Friday, October 19, 2012

suffering fools

Elsewhere, someone asked about "suffering fools gladly" and I guess it pressed my buzzers since I wrote a longish blah-blah comment that I think I will save here. My mother once observed, "Don't get too holy by next Thursday," and it is advice I more or less agree with. Anyway ....

 how said:
(IMH Zen O)... Not suffering fools gladly just speaks of the current limit of one's meditation.
I think "how" is correct and hence must freely admit how limited my meditation is. But to me, the question is not so much (as possibly inferred from the above), "how then do I become unlimited?" as it is this: Since limitation is inescapable, with what honesty can I escape?

For example: I dislike anchovies. I mean I
really don't like them. If someone, as an offering at lunch, were to put anchovies in front of me, I would probably eat them. But that doesn't change the fact that I don't like them and I feel no inclination to pretend or aspire to a great love of something I dislike. Simultaneously, I also would never suggest that because I dislike anchovies, everyone else should or could feel the same.

And it is the same with fools. The yardstick I try to keep in mind as regards people I consider to be fools was spelled out for me by an army chaplain who once gave our platoon one of those endlessly boring training lectures the military is fond of. In the midst of his talk, he remarked, off-handedly, "If a man gets up and says anything -- anything at all -- there will always be 20 good men to stand up behind him." Of course living a life according to what the majority or even a large number of people say is pretty thin tea, but as a social yardstick, it may have some uses. The once-popular bumper sticker is also a good reminder: "Don't believe everything you think." This is not an invitation not to think -- it is an invitation to keep a close eye on believing what you think.

To enter into meditation is, in one sense, to move from the limited to the unlimited ... an activity whose directions point towards the widest possible expression of individual existence, so to speak. We practice and in so doing, attend to the limited attachments that can trip anyone up. Deeper and deeper we go, wider and wider we get... not in some static, shazzam, sense but in a living, breathing experience. And the wider we get, the more our narrowness is seen not so much as something to believe, but simply as part and parcel of what, for lack of a better word, is sometimes called unlimited. It is not an excuse for immoral or self-serving behavior ... it is just a more wide-screen existence. "Wide" and "narrow," "limited" and "unlimited" are not so necessary to believe. Possible? Yes. Necessary? No.

For those inclined to scripture (which I generally dislike quoting), Gautama is alleged in The Dhammapada to have said about fools (sorry if I haven't got the quote bang on): "His heart is restless after many flowers./Before he can pick them all, he is dead." Anyone can recognize his or her own foolishness in the quote. D'oh. But to be downhearted or critical on account of a "limited" meditation or an endless "foolishness" is not so much the point. Practice leads anyone who sticks with it into the very foolish world he or she may have sought in some way to escape through practice in the first place. The object of practice is not to escape being a fool, but rather to be an attentive and responsible fool ... over and over and over again. Be a fool ... wholeheartedly. If a mistake is made, correct it. Over and over again.

Do I suffer fools gladly? Nope. Foolishness deserves to be noticed and called out whether within or without. And if I make a mistake, I hope I will have the good grace and common sense to correct it. Sometimes I can. Sometimes not.

What is anyone to do short of living a whole-hearted life in this fool's paradise?

Sorry for the ramble.

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