We Can Do Better

by Christopher Lovejoy on March 24, 2013

This morning, I stepped outside my home and watched the rain. Standing under an overhang, I grew pensive and gazed thoughtfully at the evidence for a steady downpour.

I relaxed my focus and allowed the rain to wash through my mind, gently willing the rain to stop so that I could go for a quiet morning stroll without getting cold and wet. In my mind’s eye, I saw the rain slowing to a stop, but alas, the rain did not comply. The rain persisted and I retreated into my home.

If what I see and hear is a projection of consciousness, and if what I am is a projector of what I see and hear, then why could I not make the rain go away? I believed and wished that I could make it stop. Through the lens of subjective reality, I thought I could make it so.

Unfortunately for me and for my lens of subjective reality, the lens of objective reality would have none of it. The objective lens seemed stuck, stubbornly asserting itself in spite of my best intention.

It was a tough lesson to learn: wishing doesn’t make it so.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 30

One could read this verse simply as a caution to political and military leaders against going to war, or if war be unavoidable, as a warning with respect to consequences, as an admonishment against celebrating the spoils of conquest and victory. Read in another light, this verse offers something more personal …

Those who would
guide leaders of others
in the uses of life
do well to warn them
against the use of arms
for conquest.
Weapons often turn
on the wielders.

Where armies settle,
nature offers nothing
but briars and thorns.
After a great battle
has been fought,
the land is cursed,
the crops fail,
the earth is stripped
of its Motherhood.

After you have attained
your purpose,
you must not parade your success,
must not boast of your ability,
must not feel pride;
rather, you must regret
that you were unable
to prevent the war.

You must never think
of conquering others by force.
Whatever strains with force
will decay soon enough.
It is not attuned to the Way.
Not being attuned to the Way,
its end comes all too soon.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Most acts of violence – physical, emotional, or sexual – are ephemeral, but can we not also imagine that more than a few such acts can seem to last forever for those on the receiving end?

My Impressions of the Verse

Like my attempt to stop the rain, I could make believe that violence doesn’t exist, except in my own mind, or that violence doesn’t affect me even if it does exist independently of my mind.

But how would I possibly perform this magic trick, short of insulating myself from the effects of my objective lens on the world? Perhaps by raising my core vibrations and by putting a filter on my lens of subjective reality, a filter that says, in effect, no more violence.

To wit: “from now on, for as long as I remain consistently and unconditionally loving, I no longer consciously hold any thought of violence; from now on, I no longer harbor any thought that would attract any violence to me from anyone for any reason whatsoever.”

Which of course would reduce any and all impressions of this verse to irrelevance.

But then, if I replace the lens of subjective reality with the lens of objective reality …

Those who would
guide leaders of others
in the uses of life
would do well to warn them
against the use of arms
for conquest.
Weapons often turn
on the wielders.

Let me put a personal (objective) spin on this …

If I took up arms against someone or something, I’d be inviting the use of force into my life. If I applied this force, I’d be broadcasting a thirst for vengeance; I’d be putting out an invitation for revenge.

Sadly, this less than noble invitation would keep me on guard for as long as the conflict in question remained unresolved.

I might even have to live with this vigilance for the rest of my life – or have it appear unexpectedly in my next life.

Where armies settle,
nature offers nothing
but briars and thorns.
After a great battle
has been fought,
the land is cursed,
the crops fail,
the earth is stripped
of its Motherhood.

Let us put a social (objective) spin on this …

Where groups of people of a certain sex, race, cause, or ideology settle in for revenge, nature offers little more than prickly encounters.

After a searing cultural battle has been fought, the moral landscape is cursed, the fruits of debate and discussion wither, and the soils of discourse are stripped of its Motherhood.

After you have attained
your purpose,
you must not parade your success,
must not boast of your ability,
must not feel pride;
rather, you must regret
that you were unable
to prevent the war.

Concessions, concessions, concessions. Why is war and warring even an option?

In a world of peace and plenty, would war and warring not be preventable? I dare say, in a world where love and trust inspired cooperation, this question would be totally unnecessary.

You must never think
of conquering others by force.
Whatever strains with force
will decay soon enough.
It is not attuned to the Way.
Not being attuned to the Way,
its end comes all too soon.

I could insist on viewing my version of this world through the lens of subjective reality; I could even add a filter that says no more violence, even as I remain a mere witness to any violence that might occur.

But could I ever be sure that my lens of objective reality would not bring into focus at least one act of violence against my person?

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

Here is how I imagine the character and conduct of a sage: no guilt, no shame; no fear, no hate; no doubts, no worries: intentions are pure, expressions are clean, implications are clear.

Furthermore, a threat or an act of violence is rarely if ever directed toward a sage, and if it is, the sage is capable of defusing or sidestepping it; if a sage observes a threat or an act of violence directed against someone else, the sage remains unaffected, having no attachments.

But unless you’re a sage, some of what you say or do will inevitably be said or done without fully realizing or accepting the implications of what you say or do – a price paid, perhaps, for glossing over previous acts of resistance, reactivity, avoidance, evasion, or denial.

Most times, such ignorance or diffidence is benign.

But not always.

If wayward implications plant seeds of discord, miss-interpretations turn such seeds into seeds of violence.

The seeds of discord and violence are sown everywhere, every day, knowingly and unknowingly, at times and in places where you might not even think to look. The more such seeds we sow and cultivate, the more inclined we are to seek retribution or revenge, minor or major.

A contaminated being, whose peace, promise, and power have been seriously compromised, is a potential minefield of explosive charges, where miss-interpretations are par for the course.

Even being as you are wherever you are can be miss-interpreted if you’re “in the wrong place at the wrong time” or “in a place where you don’t belong” (cue ominous sounding music).

In all that we say and do, individually and collectively, the fulfillment of desire is best realized in full awareness of implication and consequence, lest we sow seeds of discord that turn into seeds of violence that grow into Venus flytraps that we can no longer control – or care to control.

Easier said than done, I know, unless of course you’re a sage – or at least on your way to becoming one.

Peering through the objective lens, where discord and violence in this world is concerned, we know we can do better.

Gazing through the subjective lens, discord and violence is a personal matter: energy flows where attentions goes.

Next up: Without Weapons? (Living Without Weapons)

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This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

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