Most of my life I wanted people to be just one thing. Good or bad. Kind or unkind. True or a lie. I had no room for gray or for the nuances of the human heart.
I was crushingly disappointed when those I thought "very good" failed in their utter humanness to remain good.
The righteous acts of the "unrighteous" perplexed my innocent heart even more than the "good" failing at "goodness."
That is the thing about judgements. They do not allow us to see others beyond those ideas we hold. Judgements both "good" and "bad" are equally problematic and equally damaging.
Judgement creates division and separates us from our connectedness with others. When we judge someone as "good" we place them on a pedestal; one from which they will inevitably fall and disappoint us.
When we judge them as "bad" we remove the possibility of our experiencing them in any way than how we've pigeon-holed them.
We remove our ability to receive the blessing of who they are because rather than celebrating them as they are we are criticizing who they have yet to be.
Either way, we step out of our love.
I stepped out of love a lot. I fell into judgement because I so desperately wanted goodness. I wanted to believe that the world was ultimately benevolent. I wanted so badly to believe that under every person's layer of bullshit was a kind, shining, innocent soul waiting to be brought forth.
I too often surrendered my boundaries because I believed in inherent goodness and nobility. And I believed that in my softness I could soften a stone-cold heart.
The Buddhists told me that the world was an illusion and that I could shift reality if I could just change my mindset and see the world differently.
The Christians told me that while there were forces of evil at play in the world there was also a plan. This was temporary. We just had to hide away in churches with our own kind and not let the stink of the world touch us. Only exiting to bring others into our fold. Us and them.
They told me that if I was very good and very fine and kept my innocent heart I would be held and protected.
Love would always win.
They both told me that love would always prevail. That at the heart of it all was goodness.
This is a lie.
I see the vile win. Sometimes evil comes out on top. Bad men often rule at the expense of the good, the weak, and the kind.
People fuck up on the regular. They do good deeds from vile hearts. Sometimes they do the sweetest of things from graceful hearts.
The world is not moral. It is not good. It is not benevolent. The world is ferocity, entropy, volatility, chaos, and play.
The world is order and disorder being re-ordered. It is being made and unmade a thousand times over.
While I once found this terrifying, I now find in this truth my deepest reassurances. I can breathe easier accepting what is.
This is equanimity. The Pali word uppeka meaning to "see with understanding." Seeing things exactly as they are, not as we wish them to be brings deep calm and an unsurpassed peace.
Clear seeing. Not wishing the world to be any other way than what it is and then doing my part to make my piece of it the best it can be.
What I am coming to know about the world is this...
Nature is wild and fierce. There is madness and mayhem.
No one is all "good" or all "bad." The human heart and psyche is utterly nuanced and complex and we are all capable of dire evil and divine goodness.
Where I was once collapsed and boundary-less in my efforts to stay "soft" and in my heart, I have learned that there are times to shake your fist at the sky. To be fierce in a fierce world. To stand up and fight.
And the standing and fighting? It may just mean a subtle compromise in my integrity which wants to always be in grace and love.
We cannot be "good" all the time. And that is ok. No one can. It is not the nature of things. We just have to live in such a way that we can live with the compromises we make and look our selves in the eye and hold the gaze.
This past year I faced a situation that required I compromise my integrity and my desire for Highest good. I did everything in my power to make peace and ultimately was backed into a corner that required the hard choice. The choice that caused pain to myself and another. A choice that was for me a compromise of my integrity.
I struggled with it for months. In my heart of hearts I knew I did what had to be done. I chose the best choice among a series of bad choices.
I was reminded of the Bhagavad Gita and Arjuna's dilemma. This is the beauty of myth. They provide us insights into our lives. We are as my teacher Douglas Brooks says "all the gods and all of the demons, we are every character in the story." And we can look to myth to find the prism of our own consciousness.
For those unfamiliar with the story, the Gita is a text removed from 1/3 of the way through the Mahabharata. A 100,000 line sanskrit text telling the story of the five Pandava brothers.
The Pandavas had been in a land dispute with their cousins the Kauravas for a very long time and after a series of events and a rigged game of dice, Yudishtira the eldest brother intended to rule the Kingdom loses it all to the Kauravas.
In short after 12 years of exile the Pandavas return to reclaim their kingdom for the good of the world, war is inevitable. All decency and goodness has failed. They are at an impasse.
At the opening of the Gita, a chapter loosely translated as "Arjuna's Despondency", Lord Arjuna is on the battle field. He is the warrior, the brother charged with guiding the violence.
The conch declaring war has been sounded. A bloody, relentless battle is about to begin. Arjuna looks across the battle lines and he crumbles. He sees his friends. Men that raised him and taught him to fight. He sees love. He sees death. And his heart fails him.
He begs Lord Krishna for guidance and Krishna does something unexpected. He doesn't tell him "oh you're right war is bad. You have a good heart and we can solve this with love."
No no. He tells him to yoke himself to the battle. He basically tells him to "man-up" and goes on to teach him that sometimes there are no "good" choices and that we have to be willing to act for the greater good. Even when it hurts. Even when it goes against our integrity.
I just returned from India on pilgrimage with my teacher Dr. Douglas Brooks and one of the things he taught me is this.
You can’t solve the integrity problem. Corruption is inevitable and there will always be moments you have to compromise your integrity. There’s deals worth making and your truest integrity rests in knowing which deals you’re willing to make and which you are not. _ Winning is losing a little. And your integrity is always at stake. This is what Krishna was charging Arjuna with. They had done everything to make peace but there came a time when the unthinkable had to be done. Arjuna compromised his integrity for the deal he was willing to make for the greater good. You'll never have perfect integrity. And you'll never be all good. What is required is making the choices that you can live with. So that you can live with yourself.
I have made peace today with my actions. I did what I had to do in the face of nihilism and narcissism to protect that which I love and hold dear. That was standing in my higher integrity.
What it all “goodness”? No. Am I still in pursuit of goodness. Yes. 100%. But the surest way to pursue that goodness is to get honest about and recognize when and how I’ve compromised my integrity and why. And only make the deals I’m willing to make. With good counsel and good company.
This is Bhairava (the ferocious embodiment of Shiva) and the message of the myth. The answer isn’t always to just be calm. Sometimes it’s to fight.
In a volatile, entropic, chaotic universe my teacher says "the burden and the beauty is on us."
What a gift. The world isn't good. But we can be good. And sometimes being good, might mean accepting a little of the "bad."