It involves me in way I cannot just say, "O, it's nothing." It is my view of the world that is askew. A world view that has expectations of reciprocality, fair-dealing, mutual interest. Does this put me on the road to the even stranger attraction of bitterness, if I expect the opposite? Perhaps this is why the Buddha said we should expect nothing, hold on to nothing. This rings with questions of right livelihood, and what one needs in the way of possessions. But even the hairshirt crowd has expectations of what holy disinterest should look like. Why let them put that on me?

Be kind, do in the world what you feel is right, and don't let them put in on you.

Mr. Kingfisher

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