You are invited to Log in or Register a free Frihost Account!

The importance of harmony vs discord

The importance of harmony vs discord/disruption is a major theme of this blog. This can arise whenever we become frustrated, angry, or despairing, or otherwise have any negative emotion. I will focus here on the question "why would someone do this?" When we perceive the actions, statements, or beliefs of others as senseless, stupid, counter-productive, or unexplainable, we ask questions like this. Violence, such as mass killings seen in the news lately, is perhaps the most obvious type of example.

It is the job of the individual to rise above this and to instead think in terms of what can be done about it. Admittedly, it is hard to do the latter without the former, but we can still try. The important thing, no matter what, is not to let the questions define us, to not affect how we interact with the world in other ways, to not run our lives.

A Zen master was asked "What is the most important component of enlightenment?"
He answered "Alertness."
"What is the second-most important component?"
"What is the second-most important component?"

This is by no means an exact quote. I believe the source is the Mumonkan, "The Gateless Gate".

The above example is a reference to alertness as a potential part of a path to spiritual growth. It is also an oblique reference to the state of mind a soldier might feel during combat when he feels like he uses more of his mind than during other times--when he feels "more alive". (I believe it is the reason Zen Buddhism became known as the religion of the samurai.) When one is truly alert, he can truly focus and can truly apply everything in him to that focus and to the task at hand.

But most fighting men who experience this do not understand that there is a spiritual context. Our society does not permit such expressions. Extreme alertness is taken only to mean the individual is paranoid, and they can get frustrated as a result. (Even those who do understand it can be misunderstood for their martial skills if they do not take care to deemphasize those skills.) The only way they know to experience it is to get into combat. For many, that means getting into fights--bar fights or otherwise. Others might become serial killers or mass killers. While this by no means explains all violence, even that which is not part of war, I believe it is often a factor.

My point here is that extreme alertness, even that attributed these days to PTSD from war, can be perfectly acceptable if consciously done as part of a spiritual path. But to do so, both society and the individual must understand the difference between paranoia and vigilance.

According to
Paranoia ... is a thought process believed to be heavily influenced by anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality and delusion.

I believe paranoia is also characterized by obsession, or a belief that certain things MUST be done. The paranoid person lets his obsession and his fear define him, to run his life. To society, it is also characterized by the basis of the fear--the existence of a threat--being nonexistent or exaggerated.

Vigilance, on the other hand, is characterized by watchfulness, a readiness to act as necessary. But it also means a readiness to take what comes, to make sacrifices when needed. The person who is vigilant but not paranoid is alert but does not become frustrated, afraid, or upset because the needs of being alert or the needs of being safe are not met, but he does not intentionally sacrifice such things and will even fight for them if he values them.

There is a middle ground between being a total space cadet and being extremely paranoid. I have often heard the appropriate state of mind, at least for a martial artist, as that which we might have while driving a car. A good driver looks for danger a few seconds into the future and is aware of his environment--including cars, pedestrians, and obstacles--on both sides and behind him and especially to the front and is conscious of the rules of the road and of what he must do to safely and courteously get from point A to point B. But while is aware of danger, he also is conscious of other things he might enjoy, such as a beautiful landscape, and is not afraid to enjoy them. He does not stop paying attention just to prove a point (that he is not paranoid) or to "test the kindness of others" as a martial arts teacher I know once put it. But neither does he sacrifice the safety of himself or others.


I am biased toward the importance of harmony in part because it is a foundation belief of my church. In fact, we regard discord as a force in and of itself, a cosmic or even local energy that forces of darkness can use to hurt people. (While we believe in black magicians, those forces could legitimately viewed as confined to other planes of existence, as powerless, or as consisting of natural forces alone.) But this is one the main reasons I attend this church, so I regard the question as moot for the purpose of this blog. But some of my comments might seem strange when not regarded in this context, so I thought it would be worth mentioning.

0 blog comments below

© 2005-2011 Frihost, forums powered by phpBB.