The Nose On Your Face (And Everyone Else's)

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2017-11-24 22:00:00 No comments

Remove the legend to become one — Remains of the Day

Nowadays, companies hang flat screen TVs hanging on the walls, all them running 24/7 to display a variety of charts. Most everyone ignores them. The spirit is right, to be transparent all the time, but the understanding of human nature is not. We ignore things that are shown to us all the time. However, if once a month, a huge packet of charts dropped on your desk, with a cover letter summarizing the results, and if the CEO and your peers received the same package the same day, and that piece of work included charts on how your part of the business was running, you damn well paid attention, like any person turning to the index of a book on their company to see if they were mentioned. Ritual matters.

Emphases mine. The article in question is about how the Visual Display Of Quantitative Information, as per Tufte's work of the same name, can be made far more compelling than the usual PowerPoint puke. It's windy, but a good read, although the part I chomped out and highlighted stood out most for me on its own merits.

One of the things Brad Warner likes to say about Zen practice is that it awakens you to how nothing in this world is ever really hidden from you. All the so-called secrets of the universe are right there in front of you, all live and all the time. You just have to teach yourself to stop ignoring them and shouting them down, and all this stuff will become obvious.

I liked this point of view because it was the opposite of what most every other spiritual path has ever claimed. Most every other spiritual path claims the truth is in some mystic faraway place, or only available through highly select channels (read: God).

The other reason I liked the way it was presented here was because it came in this highly democratic and egalitarian package. Anyone who wants this can get it, if they just put in the effort needed to turn down the volume on their ego a little bit. It's all right there, in them, waiting to be tapped into.

I also highlighted "ritual matters" because it's the other side of what Brad says. The only way you get yourself to shut up a little bit more is by doing something every single day that will facilitate that. You don't wish for it; you don't take a pill that gives it to you once and forever; you don't buy it from someone; you don't get ordained with it. You just have to set aside the time to invite it to come in, not just once but again and again, to make a habit out of it, and let the habit live with you.

I'm not sure why we ignore stuff that stares us in the face, but I think it has something to do with the way our brains seek out equilibrium. We get comfortable with something, we get attached to it, and then we tend to discount or outright ignore anything that shakes up that feeling. And if we do that often enough and across a wide enough spectrum of things, we get very good at it. Much to our own detriment.

The other thing I keep coming back to with discussions like this is the way they can be lifted out of context and turned into an argument for a crummy social agenda, and how much that stuff makes me want to smash things.

Here's what I mean by this. If I say, "We need to constantly challenge our urge to get comfortable," that's one thing. It's a piece of advice that we all need to figure out how to make real in our lives, whatever that life is. It's not something I can tell you how to do, because I don't want that job and very little of what I say is going to be relevant in your position anyway. I have friends I've known for literally decades and I still can't tell them how to do this, because I'm not them.

But it's easy, I think, for people who are in the business of justifying the existing crummy state of things, or their own state of things (which happens to make things crummy for other people), to look at a statement like that and make it into a justification. There's no point in trying to make life comfortable for anyone, because that's Bad For Us. Therefore, things like unemployment insurance and universal health care are Bad For Us. They make us too comfortable! We're not supposed to be too comfortable! And if I can cite some allegedly respectable spiritual authority on the sanctity of suffering, that makes all this sound almost profound and high-minded, instead of the heartless drivel it really is.

Every single thing that is taught by every single spiritual path is private. It's something you have to figure out how to make use of inside yourself. Nobody gets to tell you how to make use of it, because a) that's impossible and b) most of the time that's just a cheap way for them to get and keep power over you.

A lot of spiritual paths are run by people who don't really care about spirit and care a whole hell of a lot about how big their following is, and how much they can bleed out of that following. I'm willing to bet many of the folks who run such rackets aren't even aware that they're racketeering, but that doesn't make the racket any less of a racket.

So, to try and bring all this back home: It's human nature to ignore what's in front of us, but we also have the ability to get past that with a little work. But we also need to not let the impulse towards that be turned into another way to yank our strings, and to once again get us to ignore what's right in front of us.

Side note. There are people who aren't interested in any of this because it sounds too much like work, or because they think they'll look stupid doing it (whether to themselves or their peers), or because they already have something that they feel fills such a niche in their lives. Nothing I say about this to them will matter, so this isn't aimed at such folks. This is for everyone else on the fence, as it were.

Tags: Zen belief spirituality