Friday, February 11, 2005

Suffering Revisited

Yesterday's quote generated some interesting responses, so I continue the dialogue here...

Charles: Hmmm. Aren't our societal conflicts external? I am of the belief that until human suffering becomes a societal concern, it will persist.

Me: I don't think the two ideas are in conflict.
1. societal conflicts are external, but arise primarily out of internal conflicts/suffering/strife.
2. Human suffering should be a societal concern.

As I read it, the quote suggests that social problems are not a ghostly, impliable reality that hovers above us, incapable of being touched or altered by our will or our actions. Instead, it highlights the inextricable implication of the individual in the rise of social problems.

Racism isn't merely a force that floats around the universe; it's contained in the hearts of men, made manifest in their words and actions. These men may make community amongst themselves and cultivate that racism until it is institutionalized, at which point the individual feels defeated because the sheer size of racism makes it appear to be insurmountable.

Take Larry Lyons, for example...Simultaneously, I experience racism as an individual problem (it can hurt, limit or anger me, personally) and as a social problem (it's experienced en masse). The quote reminds me that the catalyst that lies at the root of both of these experiences is not some "always-was-always-will-be" ideological monolith, but a vice that lies in the heart of some men. It is not from the earth's inherent badness that suffering sprouts, it is from the heart/mind/will of the individual.

This may seem disconcerting, and the question begs to be asked:
If I am not a racist, if I am not personally generating that energy, should I suffer its abuses just the same? Why must I be subject to the negativity that exists in the heart of another individual?

This is when I turn the lens right on back to the individual. Although I may succeed in eliminating my own racism, I may not enjoy the same success when it comes to my envy or my vanity or my cattiness or my elitism. However, the fact that the energy (some might call it "negative") is not manifest as racism, per se, does not free me from the karmic returns of the other forms of "negative" energy that I harbor. Don't get me wrong: I am not suggesting here that karma is a punitive force. Karma is not "a bitch," and karma is not out to get you. Karma does not aim to punish. Karma merely makes it possible for you to experience (be confronted with) the energy that already exists within you.

So, when I experience racism, I can't shake my fists at the gods, reminding them that I am not a racist and therefore deserve to be exempt from it. Instead, when confronted with such "negative" energy, I am challenged to use the experience to understand how others are impacted by the vices I do harbor and enact. My personal suffering as a result of racism is not due chiefly to external conditions, it is due primarily to the karmic returns of the energy that I possess -- energy that I am capable of managing.


Blogger Troy N. said...

Thank god that target isn't on his penis or ass uh oh,--but wait a minute, it isn't on his heart either....must be something to it, gotta be.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When sufficiently large numbers of people harbor an internal strife, bias, rage, it becomes a tangible force, capable of suppressing another set of people. Perhaps the answer to stop wars is to change individuals from within, and hence to change the collective consciousness till it is a positive energy. Easier said than done, I suppose.

Check out this test. It supposedly measures bias:, my results stunned me.

by pram310

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A sort of free-floating hate and fear that people tap into if they're weak or disperse by controlling some...thing...that they emit? No, I'm sorry, maybe you are saying that it is NOT free-floating, but only appears that way because of how we recognize it emotionally in the resonances racism has with our other negative emotions... Is that more or less what you mean?
You've brought up an important topic and I hope others respond.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Larry D. Lyons II said...

troy: i'll assume you're questioning the rationale behind the image selection. the man in the photograph holds his hand to his head, a traditional pose symbolizing deep thought, anguish, or (by extention) suffering.
what was most interesting to me, however, was how the target was created on the subject's. it appears that no black paint was needed to complete the icon. his natural skin tone alone (and its dramatic difference from the white paint)facilitates his body's demarkation as an "easy target" of sorts. his hue, his blackness, made it easy for him to be transformed from human to prey in the eyes of the viewer. the pose of anguish or suffering that he enacts suggests to me that he is aware of his marked status, which projects itself into the landscape of the photograh itself, creating a smokey melancholy from which the viewer can forge no semblance of order or meaning.
so yes, Troy, there IS "something to it". i thought that the combination of the pose of anguish, the racially determined target and the melancholy landscape contituted an ideal image for the discussion we're having about suffering, racism and negative energy.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Larry D. Lyons II said...

Pram310: i agree 100%. my earlier dreams of large-scale movements led my charasmatic speakers have been replaced by the desire to encourage personal epiphany. here, in this intimate space is where the paradigm shifts that enable large-scale change occur.
PS: i took the test. methinks i'll blog about the results.

kitlulu: the latter statement is correct. the energy resides in all of us and is therefore NOT free floating or incapable of being managed or addressed.

Thanks for weighing in, guys. I value your input.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel that all of my internal conflicts mirror in some way the external world; good, bad or indifferent. Karma, the way I see and feel it now, appears to manifest itself in day to day interactions with people and thinking about excatly what type of energy I want to put out into the Universe. For example, I have a coworker who is racist and sort of simple minded about her life. She believes whol-heartedly that she has the right answer, which alternately infuriates and challenges me. The fact that I am concerned about what I give the Universe on any given day at work and how I respond to her, is monumental to me. It's less about her than it is about what I do. I've found that I do have a choice in how I respond to someone, and in how I feel (or rather choose to acknowledge and deal with my feelings, you know?) Karma for me, right now, means that I am conscious of my contribution to the world, and to acknowledge my responsibility in shaping it. My challenges with my coworker, with anyone, and indeed myself, is to make people and things much more complex, and not serve my ideas of the moment to be "right" or seen as "right." I am interested in how we love and don't love and our choices in doing both. It's wholly internal, at least for me. Whenever I am interested in changing the world, my Godshit comes out and I feel I am not focused on the root of my frustrations which are more about my life and how I see/have seen it, as opposed to any moral obligation to the faceless masses that are twirling in and out of their spiritspace.

Thanks for bringing this up, Larry.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last anonymous is me, Steven...

12:47 PM  

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