Thursday, 12 January 2017
He's still looking doubtful, so I'd better finish off my thoughts (8th December) on his revolutionary contemplations!
So the proposition from Dr. Williams is that contemplative practice is potentially revolutionary, because to follow it is to learn what we need to live truthfully, honestly and lovingly.
Much of our commercialised culture is driven by skilful methods of manipulation and deceit, for which we have to thank marketing psychologists and ruthless advertising (you'll maybe have seen the TV adverts with which children are bombarded with on TV.)
The buzzword in politics is "post-truth" but maybe "post-fact" would be better. Whatever view you take of the UK's vote to leave the EU, I'd find it difficult to deny that much of the debate was highly emotive, post-fact campaigning. Basically, powerful people shouting at each other and at us. How good is that as a way of deciding the futures of millions of people?
There's a lot of untruth, dishonesty and lovelessness about our society and its cultures - and we are luckier than many people in the world.
Contemplative practice, built up over time and entered into regularly, doesn't so much change perceptions of other people as change how one perceives them. I don't find meditative exercises on self-compasssion, and compassion in general, particularly effective, perhaps because they are so deliberate and targetted. I'm sure they work for some. But I do find it easier, as a result of some years of meditating and contemplating, to understand the contexts and viewpoints of other, to see why people behave as they do before simply dismissing them.
I don't really think, except in the very broadest, almost metaphysical sense, that "All You Need Is Love," because you also need "Shelter From The Storm," i.e. it's harder to love others apart from those closest to you if you are wet cold and hungry - or so it is for most of us.
But I do think and feel that compassion, and acceptance of the reality of the Other, are essentials for any degree of contentment, individually and socially. I'm in no doubt, from my own experience, and I write as a not particularly tolerant person, that contemplative practice leads to growth in these areas of feeling.
I think it's difficult for compassionate people to be dishonest and manipulative, because lying and trickery tend to result in more suffering, waste and despair - now or soon.
All this is, I'm, sure, blindingly obvious, but maybe, just now in this dark time of the year, there's no harm in re-stating a few basics. We need - and we may be in the midst of - a revolution, or at least a rapid evolution, in the way we treat each other.
Contemplative practice (I'm not necessarily, or at all, talking about religions) could be a huge element in these changes.
Enter the silence and find out who - what - you are. When you come out of the silence, you may find yourself changed, bit by bit, into someone kinder and more honest.
You may even get your eyebrows tweaked by a Buddhist with a sense of humour.