Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Apology

Scott Bradley


Today I will meet someone to whom I owe an apology. He is in a position of authority and I see him about once a month. Last month we 'had words', which is bad enough, but I persisted to show my anger even after the initial confrontation. So, today I'll apologize.

I've told a couple of friends about this incident and their responses were something along the lines of, "Don't worry, he's an asshole." And yes, I had legitimate reasons to be upset with him, and it would be easy enough to make a case of his having 'asked for it'. But that really isn't the point, is it?

This is just an illustration of a theme I often discuss; I am responsible for my behavior, not someone else's. Situations like this one almost make this point palpable; you can feel the edges, get a sense of what's involved. Tit for tat is not an expression of the Daoist ethic. But nor is the application of a 'rule'. The Daoist ethic is meant to begin in the heart where no deliberation is necessary. Still, we must begin where we are.

The propensity for fault-finding is so much a part of our 'normal' experience we can hardly recognize it anymore. When we do recognize it, it provides us with a concrete example of our behavioral disconnect with Dao-ishness. But it is not in the 'what' of the deed that the lesson resides; it is in the 'why' of it. Why do I find fault?

Fault-finding is not exclusively a matter of judging the behavior of others; it also applies to matters of opinion. The propensity to discover something 'wrong' in the statements of others is essentially an expression of the same inner impulse. Does this mean we are not meant to ever disagree? Of course not. But it does mean that it would behoove us to ask ourselves why we do so with such alacrity. To do this we need to set 'truth and falsity' aside for a moment.

The problem with 'truth and falsity' and 'right and wrong' is that they stand in the way of our ability to understand our own motivations. This has nothing to do with whether something is or is not right or wrong or whether one should give voice to that judgment. It may very well be that it is and we should say so. But first, we need to understand what it is in ourselves which has caused it to be so determined. And that root something probably has really nothing whatsoever to do about 'true and false' or 'right and wrong'.

For me, this 'Daoist' enterprise is a lot of work. Inner work. Yet as difficult and painful as that work might sometimes be, it need never be greater than the simple pleasure of knowing that all is well; for nothing need be done.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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