Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hating Insincerity

I know a man who deeply hates insincerity. When he meets insincerity, especially when it disguises itself as sincerity, it makes him angry. What really sends him into a rage is arrogant upstarts who give themselves the airs of knowing.

Why? Whose insincerity is it that really disturbs him?

I tell this guy, who, worse luck, I am forced to meet on a daily basis: Go beyond likes and dislikes. Insincerity is insincerity. See it as it is. Get to know it. Don't react to it emotionally. Don't be afraid of it. Make a friend of it.

He hears the words, but he doesn't seem able to listen. He is a very difficult student -- to put it more bluntly, a total prick. Sometimes (I hate to say this in public of someone who sits in Zazen every day, but it is true) I even doubt whether he is truly sincere or not.

26 Comments:

Blogger SteveP said...

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Hi Ray,

This friend of mine knows he's insecure. In that sense, insecurity is not such a problem for him. But he tends to assume that he is sincere whereas lesser beings are not. How to get him to drop off this assumption? Not easy, even for a teacher with clear eyes.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006  
Blogger SteveP said...

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006  
Blogger SteveP said...

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006  
Blogger Michael said...

Hi Mike,

I, too, have a friend whom I castigate on a daily basis for being judgmental, angry, indecisive and a host of other things. In fact, you would think we were twins. ;)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Ray.

Maybe even in the matter of sincerity, the middle way is best.

For example, I sent somebody a cheque for £35 last year for two Nepalese singing bells, trusting that the guy would send me the bells. That was a good example of pure sincerity. It never occured to me that the guy might just pocket the money and laugh.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Hi Michael,

All the best to both of you (from both of me).

Wednesday, March 15, 2006  
Blogger Michael said...

:)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

Hi Mike, How could you have ever have believed that you were sincere? You are a self admitted hypocrite and faker. Your so-called personality changes with the wind. You take on the traits of those you admire and pretend you have none of the traits of those you despise. You love people who pay you compliments. Hate people that are critical of you. You take on airs. You see things that are not there. You fail to see things that are right in front of your nose. And your jealousy, it gets embarrassing..

In a nutshell, you are just like the rest of us.. Have you noticed how we make these subtle and not so subtle changes to our persons depending with whom we are interacting, with what we are reading.. which side of the bed we got up on, and on ad infinitum.. I know you like to think of yourself as a rock. But you are more like a pile of tiny pebbles. When you called yourself a prick I almost fell off my chair. It was so beautiful and so true. And your sincerity was palpable. Think about the changes it caused you when Brad had the bad taste to point out the obvious. He is a prick also.. And you are both great guys.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Oxeye.

I am my father's son. Brad is his father's son. Michael Luetchford is his father's son. We are all mirrors for each other's faults and virtues. But just when you've got everything sorted out philosophically, a guy like James Cohen comes along, and asks you to re-define boundaries that you didn't even know existed.

Is a Dharma-heir of Gudo Nishijima really capable of THAT degree of self-delusion? Can the criterion for the transmission of the Buddha-Dharma really be THAT wide?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006  
Blogger oxeye said...

I don't know Mike.. I don't know the man. I did read what you wrote about him, and his e-mails that you put up. He just doesn't seem like a very scary monster to me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Oxeye.

Imagine that you were brought up in Nazi Germany, having blue eyes and blond hair, proud of your Aryan genetic heritage. Then one day a Jew comes to visit you, wearing a rabbi's skullcap, telling you he is your long lost brother, that you were adopted by a gentile family, but originally your are totally kosher. In that situation, the guy claiming to be your brother might represent a somewhat scary proposition. Not because he himself is inherently scary. But because of what he is telling you about yourself, and about your father.

This metaphor might help you understand why James Cohen scares the shit out of me. More than that, it might help you understand why I scare the shit out of Brad Warner.

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

As a convicted arrogant upstart who gives himself the airs of knowing, I'd like to say something about sincerity.

As long as I could remember I had felt a distressing distance from experience. One trauma or another may have caused this, dislocation from family and friends, a succession of kickings of one sort or another, who knows but it created this odd detachment. Others, even those very close to me were gripped by grand passions and I remained cool to it all, rational like some automaton. Even as a child I couldn't play with the other kids without a powerful consciousness of my self. But one day on top of the Blackford Hill in Edinburgh, as I sat there, I noticed that the world was ok as it was. I didn't realise I'd realised this until much later but that's what happened. That experience vanished for many years to come.

This detachment produces a kind of profound and weary insincerity, like watching the actor which is you defining himself, manipulating and deviously calculating the odds in his favour. Human society is conditioned by entities like this interacting to mutual advantage, macro or microcosmic, individuals to governments.

As a younger guy, I became distressed by this distance, beauty means nothing, love means nothing - nothing can be appreciated, computed and calculated to advantage when detached nihilism is all you experience. I practised all kinds of activities to try and alleviate this from asceticism to hedonism to various kinds of 'Buddhism.' I sat in zazen agonisingly forcing my big scrum-half's legs into half lotus for hours on end at retreats all over the place. I asked questions of 'godos' and received obfuscating nonsense answers. I tied myself in knots. But I knew there was a better way. I was ready for someone to slice through that Gordian mess.

The practise of zazen under a good teacher with the study of its attendant philosophy has given me the tools to let my heavyweight self go a little and to be a bit more real, occasionally to not be afraid to be vulnerable to everything that is. Meeting my life like this, I cannot imagine where I was looking all that time. My clunky, dull, exciting and ordinary life here with my bird feeder, my wife and my daughter is just the beauty of the whole universe realised. Not to say that I realise it, I can say this, I can practise what I preach but can I realise it, I can't say.

Beauty means nothing - beauty is a meaningless term - but there it is, there, a wagtail! Love, who knows but here it comes, rumbling over the floor in the form of baby Nancy. Much in Buddhism is spoken of detachment but it can't mean the clever, aloof, emotionless state I've described. It means the sincerity to be with things in their thingness, not to be elsewhere. Just as a 12 year old child on a hill in Scotland noticed, things are ok as they are.

My old friend William Blake describes it better than I ever could:

He who binds to himself a joy
does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
lives in eternity's sunrise.

(Apologies for yet more intemperate airs and graces.)

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

mike : Much in Buddhism is spoken of detachment but it can't mean the clever, aloof, emotionless state I've described. It means the sincerity to be with things in their thingness.

Yes. What you described eloquently is disassociation not detachment. It is something I once new very well. Disassociation is a 'survival' response and may or may not be unhealthy. Detachment is something else and I think all together more healthy.

I have seen people confuse the two.

Disassociation can produce perceptions of reality that match SOME 'buddhist' literature. You can look up Disassociation Identity Disorder in any good psychology text book and see the same descriptions

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

I think I am going to write up something on my blog about Disassociation, detachment and emptiness.

I have met enough active buddhists now in the real world to be able to see that some people are learning zazen in particular in a way that produces disassociation. They are doing this because neither they nor their teacher understand emptiness or the idea of "mind and body dropping off".

Detachment means being aware of all your emotions and thoughts but not being affected by them.

Disassociation means not being fully consciously aware of body, thoughts or emotions. It is characterised by a feeling of numbness, lifelessness or being unemotional/ultra-rational.

I feel so strongly about this area that I will make it very explicit. Any meditation that causes you to be come less in touch with your body, mind and emotions is at best unhealthy.

Zazen can be used to produce detachment. I have seen enough people do it. Zazen should be making you more aware of everything and at the same time more willing to let things be.

[If you think these are airs and graces, then tough!]

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

I'm not sure you have read what I've written here very carefully. You appear to have asserted exactly the same thing. So, yes I think you're right, meeting life not shrinking away from it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

mike: sorry, yes I am asserting the same thing. I speed read it at lunch.

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you, Ray.

You are very welcome to ramble away. Maybe the spark of your honest self-reflections will light a good fire.

I'm not sure what a hermetic system is -- though I probably heard of it 25 years ago when I studied Cybernetics. Could you explain?

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Thank you Mike, Mikedoe.

Attachment is another thing my friend dislikes. He is a keen advocate of practising detachment, and he aspires to live the free, unencumbered life of a monk.
And yet he counts his pennies, thinks about buying a bigger car, looks forward to his next infusion of caffeine. Worst of all is his attitude towards teachings that he regards as true. Although those teachings just tell him to relinquish all views, to drop off all conceptions, he holds onto those very views and conceptions as if his life depended on it.

The guy really is a hopeless case.

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger SteveP said...

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Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger Michael Tait said...

A hermetic system - fascinating. The hermetic system of the self is self-generated like your trigger-pulling. Without pulling the trigger we can't trigger the hermetic system of the self. The self is trigger-pulling. Think non-trigger-pulling, so to speak.

Clever me - did you see me pull that trigger!

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

The guy really is a hopeless case.

Getting less and less so.

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger MikeDoe said...

miket: Your words under your own name ring far more true than FW. It is refreshing.

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger Mike Cross said...

Since we are talking sincerity, Ray, the most relevant comment I could make might be that in a sense all conceptions are false, not sincere.

But to conceive of the earth as a closed system strikes me as a particularly wrong conception.

Alexander used to say, "A child of 3 can understand this work, but give me a man whose been educated and God help me."

As also the product of an elitist education, I sympathize with you, Ray. Like me, you probably have more insincerity than most to drop off.

Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Blogger SteveP said...

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Thursday, March 16, 2006  
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Thursday, March 16, 2006  

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