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Worst Enemy

by on February 7, 2022

Worst Enemy

by Marco M. Pardi

Buddhism teaches that joy and happiness arise from letting go. Please sit down and take an inventory of your life. There are things you’ve been hanging on to that really are not useful and deprive you of your freedom. Find the courage to let them go.”

~Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Breath: A Practice for Our Busy Lives

Only those who do nothing…..make no mistakes”, Joseph Conrad

All comments are sincerely welcome and will receive a response. All previous posts are open to comment.

Have you ever been told, You are your own worst enemy? I have right along with, You think too much. If you were told either of those two things do you remember the context? Or did you just shrug it off and go on with what you were doing?

Advanced aging seems to include a process of doing new things less and remembering done things more. How many of us, in our private moments, review the mosaic of our past, focus on some event, and repeat the mantra, What a mistake that was. And therein is the potential pitfall. Sure, we all make mistakes. I made plenty in my primary school math classes, with a Twisted Sister anxiously hovering over me, steel edged ruler in hand. Oh, I learned. And I probably accrued years in Purgatory for my unspoken thoughts about the nuns. But my private lessons were far beyond age appropriate and had little to do with whatever the formula was to that equation. Those lessons crept in from other sources. For example, most of the other boys passed around a copy of Mad Magazine, famous for the What, me worry? Character Alfred E. Neuman. I admit I didn’t get the humor in that magazine, my only interest being in the regular feature Spy versus Spy. Meaningful? Yes. Portentous? Perhaps. A cryptic theme warning against becoming a common dolboyob as so many of those boys were destined for.

Actually, it wasn’t until I immersed myself in the study of Formal Logic that mathematics lost its terror for me. I began to see formulas as relationships of relative power, deeper than the squiggles we derived from Arabic and now call numbers. Power has a past, a present, and a variably potent future all at once. It applies to everything, from those squiggles, to human relationships, to all that we know and all that we think of the Cosmos and its workings in our lives. Cosmos: a Greek term coined in defiance of Chaos, it suggests an orderly and complex system. Unlike frank Chaos, in the face of which we admit the futility of wonder and thought, Cosmos invites us into dimensions where few can or will follow. Cosmology, the study of the Cosmos, presents us with an infinity of pathways marked by signposts beckoning us toward the sciences, religions, philosophies, but ultimately toward a cautious exploration of meaning including a meaning of human life itself.

On those occasions when I have witnessed people arguing with each other two common occurrences stand out: shouting the other person down; and/or “the silent treatment”. Borrowing for a moment from those early years with math, I did learn that equations do not explain themselves and become clear because I shouted my frustration. Nor did they apologize and restate themselves when I refused to engage with them further. Extrapolating from those discoveries I came to view opponents in an argument as forming an equation which required reconciliation, not total victory of one side over the other. Reconciliation here means seeing how the seemingly separate powers of each side blend to form a larger power helpful to all. A discovery that one power and one power make a third, stronger power. You see, human interaction is not a simple math equation where a solution is either right or wrong; fully exploring the power of each side brings out the history of what brought those powers into the present conflict, and what each of those those powers hopes to bring about with the acceptance of their proposed solution.

To be clear, I’m talking about disagreements that are interpretation based, not factually based. If it is Tuesday, not Wednesday, then it is Tuesday and there will be a way to confirm that. However, if to one person it is not the “right” day or the “right” time to do something and to the other person it is, we have an issue needing deeper examination than just a glance at the calendar.

Sure, I’ve been in disagreements wherein I thought of delivering a figurative Genickschuss. But doing so would have deprived me of the opportunity to benefit from understanding the power the other person brought to the discussion. After a brief feeling of smug satisfaction I would have been left standing where I started, knowing nothing more than I had before. And so, I see conflict resolution – reconciliation, as an opportunity for growth open to all involved.

Still, there are those who are seemingly immovable from their positions. A current example would be the deep divide which became known to the world on January 6, 2021. Interviews with people throughout the country have shown deep conviction held with the fervor characteristic of cults. The same holds for anti-vaccination cultists. In social science and medical science these are know as “hard to reach populations”, reach referring to their mindset not their physical distance or physical barriers. In my role as a social scientist I have conducted group interviews on several topics with such populations. At times it just seemed wise to get up and walk out. But, I never did. The best we could do with some of these groups was to find a side door into their logic, turning their own power against itself. Like a match of mental Aikido.

Another current example is Vladimir Putin and his apparent intention to invade Ukraine. So far we feel we have identified the base or history forming the foundation of his present actions; the assumption is that he greatly regretted the dissolution of the Soviet Union and aims to restore Russia to a place of major world importance and influence. So, we seem to have identified the past, present, and potential future of the power situation forming one half of the equation. But unlike numerical sums which can be proven incorrect or correct, we are faced with a mental/emotional calculus requiring changing minds, not changing mere numbers.

I would assume every reader, likely having come into conflict with a significant other, finds this familiar. I would further assume that most if not every reader has been admonished with, You’re reading too much into this, if not by someone else then by that voice within the reader himself. So we’ve come full circle. Back to us as individuals thinking we can operate in society once we’ve learned what formula fits which human situation. Some of us are quick to identify the components of opposing power and we react quickly, earning us the accusation impulsive. Others may be just as quick but have learned to draw out their response, earning the appellation thoughtful or measured. One of the nicer things said about me was, “Like talking to a Black Hole.” But I’ve never been much burdened with what others say. Some have mocked my occasional purchase of a lottery ticket by stating the phenomenal odds against my winning. My response was always: My odds are always 50%. Either I will win or I won’t. And that pretty much sums up life.

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4 Comments
  1. What a stunning message you offer us today! My mind immersed itself in every word, as I experienced again all those things of which you have written.

    I was a solitary child, and I guess it could have been said of me that I thought too much; I was a bit asocial, and I certainly wore my masks well while in the presence of my peers. I have simply never been the same as those around me. What a joy it has been to discover that there are others in this world of like mind and spirit to myself.

    I’ve always been more at ease with authority figures than with the common sheep that make up humanity’s herd. I will never understand why so many otherwise intelligent people have been so completely fooled by the power structure that has so damaged our world. I hear people say, “I’m not (fill in the blank), but…” They can’t seem to see the flaws in their own logic. I get that my logic may also be flawed, but at least it could never be said of me that I am simply an echo of whatever moron happens to be in power at the moment.

    “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

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  2. Thank you, Rose. I am certain we would have been inseparable as children. I always spent recess sitting off the edge of the playground or down at the creek. I can imagine you would have been there silently with me.

    We learned early on that human interaction is a process of discovering which strings control which movements. I’m betting you occasionally tire of having to participate in this marionette show we call society. The tempting thought arises: “Where are the scissors?”

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  3. Dana permalink

    Marco, it seems true conflict resolution/reconciliation in some relationships isn’t likely to occur without accepting others for who they are. Or without respect for boundaries we set in an effort to avoid even more unnecessary pain and suffering. Some people sincerely long for peace; others seemingly want to “win” or be “right.”

    Like

    • Thank you, Dana. I completely agree. And when it comes to those who need to win or be right I find a way to cut the connection.

      Like

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