Basic Goodness, Violent World

Basic Goodness Violent World












All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.  -Blaise Pascal

Some of the headlines from today’s New York Times:

Why Drivers Get Away With Murder

Oklahoma Man Charged With Murder In Beheading of Co-Worker

For ISIS, Slaughter Is An End In Itself

Armed Intruder at White House Got To East Room

Trial Opens in Atlanta School Cheating Scandal

A Recipe for Air Rage

Learning to Love Criticism

The list goes on.

Contemporary Western psychology explains our appetite for such news as stemming from human beings’ negativity bias, that back in the day were we more concerned about seeking carrots than being on guard for sticks, we might have missed the big stick come crashing down on us at any moment. So we had to be on the lookout.

We are on the lookout still.

I have been contemplating Pascal’s quote for months and our condition respective to it. We can put a fellow human on the moon but we can’t sit quietly alone in a room, at least not for very long. As someone put it a couple months back, the mind gets starved for content. This is our cause for creativity, and, it would appear, where human-made chaos is born.

My first thought regarding the argument for our basic goodness is that we are inspired by acts of compassion and disgusted by acts of cruelty. I read this morning, for example, about the atrocities being committed by our fellow humans in the name of ISIS on the other side of the world and I can’t help wondering that while they may somehow be able to justify in their own minds such acts of cruelty, surely they can’t be experiencing any real joy or contentment in the process or in the aftermath of committing such atrocities.

Regardless, a world of atrocity is the world we have.

Confusion now hath made his masterpiece proclaims the character MacDuff in Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Would such words were reflective of their time and not ours.

If Chogyam Trungpa, the founder of Shambhala in the West, was anything, he was a model of resilience. To proclaim humanity’s basic goodness in the wake of having lost family, friends, and nation should serve as sufficient inspiration for us all.

But Chogyam Trungpa was different from us in the West in that from the time he was a toddler he was mind-trained, as it were, to sit quietly in a room alone. The same psychologists who inform us about negativity bias show us that, while we are susceptible to our conditioning from birth until death, we are most susceptible to our conditioning during our formative years. I wonder if we all had been given the same upbringing as Trungpa Rinpoche whether we might be able to read such headlines as today’s and go about our lives exercising as much compassion—with a sense of irony and humor no less—as the Vidyadhara himself.

Perhaps it isn’t too late for us. It is my experience that the more I practice sitting, the more I am able to see myself in others, the more I am able to sit quietly alone in a room.

I am inspired not by acts of cruelty but by acts of compassion. When I feel like giving in, I come back to this. For now, this has to suffice as solace in reconciling my basic goodness in this all-too-often confused mind of mine, in this somehow basically good yet so, so violent world.

Image credit: Artist unknown

One thought on “Basic Goodness, Violent World

  1. Here is just another inspiring act to come back to whenever we “feel like giving in”

    Someone installed a Buddha statue in an Oakland neighborhood and:

    “Since 2012, when worshipers began showing up for daily prayers, overall year-to-date crime has dropped by 82 percent. Robbery reports went from 14 to three, aggravated assaults from five to zero, burglaries from eight to four, narcotics from three to none, and prostitution from three to none.”

    Here is the article and photos:

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