Just a Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down

September 29, 2012


Let’s just be straight about this: It’s all bullshit.

Well, not really IT.
IT is what IT is.

I’m talking about your notions and versions of what it all is. Your -isms.

Your pretty little encompassing boxes with colorful, thematic wrapping and maybe a nice bow or some other appealing accessories to make it presentable, or better yet, desirable to the others.

These -isms, these manners of apprehension (in every sense of the term), come in flavors for every palette. Rows and rows of candy in separate compartments to choose from. Sweet, bitter, chocolate, cherry. Someone has created a convection they prefer and they really, really want you to like it, too. In the open market bazaar of notions and ideas theirs is the best tasting, best for you, and perhaps just the only thing a “normal” person should ever need to eat.

But wait! The purpose here is not to condescendingly criticize. We’re in this thing together, after all. We were up above it; now we’re down in it. As such, we each reach out with the alligator arms we have. If we tend to stay in one spot, we grasp that which happens to be closest to us. So I wish to come as the messenger of more – ever more.

Perhaps we are more akin to T-Rex, in this case. We may have limited reach, but we have big, strong legs. We can move about quite well in order to browse the bazaar. We can strategically position ourselves to stoop and reach into whichever bin looks appealing.

It gets even better.

Not only are we capable of this awareness, we can be aware of our awareness. Ah, careful though. This is where it often gets a bit tricky. And sticky. This is where we can puff out our chests at our apparent superior awareness compared to the other things around us. This is where we can get rather smug with ourselves. Oh, and others. Because your -ism is obviously the best -ism. Why else would you have it?

But let’s get back to the good news. The proverbial mental back step. Pulling our faces out of the candy container we have had in such intimate proximity due to these short upper limbs, and taking in the broader vista. Sure, you won’t be able to smell the sugar near as well. Yes, it is daunting separating yourself from the familiar. The cacophony of new sights and smells tangling together is certainly unsettling, at first.

Take it slow. No need to overwhelm. That will just defeat the purpose. Explore a little. Make yourself maps to find your way back to your comfortable spot, as needed. Never expect to see it all. That isn’t the point. And never, ever think that you have seen it all, that you have the complete picture. Don’t be silly. Or do, actually. Just not about that. Let’s keep moving…

You can often tell when someone has locked into an -ism by their ways of selling or defending it. Especially when they concern themselves with being not-that. “I believe this because THAT leads to…” The funny thing is so often what it supposedly leads to rarely, if ever, exists or comes to be, or exists outside of the supposed cause. So many straw men sacrificed with Trojan horses.

Buddhism offered me a good example of this. Eventually. There is an old saying in the canon which comes in various forms:

Before you study Zen, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers; while you are studying Zen, mountains are no longer mountains and rivers are no longer rivers; but once you have had enlightenment mountains are once again mountains and rivers again rivers.

What this means, each has to ponder. As it portends, that meaning will change as they do. What I began to understand after immersing myself in that particular -ism (and others) and then letting the rivers carry me back into the ocean beyond the dogmatic currents flowing at the surface, is that pursuing something like egolessness and cessation of desire is about the means far more than the ends. The end is an unattainable ideal (and thus probably moot fodder for arguments). As a human being you will never be without ego and desire, but in the practice of trying you will know of those things far better. You will see them in a new light. You will hone that ability to back step. You will see your own tail and how you let it wag you. It’s a tail, wagging is what it does. But now you know. Now you can choose.

So it can be with all these -isms. Step back from the feeding trough. Mill around the bazaar. Sample things you’ve never tried before. Nothing to fear. You have a bigger awareness now. You can say, “No, thank you.” You can keep moving. You always have your map in your back pocket…

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7 Comments on “Just a Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down”

  1. 68ghia Says:

    it would seem that you and my eldest would have a good conversation about this philosophy.
    Have to admit. The few times I’ve tried other people’s -isms, has never gone well for me.
    These days I don’t even wander the bazaar, or partake of what they have on offer.
    I just look, and realise that what I have become is good enough for me. And I don’t really WANT them to add to me. Since they usually don’t add, they just subtract. Every one just takes a little bit of you with them, until there’s nothing left for yourself.
    Liked this post Sir. points to ponder indeed.


    • Brett Myers Says:

      I understand people being satisfied where they are. I have a harder time understanding people who think no other place can exist AND are happy to tell you so. I think I know what you mean about subtraction, too. I’m not a big joiner, and tend to avoid any official groups or organizations. And thanks, Ghia…


  2. Eden Says:

    The problem with -isms is that people seem to get focused on the results instead of simply living their lives. They devote far too much time and mental energy on being the image of someone else’s vision.


    • Brett Myers Says:

      Very much agree, Eden. I think that’s what attracted me to Buddhism and Zen, especially. At their essence, they are not dogmatic, but people being people, things get misconstrued and/or taken to literally and here we go…


  3. bexgonegeek Says:

    1. I really, really want licorice now.
    2. You had me at the NIN reference
    3. I’m trying to live -ism free, but I suppose that in itself is an ism. *sigh*
    -isms can unite us or segregate us and we just need to keep our eyes, minds and hearts open and be proud of our -ism but realize it might not be the best -ism.
    And this is why I get stuck on the fence.


  4. SidevieW Says:

    You can only be where you are for the moment, every next moment you have to be what fits that moment. If you are lucky you move in directions that are interesting, making those next moments more that they might have been.

    Hard to put labels on.


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