The Five Blind Men and the Elephant
What is all the turbulence and argument going on all over the world (I am thinking of the USA and the UK as I write)? Why are people so desperately trying to impose their opinion on others?
Growing up as I did in the England of the 1950’s there was a sense (admittedly one I found stifling) of a collective agreement, of society adhering to a set of assumptions. Just as England is the only country that does not have its name on our stamps – because we invented them – so we have a similar relationship to England.
In this way there was an implicit sense of lining up behind certain codes which could not easily be spelt out –but which allowed us to unite as a country when under great stress – which were drawn on in the spirit of the Blitz for example. (As Orwell notes in his essay on England at that time – ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’)
However there is now a struggle going on to wrest control of England (and the USA) and what they stand for.
There is a medical students joke – but a very accurate one, which says, “Neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics live in them and the psychiatrist collects the rent”. The ‘castle in the air’ is made up of our hopes and fears, which we look through and mistake for a sense of ‘me’. The ‘me’ feels opposed to a world out there which does not feel like it can be under its control.
When this ‘me’ is threatened we get very frightened and often react – to the extent that we can go to war on its behalf. Sadly, since culture is a set of assumptions about how to live, conflict often happens between different cultures.
Wisdom – at least from a Buddhist and IFS – perspective is to trust our own innate sense of knowing – not the conceptual stories about who we are or what we believe that seem so important – but to switch on our discriminating awareness – so that we can step back from each hope – each fear, and see them for what they are. Psychologists have fairly recently asset stripped ‘mindfulness’ from Buddhism but do not understand how difficult it is to truly implement or what the issues are. In fact it is a lot to do with this tenacious sense of a separate ‘me’ – which is always looking for something to make itself feel better, and often feeling deprived.
IF you can step back and really switch mindulness on – it is like seeing and hearing clearly, like a finding a light inside yourself – or better – being the light. Being a lamp unto yourself – in the dying words of the Buddha.
It is a very odd thing that psychologists, psychiatrists and psychotherapists do not receive lectures on what the mind is – because the theoreticians they rely on are in the same place as the five blind men – each one has grasped an aspect of the truth, and does not know how to step back and BE THE KNOWING. Each western philosophy, and psychotherapy has evolved without understanding the depth of the Buddha’s mindfulness, and hence is unfortunately lost in a conceptual perspective….
As Clint Eastwood put it – Opinions are like arseholes everyone has one. Beware!