Thursday, November 17, 2011


by Scott Bradley

We have all seen friends gripped by an ideology, religion or addiction and watched them spiral down beyond our reach. Alas, I feel the tug! Take my hand! I feel myself spiraling into Confucianism!

In a previous post, I enumerated my 'beliefs' and among these was a belief in myself. I said that, despite all my failings of character, there remained a certain pureness of heart that transcended it all. And it is of this I wish now to speak.

There is a certain ever-transcending self-awareness which is, I believe, common to the human experience, though it is frequently over-powered by egoic denials. This awareness realizes that this human experience is more than the sum of its parts; that it more than the sum of its behaviors; that there remains a pure, open and vulnerable, essential self which transcends all else.

Confucius called this something ren, which is usually translated 'humanity' or 'benevolence'. According to Brook Ziporyn, it was originally the adjectival form of the word for 'human'. Ren is in this sense the essence of what it is to be human. And this essence has, for want of a better word, an emotive dimension. 'Benevolence', caring about others, speaks to this quality, but, to my thinking, too quickly identifies it with morality, and with the external rather than the internal. I prefer 'pure-heartedness' or 'open-heartedness'.

Charity begins at home, and open-heartedness is that charity. It is the affirmation of oneself. Again, it is that discovery in self-awareness that realizes a pure and open self, transcendent of all the emotional and egoic baggage which has come to define us to both ourselves and the world.

Openness is not other than self-awareness or self-transcendence. It is not a consequence. They are the same. Transcendence does not realize or become a something. It is that tenuousness at the very heart of who we are. It is that 'empty-room' in the heart of us all. And it is this emptiness which is openness.

Open-heartedness does not truly distinguish between the world and itself. It is open and affirming of others just as it is affirming of itself. It is empathetic. It feels with and for others. Yes, wash my mouth out, it is 'benevolent'.

We quarrel with each other; say unkind things to each other. Yet in our heart of hearts we know we care for each other. But the egoic-self requires that it be hard-hearted; it must protect itself from others. It must protect itself from even itself; it cannot admit to its inner openness and vulnerability. It cannot be 'wrong'. It cannot be self-aware in the truest sense of the word; it cannot let itself be human.

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

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