After an altercation yesterday with an obstructive security guard who refused to allow me to photograph the rather grim-looking SABC building in Auckland Park, (Jo’burg, South Africa), I read the following words of the Buddha:
“Radiate boundless love towards the entire world — above, below, and across — unhindered, without ill will, without enmity.”
(The Buddha, from the Metta Sutta)
To further flagellate my un-Buddha-like (and un-Christ-like) self, I trawled through some cyberspace Bibles and found the words of Saint Paul, “Repay no person evil for evil, but be concerned with doing good before all people.”
Well, I did recently post a quote by Cioran in which he writes against Saint Paul’s “unbridled sanctity”!
Why then do I demand unbridled sanctity of myself?
I need to prod the occasionally superating wound of my own mad rage, examine what it is that festers there, which prevents healing. The issue here of course is precisely not the petty official, the simple-minded security guard following crackling orders from his unseen master on the other side of his walky-talky. It is not the rude waiter who disallows a canine companion on the terrace of his master’s restaurant. The issue is my own rebellion. I suspect that ultimately it is a rebellion against what I sense as life’s suffocating boundaries – and perhaps a sense of impotence to effectively resist petty officialdom. My unchristian and unbuddhist response to the security guard was really a toxic amalgam of anger towards perceived illegitimate authority, obstinate and obstructive petty tyrants – their seeking to limit and diminish our freedoms believing they serve the common good in doing so. The guard is simply a sad little minion in a fallen, objectivised and unfree world. He is as much a victim as any, as unfree as a slave in a galley. I have witnessed the perpetuation and enforcement of so much illegitimate authority: in my father’s house – a cruel and petty tyranny. In the church: legalism in the guise of Christianity. At school, caned for petty misdemeanors that at best demanded a reprimand. In a society deformed by petty-apartheid: bureaucratic and institutionalised nastiness. A girl prevented from continuing attending my school when it was discovered she was “coloured”. The bus driver who prevented a black woman from entering a “whites-only” bus; the khaki-clad official who demanded a black businessman traveling with his white colleague exit the “whites-only” carriage. People beaten and arrested by policemen for not being able to show their “dompas”. People beaten and arrested for being Gay. Or for being on the wrong beach. In the wrong toilet. Using the wrong entrance. And few courageous – or foolish – enough to speak up on behalf of the voiceless. Oh there have always been those prepared to plant a bomb and run away for their beliefs; always those to shoot their enemy in the back from a safe distance. But few to face their enemy squarely with a simple “No”. So it is inevitable I react in anger at the merest hint of illegitimate authority, just as it is unsurprising that in true Orwellian irony, those who have been oppressed by petty bureaucracy, the victims of petty securocrats, should themselves manifest the same dismal characteristics of their former oppressors.
Well that’s a whole lot of anger for one wretched security guard to have to face. When I told him that his nefarious bosses in the evil tower o’er yonder did not have jurisdiction over a public street or over myself, that in fact God owned this space, the view of the building, the trees, me, and even him – well I think at this point he believed he was dealing with a lunatic, and he may not have been far from the truth.
So, reluctantly, I return to the words of the Buddha:
“Radiate boundless love towards the entire world”.
Fail. (However, The Dalai Lama said, “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.” So at least the Buddhists provide some hope for me.
Then there’s ol’ Marcus Aurelius:
“(Do not) display anger or other emotions… be free of passion and yet full of love.” and “Tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work to together… To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.”
Am I upbraided by these pearls of wisdom? Or simple demoralized by them?
Well its hard to take moral instruction from Marcus Aurelius considering he initiated a violent persecution of Christians in The Fourth Persecution of AD162 (http://www.libertymagazine.org/article/marcus-aurelius-enlightened-persecutor) – so I’ll stay with the Buddhist injunction to kindness for now.
Jesus is a little more enigmatic and hard to place. Apparently The Lord of Peace
“… went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.” He may have been a pacifist, but he was not afraid to physically confront illegitimate authority Jewish or otherwise.
But why bring Jesus into it at all?
Is He my standard, my measure?
Then I must fail, and thus inevitably bring His holy name into disrepute!
Like the dog that has bitten and senses somehow it’s own wrongdoing, yet which cannot but act according to its nature, I slink – ears back and tail down – back into my lupine growlery.
So much for gods and men, sages and fools.
There’s a passage from Pulp fiction I rather like:
“Jules: Well there’s this passage I got memorized. Ezekiel 25:17. “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.” I been sayin’ that shit for years. And if you ever heard it, it meant your ass. I never gave much thought what it meant. I just thought it was some cold-blooded shit to say to a motherfucker before I popped a cap in his ass. I saw some shit this mornin’ made me think twice. See now I’m thinkin’, maybe it means you’re the evil man. And I’m the righteous man. And Mr. 9 Milimeter here, he’s the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness. Or it could mean you’re the righteous man and I’m the shepherd and it’s the world that’s evil and selfish. Now I’d like that. But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is you’re the weak. And I’m the tyranny of evil men. But I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be a shepherd.” (Source: http://movies.stackexchange.com/questions/242/explanation-of-jules-ending-monologue)
I guess I just don’t know if I’m a shepherd or an “evil motherfucker”.
This tawdry meditation “On (not) radiating boundless love like the Buddha” is written with a strong sense of the triviality of the incident. The war in Syria with its millions of victims, the plight of child soldiers, the atrocities of “The Lord’s Resistance Army”, massacres in the DRC, abductions by Boko Haram, beheadings by ISIS, drone attacks by the Pentagon, the suffering caused by disease and famine and political injustice, complicity and indifference – all these cause my “altercation” to pale into inane insignificance.
But there we have it: to rummage in the rubbish of insignificance seems the fate of mortals: How significant is most – or any – of our activity on this little planet? To take myself so seriously, an altercation amidst the aeons and the infinite reaches of space! How pathetic, how egotistical, what myopic madness!