This post started off as a comparison between two views on “freedom”, it’s implications and concequences. It ended in *drumroll* a Theory. Yes folks, the chatterbox is highly productive. So here we go:
Be as you are or Do what you want. There’s a profound difference between the two imperatives.
Buddhism in general says – Be As You Are! You are primordially free, perfect, compassionate and good. There’s no problem doing the right thing if you just get out of your way and follow the heart of your true self. It will guide you in every moment. If everyone let themselves Be As They Are, the world would be free from war, anxiety and aggression. Love would flow ceaselessly.
Liberalism in general says – Do What You Want! You are inherently rational and functional. It’s easy to do the right thing if you are not ruled or governed by authorities. If everyone was allowed to do what they want, the world would be free from war, anxiety and aggression. Recourses would flow ceaselessly and spread evenly for everyone’s happiness and prosperity.
There’s a noticeable overlap in reasoning and logic here. Both holds a bright and positive attitude regarding the basic human being.
Q: How come I see one as very on target and the other as totally off target?
A: To impose “freedom” on people that are, like the majority of us, locked up in our own prison of ego, prestige and fear is bound to fail. It is doing it all backwards so it leads to consequences that are the opposite of what you intended. Instead of cooperation and generosity you create a greenhouse for greed and hostility. Why on earth is there a bigger need for control and repression in a prison as compared to a Shambhala gathering? If every person on earth was indeed equal in “goodness”, then there would be no difference in need for control.
Wait a minute, am I saying that the notion of basic goodness or primordial compassion is wrong?
Not at all! But just as proposed in Buddhist teachings, that fundamental state is often covered behind what comes from environmental influence. We start off in a state of naturally following our heart and instinctively acting upon reality. To some extent that matures and develops over our first years so we can adapt this state of being and acting in an increasingly skillful manner. Throwing food on the floor is indeed a spontaneous act out of curiosity and/or integrity, i.e. I wonder how strawberry jam sounds falling on the floor or I do not want any more of this. To be curious and to have integrity is basically good, but the expression of this goodness should of course be modulated in loving and kind relations with more skillful others, like your parent for example. This is a very simple description of the process that modifies the actual basic goodness we share. If the process is optimal, we’re allowed to keep the curiosity and integrity (in this case) intact and we learn how to express these qualities in a constructive way. All good.
But the process is seldom optimal as we all know. It can easily be interrupted or distorted. The other one is supposed to nurture and validate the basic goodness of the little one and in a skillful way. Not every parent or grown up relating to a little child manages that. A lot of us are not skillful in every situation, some are more like 50/50 and some are not skillful most of the time. It varies between people, so the quality of this process varies. In the end we are humans who express different levels of distorted goodness. A very few is not distorted at all. They have no need for meditation. A few others have cleared up their distortions and by that uncovered their basic goodness. I suppose they are the Enlightened Ones. You and me, we’re working on it, right?
So back to the question of freedom and it’s consequences. The theory of liberalism is fundamentally flawed because it ignores all of the above. It postulates that we’re good/rational/generous/caring by nature and that’s it. Since war and criminality contradicts that view, liberals must adopt a cognitive ad-hoc crutch. That one being – people that are mean and greedy are inherently twisted and therefore exceptions to the rule. They are bad eggs in the basket of goodness so we’ll have to throw them out (or in). That logic clarifies that the liberal notion of basic goodness has strings attached to it. It should read – Everyone is basically good except for the ones who isn’t – which makes it a rather lame philosophy on human nature.
In this perspective the liberal freedom propagated is nothing more than a tool for sorting out who is good and who is bad. The good ones then take care of each other and the bad ones are locked up or left to their own devices. You can clearly hear this background music to almost any liberal proposition and suggestion on how to actually build a society.
When I hear liberals talk like they believed in everyone’s goodness, I always hear that distorted and annoying music, the cognitive and emotional dissonance of a maturing process gone bad. The more screwed up, the louder the noise.
Even so, I cannot help but sensing the little curious and compassionate child behind all that. Sometimes I’m struck by a kind of sadness when I encounter others so far from what they could be if uncovered. It feels like I’m talking to a pile of crap. In fact, I am talking to a pile of crap, but the one that lies squashed under it is totally ignorant to the situation. He/she is so used to it that what he/she “is” equals a pile of crap. I do believe that deep down under, there is a knowner. Somewhere inside there is a little shiny jewel of dignity, compassion and joy that wants to be truly free. Someone that clearly sees the difference between the liberal freedom of choosing phone company or residence, and the freedom of being allowed to follow your heart. No wonder such a person reacts with hostility and aggression towards others who have less crap to maintain when caring for themselves. No wonder such people are constantly advocating consumption of more crap as a way to grow because that is what they are. At least for as long as they themselves are ignorant to the fact that they are indeed Not.
Then again, how could they see that with the distorted mind-set they so openly display when talking about “freedom”?
They are stuck in the Crap Trap!
How full of shit am I then, and how stuck? Is it possible to uncover basic goodness from under such a shitty place?
I believe it is.
You see, the amount of crap is not the crucial factor. You can be covered under the Mother Mountain of Manure and still get out fairly clean and shining, and without much effort. All you have to do is facing the fact that You are covered up. That whatever is piled upon You is just a distortion of You. Do that and there’s no need even to shuffle the shit away, so it makes no difference how big or small the pile is. If size somehow matters I guess it affects how difficult it becomes to realizing this “truth” about your Self. The bigger part crap of what you believe is You, the harder to discover what’s under. But again, if you see this then starting to act from your true Self will rid you of any cover, no matter the size. I guess that’s what some refer to as “awakening”. I might have missed the point there, but in any case it fits with the Gurus call “don’t try to be anything else than what you already are, but stop acting in accordance with what you are NOT”.
I’m pretty much full of shit in this perspective, but I feel gradually less trapped by it. You will only remain stuck for as long as you don’t see the bigger picture. If you’re blind to this, every little piece of shit will stick to you like instant glue and you won’t even notice. That’s a bad place to be compared to being full of it and having an idea about how to clean up.
Trying meditation is, I believe, my way of doing this.
The Theory of the Crap Trap. No shit!
Recorded in one take. No proofreading. No overdubs.