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Response to Voice for Peace (Reply #64)

Sat May 16, 2015, 11:10 AM

71. Thank you so much for that!

Both your words and those of Kahlil Gibran speak directly to my heart, as does Thich Nhat Hanh.

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That's the message he is sending.”

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change”

― Thich Nhat Hanh


As for that "formless pygmy" metaphor, I think I get it.

Much in you is still man, and much in you is not yet man,
But a shapeless pigmy that walks asleep in the mist
searching for its own awakening.

And of the man in you would I now speak.
For it is he and not your god-self nor the pigmy in the mist,
that knows crime and the punishment of crime.


I think he is saying that we exist on 3 levels: the "god-self," which some refer to as the Higher Self, among other terms. It is the eternal part of us, the part that reincarnates until it escapes the Wheel (if that happens to be part of your belief set), the part of us that connects to all life. It is the one tree that you spoke of.

The "man" (let us modernize the term to "human" in you is pretty much your everyday consciousness, the part of you that engages in daily life, the part that deals in "commonsense" ideas like crime and punishment, the part of you that thinks it is (as Coleridge would have it) "an island."

The formless pygmy seems to me to be something like the Freudian notion of the Id, the essence that we are born with, the part of us that knows only unreasoning fear, desire, satisfaction, comfort, discomfort, rage, etc. It has no consciousness, no form. Much of the "human" component of our being is devoted to appeasing it, and the major developmental task of the "human" part is to learn to regulate the "formless pygmy."

Although I used the Freudian concept of the Id in describing the pygmy, I really want to avoid any simple-minded mapping of Gibran's model onto the classic Freudian notions of id, ego & superego. It doesn't work, and it violates the spirit of Gibran's message.

In addition to Buddhism, two related wellsprings of western thought have been influential in shaping my thoughts about these matters. The first is the so-called Perennial Philosophy (Aldous Huxley wrote a book by that title), and the second is Psychosynthesis, which is a philosophical and psychological system developed by Italian psychiatrist Roberto Assagioli. Both are worth looking at ifyour bent is toward these things.


Freud's notion of the Superego is a sort of pal

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