There was an article on the BBC news website yesterday about a woman who was posting a lot of inflammatory comments on Twitter and the reactions to her posts and also her intimidation and abuse of people who criticized her.
In the case of one poor woman who criticized her, she got harassed and eventually fired from her job.
I remember one of the crucial teachings of Buddha. Instead of trying to recount the exact sermon – which is the sermon about the dead wood if you want to find it in the Mahjima Nikaya – the basic idea is that sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you. And, even if your bones are broken Buddha still forbids any of his followers from becoming angry. He used an even more extreme analogy – of someone sawing off your limbs. Even then, Buddha teaches, he forbids his followers from becoming angry.
How much less then when it comes to stupid words? Words are just blah. People should realize that by now. Look around and there’s just blah blah blah everywhere. So what. Some of it expressing things that we find agreeable. Some of it expresses things that we find disagreeable.
If you want to be successful as a human, I highly recommend trying to learn and put this lesson – about sticks and stones – into everyday practice. Because there is so much crap out there. With modern technology and the Internet we are only exposed to more and more. How apt is is then to just be able to block it out, to say “This, around me right here and now, is my space, and everything else is on the outside. Nothing out there is going to effect me in here. I am completely safe in here, and all the blah blah blah has no effect whatsoever on me here.”
Buddha even goes farther and discusses: When you perceive someone hurting, slighting, or affronting you, where is the actual “you” that is the supposed object of the hurt? If you really, really examine it, you will not find that you anywhere. There is only right now. What was a second ago is already passed.
Yet people harm and kill each other over things. And its sad, because all everyone has to do is remember this basic teaching, and by putting it into practice you step out of all the yuck of this back-and-forth blah-blah-blah stuff.
I know I write in my blog too about about things. I’ve always felt that it is a responsibility – a very important one – in a free society to actually use that freedom to speak out – and to be involved politically. The first part of being politically involved is just to start talking about things.
Even though on the one hand it may seem not cool to talk about political stuff, I think its the opposite. Its not cool to not be involved politically. And its cool to be involved in whatever way you can or want to. If you want to write a blog and discuss national issues, or community issues, or whatever. Its all important. Most important is that you just do it, that you do have conversations.
I remember in the past when I would have to troubleshoot some really out-there, arcane networking issues with some infrastructure I managed. There are basic concepts that guide you through troubleshooting and trying to determine the source of a problem. There is the OSI layer model and then tools that can be used to test at various levels of the model.
But sometimes there may be some really weird issue which you don’t know what is actually causing it. At least with the OSI model I was able to narrow it down to what it could not have been. And then, with what remained, all I could do was throw out speculation and test it.
That is like having political discussion. Sometimes its important just to have the process occurring. Over time it can be refined, readjusted, or even radically changed if necessary. But at least there needs to be a process occurring so that this can happen.
In the case of the issue I was troubleshooting, it turned out to be some SMTP filter on a firewall that was interjecting into the actual protocol layer. I mentioned the issue to the network admin and he immediately knew what was causing it and changed the setting on the firewall.
Getting back to the sticks and stones thing, its not just about blocking out or ignoring things, but finding a safe space for our self from which we can still even accept and appreciate others, or feel compassion for others, even if they are expressing something that we find disagreeable.
I may not agree with a lot of things I hear or watch online. But I still try to respect the people who create videos and have discussions. At least people who are having real discussions. For example the Guardian (UK) website had an article yesterday about a popular feminist who is either Australian or British who has made comments about transgender people which some people were upset about.
I am transgender and I was not upset about her comments. In fact I completely welcome that people want to have discussions about transgender issues and identity, and I do not expect that everyone will agree and have the same ideas and opinions. I do not disagree with the feminist woman at all and think that she is making valid points.
But I watched as someone in the audience seemed to be so upset about what the woman said. I really can’t understand that actually. Its just words. Its people having discussions. It would be much more troubling to me if people could not have discussions, or were afraid to express their feelings and beliefs.
No matter what, I think the feminist woman was clearly a good person. I mean, if you met here somewhere in public, or she was your boss at a job, I have no doubt that she would be a good person to relate to. She is intelligent and good-natured. So what then about any beliefs or views she has about transgenderism?
The same thing goes for a video I just saw last week from BlackPigeonSpeaks on YouTube. I love this guy. He is brilliant. His mind is like a steel trap. As soon as he launches into any topic, you can sense the intense power of his mind in motion. I love people like that. He has brilliant insight. And the video last week was one where he was criticizing transgenderism.
You know what, I don’t disagree with most if not all of what he said. I think he was discussing a lot about transgenderism as the cultural phenomenon and its societal aspects, not to me what is the personal aspect which I don’t really need to discuss with anyone. Even if what he said was offensive, it would not matter. I still love him and think he has a brilliant mind.
When I studied philosophy one of the courses I actually took (most of it was reading on my own) was studying European philosophers from Descartes through the skepticists like Hume and Berkeley. When you’re reading through Descartes – stuff that is now centuries old – it is natural to wonder why you would study this stuff.
Its useful to study this stuff because it teaches about what the thought of Descartes represents, what the ideas of these various philosophers represent, even if you don’t believe it all. Its still highly useful. They are like nodes in the progression of human thought.
I wish people in the world would learn from this more. Respect that people in the world are having discussions. Respect that they are coming from their own background and even appreciate where they are coming from as being unique and contributing to the completeness of the whole, to which we all add our own particular viewpoint.
You have to respect that most people are good people even if something they believe or express may not be the most agreeable thing. And you may find that one day those same people you thought were so alien turn out to be your closest friend. When all the people who you thought were similar to you aren’t there, it may be that person who seemed alien who is actually the one to show the greatest understanding and compassion, who is really there for you in a time of need.
And then, at that time, you may see why they believe what they believe and that it is not so alien after all.
When people get into these things over and over seeing something disagreeable as totally unacceptable and beyond redemption, in a way they are hurting their own self more than anyone else.
As much as people may disagree at my saying this – and I understand it is a complex issue and that people’s lives were lost – when I look at the videos Osama Bin Laden made (see the other videos I have linked to especially the NHK Silk Road series) I think he could have been America’s best friend, not its worst enemy.
I guess that is a whole other topic, about why it is that the people who become “leaders” in America often seem quite unfit for that role in the context of humanity, but I just wanted to mention this. As an American that’s all I have seen conveyed by Big Media was this hateful rage – which I know definitely had to do with the US commitment to Israel’s agenda at all costs.
Anyone who lived through that time will never forget the way the American media vilified the targets of its hateful rage at the command of the powerful oligarchy which has resulted in catastrophe and which Americans will pay the price for a long time.