Thursday, September 1, 2011

At the brink.


The recent debacle in Washington brings into sharp focus a fundamental flaw in our way of thinking and thus the manner in which we wrestle with problem solving. We call it THE BLAME GAME. This quagmire precisely illustrates a classic cultural flaw: Republicans blame Democrats. Main Street blames Wall Street. Your neighbor blames you, and you blame your neighbor. Apparently nobody sees the big picture, which is this:

Wall Street doesn’t exist as an independent entity, separate and apart from you and me (Main Street) — investors who are greedy for a free lunch and believe that there is an independent UP, separate and apart from an inevitable DOWN. Likewise neither Republicans nor Democrats exist as independent entities. And neighbors only exist because of you and me.

This notion of an absolute right or wrong — one independent dimension in opposition to another — is simply wrong headed, and unfortunately this notion is going to bring our culture to its knees unless we wake up soon. This spirit of “me against the world” has never worked and never will work simply because it is not true. There is no world that is separate and apart from “me and you”. We are the world which we are creating together, either in opposition with one another or in the messy struggle to work together for the common good. It may appear as a solid political strategy to set yourself apart from the other guy (or gal) but it creates and perpetuates a myth which is destroying us all.

For more than 2 millennia Buddhists around the world have seen the flaw of this “me against the world” approach as contrary to interdependent origination, which states the truth of our collective unity. There is no such thing as an independent anything — Light and dark arise and disappear together, up and down arise and disappear together, democrats and republicans arise and disappear together, form and emptiness; you and me...the list is endless and it is a simple truth if only we would put it in motion. Instead we remain trapped in opposition with anyone and everyone. We remain convinced of an absolute righteousness (otherwise called being self-righteous), which only folks like us are privy to, and we likewise remain persuaded that others not-like-us are obviously wrong. Two problems here:

1. The idea of a “self” is just that...An idea. It is not a substantial, real thing. And if it is just an imagined figment, then there is, what? A imaginary figment of righteousness? The answer to that rhetorical question is YES—imaginary.

2. Even if there was a real self (which could be called our Root Consciousness, Buddha Nature or any name you choose — the name is irrelevant) such a reality could not be independent and separate due to the fact that it is ubiquitous, never-born, never-dies and not a reality which can be claimed as exclusive by anyone. It is a common, shared-by-everyone reality. We are in this pickle together and can’t escape.

So where does this leave us? Well it’s not too difficult to conclude. Either we continue on as we have since the beginning of time chasing the phantom of “me against the world” (and live with the consequences of that pursuit—racial and cultural suicide) or we chart a different course of unity. It would seem that we are at a tipping point, balanced on a precipice between choices. Collectively we will decide, but one thing is clear: Whatever choice we make will result in both benefits and consequences because these too arise together as an interdependent union. To listen to a good talk on the web of causes and effects undergirding our current crisis click here.
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