The Paradox of Freedom

Skin 

A post that Dosho Port wrote Three Great Minds  inspired a post at Barbara’s blog called When Bad Stuff Comes in Big Doses and inspired me to do a Twitter mini-binge. (Thanks for some retweets @ohiobuddhist and @RevDannyFisher)

These are them:

RT @ Bodhipaksa Are Americans individualistic? Not so much… http://bit.ly/9k8ZOR about 19 hours ago (Link title Sweet land of… conformity?)

RT @leashless Never forget how much freedoms, and the free, scare people |See prev. tweet link http://bit.ly/9k8ZOR Free to be U & me? Hmm 27 minutes ago via web

RT @mujaku The crew seized the ship they threw the man overboard who gazed at the stars,along with his charts. We are free, they shouted. 21 minutes ago via web

RT @bitterrootbadge There are no relative phenomena in samsara and nirvana on which one can depend. It is important to know this.D Khyentse 18 minutes ago via web

RT @acadiechick RT @superspiritgirl: “Freedom rarely arrives in the form we think it should” ~Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche 16 minutes ago via web

One more good ‘un. http://dannyfisher.org/2010/06/06/a-gift-of-dharma-for-6-6-10/ There ends today’s tweets on the paradox of freedom. 12 minutes ago via web

[Whew, nearly 20 people referenced directly or indirectly just to get started! Then this link will go to Twitter->Facebook and who knows where?]

Meat

I want to work my way backwards through these to come to the point of this post, which actually still eludes me so I’ll have to move towards it.

Never think that you will be able to settle your life down by practicing the Dharma. The Dharma is not therapy. In fact, it is just the opposite. The purpose of the Dharma is to really stir up your life. It is meant to turn your life upside down. If that is what you asked for, why complain? If it is not turning your life upside down, on the other hand, the Dharma is not working.  That kind of Dharma is just another one of these New Age methods; the Dharma should really disturb you.

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche via RevDannyFisher

Someone argued for the merits of relative benefits of Dharma-therapeutic- in response to this. And said Rinpoche didn’t understand therapy very well. I think Rinpoche understands it better than the critic. What is upside down?

“Freedom rarely arrives in the form we think it should” ~Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

Imagine freedom. It’s all that can be done until it is realized.

There are no relative phenomena in samsara and nirvana on which one can depend. It is important to know this.D Khyentse Rinpoche

The existential crisis.

The crew seized the ship they threw the man overboard who gazed at the stars,along with his charts. We are free, they shouted.

Realized.

Never forget how much freedoms, and the free, scare people

What of the aftermath?

For many years now, researchers worldwide have been conducting surveys to compare the values of people in different countries. And when it comes to questions about how much the respondents value the individual against the collective — that is, how much they give priority to individual interest over the demand of groups, or personal conscience over the orders of authority — Americans consistently answer in a way that favors the group over the individual. In fact, we are more likely to favor the group than Europeans are.  from Sweet land of… conformity?

There is security, of a sort, in groups. The Australopithecines knew this as they stood up on the African plains having emerged from their tree-dwelling shelter of the jungle. They then walked all over the world, in groups, and possibly evolved into Homo Sapiens (OK I missed a few steps in between).

Individuals are at risk, in terms of evolution, as well as environmentally, culturally. What does that say about freedom? Is freedom a group endeavor? That presents a conundrum in itself.  Or is freedom only experienced by the individual?

Bone

The point of this post-I’ve realized it now. Freedom is not relaxing. It requires constant attention.  Freedom is not a celebration. How can one celebrate when all others are not free?   Freedom is not mindless bliss.  It requires clarity.

Freedom is disturbing. And beautiful.

“If it’s not paradoxical, it’s not true.” Shunryu Suzuki

from Zen Is Right Here: Teaching Stories and Anecdotes of Shunryu Suzuki By David Chadwick

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An Artistic Digression

image 

Chaïm Soutine (1893-1943)
Le boeuf écorché (The beef carcass)
oil on canvas
51 1/8 x 29½ in. (129.8 x 75 cm.)
Painted in circa 1924

Christie’s has a description and history of the painting.

And here is more on it quoted in an article by  Andrew Graham Dixon:

“In 1925, when he had a studio large enough in the Rue du Mont St Gothard, he procured the entire carcass of a steer… He did at least four similar canvases, as well as sketches … and meantime the steer decomposed. According to the legend, when the glorious colours of the flesh were hidden from the enthralled gaze of the painter by an accumulation of flies, he paid a wretched little model to sit beside it and fan them away. He got from the butcher a pail of blood, so that when a portion of the beef dried out, he could freshen its colour. Other dwellers in the Rue Mont St Gothard complained of the odour of the rotting flesh, and when the police arrived Soutine harangued them on how much more important art was than sanitation or olfactory agreeableness.”

 

“Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all,” declared André Breton in 1928.

from Convulsive Beauty and Its Discontents

One comment on “The Paradox of Freedom

  1. Disagree to some extent on Dharma vs Therapy. Both are quite multifaceted – to think of therapy as homogeneous is not helpful. To equate therapy with the new age drivel is a misrepresentation – a straw man argument. So first tell us what is meant by “therapy”?

    I know plenty of Buddhists who work as psychotherapists (of about a dozen different types). I like the work they do on the whole. It seems useful.

    Don’t think Dharma, or should I say Dharma practitioners are always equipped to deal with modern mental and emotional maladies. The maladies themselves are poorly understood by untrained people who tend to oversimplify and present simple ‘cures’ in terms of what they do understand. It often makes things worse.

    I agree that the Dharma shakes you up if you take it seriously. Which means you need to be fairly robust to start with, or you can simply fall apart. There are many pitfalls. Sometimes shaking is not the appropriate way forward. *Never*, for instance, shake a baby. Also shaking up a can of beer can be unfortunate. Eh.

    ‘Freedom’ is an abstract noun from the verb ‘to free’. The verb can be intransitive. It is grammatically possible to say “I have been freed”, or “I am free”. However there is always an *implied* transitivity. One is never simply free, one is free *from something*, usually bondage of some sort. In Buddhism we have an unfortunate tendency to use ‘free’ intransitively and abstractly. Which in the case of renders ‘freedom’ free from having a sensible reference. The vague use of a vague word probably represents vague thinking on the subject. When you add the mysticism that infects most of us, it surprises me not at all that there is outright confusion.

    I’d like to be free from seeing pleasure as happiness, free from neurotic fear and aversion. Working on it.

    Think our lives resemble Australopithecines? Really?

    Regards
    Jayarava

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