Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Mess

Scott Bradley

I speak a lot about "the mess". It begins with my perception of myself; I see myself as a mess. As I have said before, although this may conjure up the idea that my "issues" are especially serious, I don't believe this to be the case. I am just your average, run-of-the-mill mess. If I am abnormal, it would be in my awareness of the extent of my messiness, not the degree of my messiness. This is not an attribute which I would necessarily recommend; for although such an awareness may be a necessary pre-condition to growth, growth is by no means guaranteed. In the end, one is simply just more likely to suffer.

I begin with "my mess" because it is probably the case that this self-perception determines my perception of everything else, and it is this which I mostly wish to address. The human hive is a mess. The extent of the human mess is staggering. Perhaps I have a jaundiced view of things, but it seems to me that we are, as a whole, thoroughly fucked-up. It is not through an act of God that forty thousand children die daily from malnutrition, that governments everywhere exist for the benefit of the few at a staggering cost to the many, and that vast resources are expended with a view to destroying one another rather than helping us all.

There are, of course, many positive and happy manifestations of our humanity all about us, but these also serve to demonstrate the extent of our collective depravity. It may well be that my glass is half-empty instead of half-full, but in the final analysis, from the point of view of the child with his jaw shot off, half isn't good enough.

But then Nature, too, is a mess. Life, as organically manifest, requires the consumption of life. Nature is "red in tooth and claw"; living things eat each other, mostly alive. Unlike humanity, however, its mess does not appear to be self-inflicted. Were I the Creator, I would have done a better job. But then, there is no Creator; things are as they are, and we have generally been able to accept them as such, and even to call them 'wonderful'. Daoism would have us apply that perspective universally, though not without qualification. The mess is wonderful.

The Universe apparently began with a bang. And things have been colliding, exploding and 'dying' ever since. The Universe is also a mess.

And finally, the Dao is a mess, because the Dao is this mess. It may be 'more', but is also this.

To speak of any mess is, of course, to make an evaluative judgment. And the whole point of Daoism is to transcend judgment and enter a perspective of complete acceptance and openness. “So, if someone says, ‘Why don’t we make only rightness our master and eliminate wrongness, make only order our master and eliminate chaos?’ this is someone who has not yet understood how heaven and earth fit together and the way the ten thousand things really are.” (Zhuangzi, 17; Ziporyn) This is the way things are unfolding; embrace the higher view.

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

1 comment:

  1. So, all is/is not well???

    This makes me think of a character in a Korean drama (of the Ming-Qing period) I just watched. He is a former assassin, essentially a member of a government death squad, who after being ordered to wipe out a village, including a small child, he defects, with the child, who he adopts. They become a team of con-artists, with him posing as a mendicant monk. When he chants his "Amituofo" mantra, he says (in translation), "Dear Messy Buddha." There may be a Korean joke lost in translation here, but I love this. Dear Messy Buddha...


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