Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not That Many

"Most of our life is spent using behavioral strategies to cover or avoid our pain—the deep sense of basic alienation that takes the form of feeling worthless, hopeless, or fundamentally flawed in some way. When our strategy is to help, when we need to be helpful, this requires that we need to find people who seem helpless, or situations that seem to call for help. It’s true that we may also have a genuine desire to help—one that isn’t based on our needs—but whenever we feel an urgency or longing to help, it’s often rooted in the fear of facing our own unhealed pain. If our basic fear is that we’ll always be alone, what better way to avoid it than to find someone who needs us? If we have an underlying feeling of worthlessness, how better to prove that we’re worthy than by doing good deeds? If we’re trying to avoid the feeling of being fundamentally powerless or ineffectual, doesn’t it make sense to take on the identity of someone who can affect people and outcomes positively through service?

"The “helper” syndrome I’m describing is not outwardly harmful. What makes it dangerous is its potential to keep us blind to what is really going on. Yet it’s easy to see how this lack of awareness, multiplied throughout our society, could lead to the social and political chaos that we live in. Failure to work with our inner turmoil—our need for power, our self-centered desire to possess, our fear-based greed and need to control—results in hatred, aggression, and intolerance. This is the source of all conflicts and wars. Without inner understanding, individuals as well as societies will continue to flounder. This is why it is so important for each of us to come back again and again to the practice of awareness."
--a talk given by Ezra Bayda

"To do good is to be good." Earlier in this talk Bayda pointed out that we who are raised in Christendom, especially here in the West, are given this message. Implicit coercion is involved. Parents and caregivers are looking for behavior from us that creates easy parenting conditions. We are rewarded again and again. We are punished for falling short again and again. The consequence is how completely it is instilled in us that we need to be helpful in order to feel good. If there is any natural impulse to generosity or other goodness in us, it is buried under layers of coercion. "To do good is to be good" is a maxim that guarantees suffering in the name of goodness. That suffering perverts any natural impulse into activity that is undergirded by a selfish and self centered attitude. Any goodness arising in these conditions cannot be trusted and will often be doubted by our intended recipients if not by witnesses and ourselves.

We need to dismantle the hidden agendas which block open hearted generosity.

Here's another problem:

Not That Many

The migraine blind eye
would look not on the wide world
but on dim dark holes
to lessen the pain
just the tiniest wee bit,
and the gout driven
toe fears even sight
when someone looks at its heat.

There are things worse than
a dry writing spell.

July 21, 2009 12:47 PM


  1. gosh Christopher, where have i been? I had a dry reading spell :) I am reading all the poems i missed, all! beautiful.
    And today...
    my biggest fear (as you know) is not being able to look after myself. So do i look after others?
    My oh my i do, i see it now.
    To look at from the other side. I say my life is also about seeking adventure, new experiences. What does that say? What am i fearing?

    I like it where you link to our willing to do good, ingrained by our upbringing. How would we be if we were not raised that way? would we accept more fully they way we are?

  2. I don't know that we have the alternative even though we can in some sense conceive it. Raising children has its own demands. I think the mature position on these matters is to accept the necessity of socialization, which is really what this post talks about. We raise children as we must. We take a look at other cultures and see different practices but they tend to do the same things.

    There is a difference but that world is long gone. That would be the hunting and gathering world before the rise of agriculture. That would be our challenge, to figure out what child rearing practices are natural to those societies, but they do not and have not existed for a very long time.

    We have been too big for our britches ever since, and the spiritual path is as much a deconstruction of socialization as it is a forging ahead into heaven, so to speak.

    It is also from this gap between the natural human state and our civilized condition that the threat of our self destruction arises.

    And think on this, the kindness, generosity, and compassion which we might revere are constructs arising out of human experience after agriculture. That is why zen and certain Taoist practices are even more radical about the deconstruction. It is why we say, if you meet Buddha on the road, kill him, for he is still too new for the nature of man to be uncluttered.

  3. You say so much. I like to think about what you say about Hunting/ Gathering. With Michael i talk about that, to maybe live more nomadic. You know that appeals to me, and not as a step backwards, but forwards, a more trusting excistance. Now i want to know more about how you link ( you are amazing connecting things) it to your post, the raising of children, how it would different.

    I also like your paragraph on being to big for our britches. That is a beautiful concept.

    Thanks Love:)

  4. I'm pleased to see you challenge such notions as 'To do good is to be good', Christopher. Such notions are not always true and if adhered to strictly they can stifle creativity and other stuff that is good.

    Like not feeling you must always put another before your own needs. This notion can fuel a level of masochistic self sacrifice, and we all know about that.

    I suspect we need a balance between self help and attending to others, but sometimes it's all to easy the two confused.

    Thanks, Christopher.

  5. I am right at the limit of my understanding in this stuff. I am sure of the shift to agriculture and how it changed things. It is good in certain ways, leading ultimately to the concepts of democracy and freedom after seven thousand years or so, and the medical and educational technologies, but it is bad in other ways, leading also directly to technologies of self destruction, everything from the industries of greed to the industries of war.

    Child rearing requires control and control can lead to abuse, and in fact in some ways is abuse, but in the world we have control is forced because not only is a child innocent of the basic risks but there are many social risks that are too unnatural for a child to get on his own. This I think is the whole collection of experiences that are unnatural, outgrowths of agriculture first and then industrialization.

    There are so many of us who feel in exile because we are. We belong in wandering family groups, in clans, at the most in tribes of interrelated clans. In these groups there is direct and overt control, because a solitary human dies quickly and shunning works as nearly perfect social control. These groups give us a home unlike any we can know now. Child rearing is, in Hillary Clinton's vision, an effort of the village, though the actual mother is most often, but not always primary.

    It is not possible to go back unless you are willing to accept the death of 4-5 billion humans. This might happen anyway.

  6. Elisabeth, in AA we learn that the group must keep a unity of purpose or else we will all die alone. In that sense there is an overwhelming need for altruism. However, we also learn that we are childish and grandiose, fearful and rebellious, and sensitive to a fault. With these basic personality traits we cannot function without being self centered in the extreme. Thus for us it becomes imperative to learn to distinguish between self centeredness and self care, but there is no hope of any recovery if we do not put self actualization before altruism. There may be other collections of humans who can operate in another way (personally, I doubt it) but not alcoholics. If we try we die.

    This is consistent in its way with the Logotherapy of Frankl in that meaning rises in importance and the theories of hierarchy of needs postulated by Abraham Maslow. Altruism must be secondary to self actualization or else illness ensues.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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