Recently, I’ve found myself spending time catching up on the events in Ukraine. My ideal self tells me that I do this because I am a concerned global citizen, and citizenship requires me to be informed. However, I suspect (as an aspect of actual self) that my interest is less dignified.
Sometimes, I follow the Twitter feed, or the Guardian’s CiF section, where people argue about the politics and history of the region. They try to attribute cause and blame to one side or the other. They label one side as ‘right’, and the other ‘wrong’. On reflection, I wonder why we seek to attribute blame? If enacted then such attribution will inevitably leave one side feeling aggrieved. Maybe there’s a default need for justice, but is justice possible when all parties believe that they act righteously ? From where does such righteousness stem ? Maybe from a projected sense of the self. Or, possibly from constructing a self identity around imposed cultural forms ? How about constructing our sense of identity by gently looking inside ?
Buddha tells us that there is no path to happiness, happiness is the path.
On these social (sic) forums I see people decry the intentions and qualities of the national leaders involved in the Ukrainian situation. Further, some people writing on social media even become derogatory towards each other because of the views that they hold (The Guardian’s CIF contains remarkably bitter comments).
As I try to step back, and observe behaviour, I wonder why we expend so much energy on developing negative opinions of others ? Is it useful when our target’s have little impact on our own lives ? I have spent so much of my life seeing negativity in others, and believing in the absolute correctness of myself. Essentially that’s all been wasted energy, it does nothing to improve their life nor mine. My primary concern should be that I don’t poison my well, rather than seek to poison others.
But this path is not easy, it does not ‘come as second nature’ to one born in a society where external presentation is often more highly valued than the internal journey. It is far easier, and immediately gratifying, to try to find right and wrong in others. It’s much harder to hold up the mirror to our souls.
So, on this sunny, breezy, quiet afternoon in Koh Phangan, I sit watching an Ibis build a nest in a pond, and think of the Buddhist parable of the wind:
One windy day two monks were arguing about a flapping banner.
The first said, “I say the banner is moving, not the wind.”
The second said, “I say the wind is moving, not the banner.’
A third monk passed by and said, “The wind is not moving. The banner is not moving. Your minds are moving.”