Saturday, March 16, 2013

Trouble In Paradise: Separate Will or Best Intention?

One of the first challenges in opening the mind is releasing the grip on "I, me, mine." Once this begins to take hold, it seems to me that clinging to tit-for-tat and ego-based judgments loses the light and leaves us in darkness when we act and choose our actions. Seeking out the center from which all beings move and breathe gives support to the wide variety of choices and decisions that conditions in the moment allow. There is something troublesome to me emerging from three of the most basic tenants of the Western moral codes. Take the following admonitions and chew on them a while.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Is your behavior always to be based upon your own expectations? Subject to the push and pull of what you have experienced (the past) and wishes for (the future)? Must I remain separate from "the other" with judgments of what I expect from you and what I am willing to do? Must "I" be at the center of every thought and act? Can we not act to improve the conditions of others beyond our expectations for our self?

An eye for an eye.
Where is compassion in exacting the same price upon others that has been exacted upon us? How can we avoid mutual destruction in this scenario?  Cause, condition, and fatalism play all the cards here. Where is basic goodness, or integrity of intention? Is justice a process of administering equal harm? This is not urging that we offer our eyes for the sake of seeing clearly on behalf of the self or anyone else. Can we see that what is an eye for one is an ear for another?

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Here the power rests in conditioning, circumstance, conceptual teachings, and institutional structure. Who is describing this divine decision-maker and the realities of the exemplary setting? How does one see the context of shared human experience and the ongoing connections among living beings if subject to an unnamed authority in a place set aside? Is this a surrendering of the grasping, clutching, suffering individual will to what sustains their freedom of choice and their well-being? Doesn't abdication from our decision for right action leave us estranged from our own intention? Cannot our intention create the complete range of possibilities here on earth, without withholding our responsibility for that intention?

These axioms all seem to separate the action of an individual from the wellbeing of others, including the individual self. Underlying them all  is a power struggle of ego against the range of possible choices. They all seem set to limit options. Where is the integration of a communal framework for trust, choice, emotional safety or common purpose? Where is the development of intention without the grip of judgment?

I believe that we are not separate from one another as living beings.
We cannot thrive as separate entities. We can feel our suffering and our self interest are not in isolation. We experience life as part of a common human experience, shared in some real (and vast) ways by all living beings. Think of us all breathing in and breathing out: single celled organisms, plant life and all life forms in the oceans exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. We all come into our present format and leave that format. If we each act on our best intention in the moment, we can move within our strengths, from our deepest sources of meanings, and take a simpler course. Our action becomes a compassionate act, taking others and  basic goodness as part of who we are. When conditions change, our best intention accommodates that, without denigrating the self or "the other."

Given that momentary circumstance and reactivity are always part of our decision making, our intentions and choices, this moment has an effect on those decisions and choices. What benefit is there to separating ourselves to measure and judge whether what I do or say to you is what I want you to do or say to me? (Is this a way of intimating fundamental respect?) How does exacting a conditioned causal behavior on another who is already in a different causal condition, improve my own or our mutual state? What purpose is there in my prostrating myself before another's will (especially a will that is a creation of massive hierarchies in other times and conditions), rather than working to see my own nature as part of common strand where my compassionate act might support mutuality?

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