Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Duality of Me

Pogue Colonel: You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke? 
Private Joker: No, sir. 
Pogue Colonel: You'd better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you. Private Joker: Yes, sir. 
Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you'll be standing tall before the man. 
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir. 
Pogue Colonel: The what? 
Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.
-- "Full Metal Jacket"

Ah, dualism. It's a term used in many different contexts, but I tend to read and think about mainly moral dualism (classic good vs evil) and the duality in Taoist nature, the yin and yang.

We like to think of our inner struggle as having an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Am I going to listen to the angel more today? Or do I say "fuck it" and listen to the devil? The thing is, I don't really think that angel is always good or the devil is always evil. That "angel" could be wrong because aspects of your belief system might come from being misguided and close-minded. The "devil" wants you to indulge in your desire or your craving, and sometimes going that route might open your mind or be beneficial. Things aren't black and white as most of us know. Calling someone evil means you lack empathy towards that person and that's how you're dealing with their actions. It's easy to categorize yourself as good and someone you oppose evil. We as humans are good at that.

Discovering spirituality has changed how I view others and the world. I have a new conviction to avoid harming living things, harming others and harming myself. My duality has to do with who I was vs who I am trying to be now. I have been reading many books on Buddhism and Zen, and I've been working on myself in sobriety, as I've written about here several times. My progression in "developing my Zen mind" has been healthy and life-changing...but it's also been wrong a bit. I'll try to explain.

I was in a controlled environment aka Travis County treatment aka Jail Lite, so I had no outside distractions (other than really shitty people forced to be there around me all the time). I read "The Four Agreements" and start slow by trying to practice just four principles: 1) be impeccable with your word, 2) don't take anything personally, 3) don't make assumptions, 4) always do your best. Trying to follow those changed my thinking and attitude within days. I went back and revisited principles of Buddhism and began applying those to the best of my ability, and I started meditating every day. These are great things.

The phrase "on a pink cloud" describes someone who is newly sober or newly spiritualized where everything is great and nothing can go wrong again...a temporary euphoria. Then you come off of that cloud, and if you aren't ready for it, life can broadside you and you find yourself using again or dismissing those spiritual principles. I came off that cloud right before they released me in March, so I felt grounded when I was in the real world again. The big issue for me, I now realize, is that I still remember what that temporary euphoria felt like...and I thought that was the Zen state I should be in.

What happen is I tried to be perfect based on what I was reading. If I wasn't having the right view, thought, livelihood, action, speech, effort, mindfulness and concentration, I'd feel like I wasn't "doing this right". Well, I'm aware I am not perfect and that I'm a big old dumb human male. Even knowing this, I still tried to be this image of what I thought I was supposed to be now. I no longer had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Instead, I had a big fat Buddha on one side and John Fucking Rabon, the "me" of old, on the other.

And then, I read something that smacked me in the face, and I "woke up", in a way. It wasn't a spiritual book that changed my perspective. It was a Hellblazer graphic novel. "Roots of Coincidence", to be specific.

John Constantine
Regarding John Constantine, from Wikipedia: "Although a compassionate humanist who struggles to overcome the influence of both Heaven and Hell over humanity and despite his occasional forays into heroism, Constantine is a foul-mouthed, disillusioned, British cynic who pursues a life of sorcery and danger. His motivation has been attributed to an adrenaline addiction that only the strange and mysterious can sate."

Not to go into the plot of the particular graphic novel, but essentially Constantine could allow another soul (a "good" one) to merge with his which would then make him a more powerful sorcerer and benefit all of mankind. Being the great anti-hero he is, he says "fuck all that" because he wants to live life his way and he's nobody's puppet, even if his way causes himself and others pain and suffering.

How this affected me, besides giving me the urge to dye my hair blond again and wear a trench coat for no good reason, is I realized I can't stop being me. I can work to improve myself on a daily basis. I can practice the Four Agreements and principles of Buddhism to the best of my ability. I can work on my empathy towards others I don't agree with or like. But sometimes I have to let "the old me" out on occasion, because that persona with its attitude its mouthy bullshit is part of me. I am my imperfections, and I can embrace them.

An example of this is that I've been working on not having to be right or not having to win, because it's an ego thing. So, I've avoided getting into arguments both in real life and on social networks, because trying to one up someone on Facebook or even in person when they won't change their opinion is a big empty waste of time, usually. But there needs to be a balance, like in everything. Right, don't fight everybody you think is wrong, but don't not say anything ever. So sure enough, in the middle of thinking about all this a "friend" on Facebook posts the dumbest thing I've read in a long time regarding how "redskin" is not offensive and is instead a term of honor. He could say this because, as he put it, he has "American Indian" blood in him. After a few comments of people saying "amen" and "agreed", I broke my little "let it go" thing and had to say something. Did it change his mind? No. Did I make anyone think about their own bullshit with my response? Probably not. But my gut told me, "Fuck him." My new principles and being sober allowed me to intelligently respond without personal attacks, so there's that. I didn't have to respond at all. But it's in my nature to combat loudly broadcasted stupidity and bullying, even on stupid Facebook. Even on the bus. Even in line at the convenience store. Even at the sober house.

I am aware that telling an ex-coworker on Facebook he used the "I can say that because I have friends who are black" argument means very little in the grand scheme of things, but it just helped things click with me. I wasn't evil in the past. Not everything I was sucked. I can't try to throw everything away because I would just be fighting my nature. I have to trust that being myself will work out because my perception is no longer distorted in a drunken, doped-up haze of self-centered motivation.

I will put my foot in my mouth. But making mistakes is better than doing nothing. Maybe I learn from them and the next time I just put my toe in my mouth.

And all this came from a comic book and a random guy I know who got angry at Bob Costas. Life is weird.