Daily Archives: January 19, 2009

the thin line

The world is full of folks who are angered, frustrated, and insulted by what others are doing. War is the extreme example of this, but how many of us go through an entire day without being offended about what someone else does? I dont know if Ive ever been able to do it. Finally, through far too many years of being pissed of I have learned that one can worry about what everyone else is doing or you can worry about what you are doing. One makes a difference and other just makes you mad.

I cant tell anyone how to live their life, and i certainly wont try. All I can say is that based on my own experience that my life and my work suffered when I was concerned about what other tattooers were doing, when I let it go my work improved. Apparently I was diverting some of that energy that could be going to improving my tattoo work into anger and frustration with what “they” were “doing” to my beloved tattooing.

I now believe that you can do more to improve the world by managing the small part of it you occupy than yelling and pointing fingers about everyone elses little space.

There’s such a fine line between being compassionate and empathetic and being nosey and superior. Lots of folks honestly believe that by being angry at someone that they are showing ‘concern’, I certainly have done it. The fact is that when you stop for a second and look at the real motivation behind all this “concern” you realise (or at least I did) that what was really there was a sense of moral superiority. What you are saying is “I’m obviously right in my behaviour, why are ‘those’ people not able to see how right I am and be like ME!?” This is never the same as compassion no matter how nicely you put it. You might call it pity, but pity is not compassion, its feeling superior because whoever the object of your pity is obviously “doesn’t have what you have”.

Sometimes Buddhists are accused of being emotionally numb or snobbily removed from the world. We don’t rant and scream as the bad things in the world and we don’t confront violence against us with more violence. Most ‘normal’  folks appear to think of us as a combination of Mr.Spock and a hippy vegan! What is misunderstood in this view is that we haven’t lost any emotion at all and are certainly concerned with the rest of the world, however we are making an effort to ‘fix’ the world by working on the only thing any of us really have the power to change, ourselves! With enough sitting and self-questioning we realise how much all those outwardly dramatic displays were not explosions of real emotion, but were simply things to gratify our egos. No one ever saved the planet by being angry about the state its in, its the folks who diligently avoid harming the planet in their own quiet way who are doing more than anyone yelling and waving a sign is to ‘fix’ things.

Today we are asked to remember Dr. Martin Luther King, a man who changed the world through the simple act of not riding segregated buses, of eating a sandwich at ‘whites only’ lunch counters, of encouraging a disenfranchised people to register to vote in places they had never been allowed to before. His rhetoric never called for blood, his tactics never involved violence and his genius was in knowing that if the black citizens of the south simply acted with dignity and humanity that the injustice they dealt with would end simply by the force of each individual doing the right thing day after day. So it is with Buddhism, we change the world one moment at a time, by being honest with ourselves, with compassion for the entire universe, and with a dedication to be the change we wish to see. We do not cross the thin line from controlling our selves to trying to control others, and the result is that, in the end, we make the world better for all.

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