Thursday, March 29, 2012

Some Harmony II

Scott Bradley

Some of the content of the posts which precipitated conflict on this blog were decidedly negative and confrontational. But this was not necessarily what rendered them disharmonious. There is a place for both negation and confrontation. It is the spirit that inspires them that determines their appropriateness on a blog which values harmony. There are no doubt plenty of blogs where disharmony is appropriate, though I would not wish to participate in them.

Ancient Zen masters provide us with ample demonstrations of how negation and confrontation can be a useful and appropriate tool in leading others to harmony. We call them appropriate because of their context and the spirit in which they are executed. The context is that they are exercised by the presumably harmonious for the benefit of those who have acknowledged them as such and who have entrusted themselves to their instruction. Did the martial arts grow in parallel with monastic life because Zen masters and their disciples went about indiscriminately slapping, hitting and yelling at people in the street? In such a circumstance they would require such skills. But no, this was not the case. Their extremely confrontational upaya were reserved for those who invited it.

But even more important than context is the spirit in which confrontation is expressed. The motivational root of the actions is paramount. But this is more than the motivation of wanting to fix a problem. It is not simply a question of ends and means. Slapping a child because she has misbehaved (slapped another child?), may at some level be properly motivated, but the means betray the end.

In a yet to be published post I quote from the Zhuangzi: "Anger comes forth from him without himself being angry, so his anger is an expression of his nonanger." (Chap. 23; Ziporyn) Such a person is rare indeed. Who can be angry without that anger being rooted in his own anger? I am angry at the abusive police, but I know that anger is rooted in more than their misbehavior; it has roots in my own anger. So, though my anger may be motivated by a desire to stop an injustice, it is the kind of anger which only breeds more anger and injustice. The Zen masters were able to use disharmony to instruct their disciples because it issued from their own harmony and was conducive of harmony.

Admittedly, a judgment has been made; certain posts were determined to be disharmonious in such a way as to have issued from disharmony. How do we know this? It is possible to enumerate reasons, but I think it unnecessary. Those who read them know. The one who writes them apparently does not. This is unfortunate and, quite frankly, saddening. In the end, should evidence be required, we might simply look at the end result, disharmony.

In the course of the discussion it was suggested that this blog wasn't the place for a particular contributor. He seemingly took this as meaning we cannot accept differing opinions. This is not the case. What is the case, is that unbending belligerence is here not an acceptable way to present them. I say "unbending" because though we all fall short of our aspirations to harmony, we generally acknowledge the fact. This is our harmony. When disharmony becomes an enshrined value, however, no such rectifying acknowledgement seems possible.

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

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