Sunday, June 14, 2020

A Lesson in Humility

My urge to write about the times we’re living in seems constantly thwarted by the ongoing cascade of events, each triggering my anger and increasing despair over the state of American society and those who govern us. Yet before I collect my thoughts to write a blog post, another event erupts on the news, dominating the news cycle and fueling the social media fires. President Trump is usually at the center of my anguish, if not originating the conflagration, then aligning with it, and critiquing what used to be the norm for behavior as just being politically correct.

Timber Hawkeye is one of the people who inspires me. I find insight in applying Buddhist principles to life, particularly its teachings about the self and our unity with the universe. Timber Hawkeye articulately distills these principles into a secular frame, and I find his perspective helpful in refining my own philosophy of living a constructive and contributory life.

Tying these two apparently unrelated threads together, Timber Hawkeye (TH) held a live chat session today, inviting participants to submit questions. One of the exchanges was an aha moment for me:

Question: Can you explain the lessons we are to learn by having someone like Trump as our president?

TH: Well, he didn’t get there by himself; he has the support of millions of people, so let’s not project all of your dismay onto one individual and look at the whole picture and what concerns you, which, if I understand correctly, is the fact that half the population doesn’t see the world the way you do. And that upsets you?

Response: He is divisive and mean with his tweets and not a role model for school-age kids — comes across as a bully, in my opinion.

TH: I suggest you add the words “according to me” to each of your statements in order to keep your own ego at bay. When you say “he is being divisive,” add the words “according to me” at the end, because according to half the population, he is trying to unite everyone.

Do you see the benefit of adding the words “according to me” to the end of everything you say, and perhaps asking “according to whom” when you hear someone else’s statement (don’t do this out loud, necessarily, but pause and think of the source)?

Anther person: So changing the wording, you’re answering for yourself and not assuming for others?

TH: It’s bigger than “not assuming for others.” It’s knowing that your viewpoint is yours alone, that there’s no Universal Truth, and that if you believe there is, notice how it’s always conveniently your own.

Another person: Adding “in my opinion” puts the accountability for the thought onto the person versus the source.

TH: Yes, it’s something I try to remind myself all the time: never speak from a place of knowing, always from a place of learning.

The moral of this story: never assume nor claim my truth is universal. When I speak my truth, clarify that my words are just mine, my viewpoint open to discussion and learning.

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