Another Little Paradox,
by Roger Fritz, 7-13-13
Life is full of of paradoxes. As I go along, I can't help but notice. You've probably noticed too. Here are some examples:
One of life's little paradoxes involves pleasure and pain. There is no limit here to the amount of pain a person can suffer. How frightening. No matter how bad things are, they can always get much, MUCH worse.
I would have thought spirit would set a limit. But no, in addition to perfect love, cunning, and patience, spirit has perfect detachment. So people get as much pain as it takes to wake them up. Wake up quick, is my advice. I plead with you. Above all, don't fight the teacher.
The paradox comes into play in this way: there is also no limit on joy and pleasure. Well. How nice for us. Things can always get better. What an odd world to live on. In.
Another of life's little paradoxes is that much of the abuse done to a person is done by those they love. Sometimes completely accidently, and sometimes because my sweetie has gotten triggered. Poor dear. So I need self defense even more with those who love me than with strangers, in that it's more important and I'm likely to need it more often.
So here's the paradox: it needs to be a non-violent form of self defense. Otherwise my self defense will start brush fires it will take days to put out.
The good news is that the non-violent forms of self-defense also turn out to be the most effective. The two most refined forms of non-violent self-defense are Aikido and coyote. They raise self-defense to the point of a beautiful art, and mastering them to some small extent makes life on Earth safe. Self-defense is the only thing I know of powerful enough to change a whole planet. Well, at least for you.
Another of life's little paradoxes is the first law of martial arts: no attack is personal. Abuse feels so personal that it's difficult to imagine it's not. Abuse is often honed and refined to push my personal buttons.
But I would suggest that attack isn't personal, for two reasons. One is that most of what most people say and do is projection, and says a great deal about them while saying almost nothing about you. If someone attacks me, what it says is they're either ignorant or crazy. Probably from a bad childhood.
And the other reason is that everyone was born a sweet, innocent, little baby. What turned them into abusers was being abused, which wasn't their fault, obviously. But it is a sickness that drives them. They wouldn't attack me if they weren't mentally ill.
So the paradox is that one of the two things that feels most intimate in the world is actually just the slopping over of madness from someone who's out of control. How do I deal with that? With the coyote way, of course.
Another of life's little paradoxes is the first law of coyote. Don't treat crazy people like they're sane. The paradox here comes from being so deeply trained to be polite and considerate that it feels bad not to respond as expected. We're expected to be reasonable.
When confronted by madness, it's bad strategy to explain or defend my actions or get sucked into an argument. The only way I know to deal with unreasonableness is trickery. Distract them with the unexpected. The paradox springs from it feeling so wrong to lie to someone for their own good, to manipulate people into being happy, to trick people into having a good life.
Another of life's little paradoxes is that we only seem to have beginner students and advanced students in this rough school, this planet Earth. Well over half the people in America are predators, who don't care about the rights or feelings of others. They're selfish, so they're learning compassion and the beginnings of the warrior way. But the minority here are advanced students. The paradox is that the same conditions which are good for the beginner students seem to be good for final polishing. How odd. And elegant. Spirit is creative and efficient.
Another of life's little paradoxes is that good deeds are not rewarded. Necessarily. There's no connection between good deeds and rewards. Sometimes when I do the right thing, my life gets better in some way. Sometimes it gets worse. It's just chance.
The point of doing good deeds is not that I get rewarded, but that the right thing gets done. If my life gets worse, then I use the warrior way to deal with it. I don't expect reward for right behavior, so I'm not disappointed when the good deed turns around and bites me. I use self defense, and on we go.
Another of life's little paradoxes is anger. Anger is a good thing. I get angry when I feel abused or mistreated or treated unfairly. These issues are so important that we have an entire emotion alotted to them. If I never felt anger, I wouldn't stand up for myself or even notice abuse. So to feel anger is very important.
Here's the paradox. To express anger in any way is extremely bad strategy. Not even in tone of voice or a rolling of the eyes. Only bad things happen when I express anger.
How is this paradox resolved? I feel my anger to the core to discover what exactly is making me angry. Then I make a plan to do something about it. One I start working on the plan, mysteriously enough, the anger will lift. And if I stop working on the plan, it'll come back.
Another of life's little paradoxes is worry. Worry, like anger, is a good thing. It's good to feel. When the little red light on the dashboard goes on, it's best I pay attention. Fear warns me of danger.
The paradox is that professional worriers only worry once. When I realize I'm worrying about something, I stop and face my fear. I look at the worst-case scenario. Then I make a plan for what I'll do if that scenario happens. I bundle up the fear and the plan and put them on a shelf.
Then I go to the second-worst-case scenario, and I make a plan for that. When I run out of scenarios, I go about my life.
Another of life's little paradoxes is that it's amazingly difficult for smart to outsmart stupid. Incredibly difficult. Usually all stupid has to do to win is persevere with being stupid, and that's not hard to do.
Once I actually managed to outsmart my cat. I have a playful kitty, and I have a toy that's composed of a stick, a string and a tuft of feathers. She loves to play with it, but sometimes she'll nail the tuft of feathers to the carpet and sink her claws in and just wait. I can't get her to let go, and I'm bored.
So I went back to the pet store and bought another toy. I keep it behind my back. If she nails the first one to the carpet, I let the string go slack, and I bring out the second one. When she springs for the second one, I put the first one behind my back.
Another of life's little paradoxes is the pardox of men. They are rough and tough, sometimes mean and even brutal. They are capable of great evil. And yet, they are easily hurt. They have tender hearts and feelings, and are much less emotionally resilient than women. There's an old saying that what breaks down women is the big crisis, and what breaks down men is the daily grind.
Another of the paradoxes of men is that they are also capable of heroism. You don't need a man around often, but when you do, there's no one else who will go out and beat off the saber-tooth tigers and sing with joy while he does it.
Another of the paradoxes of men is that they're only happy when they're devoted to women. In the stone age, that meant ten or twenty women. In modern times, it usually means one. But one's enough to make a man happy. It's tricky, though, because most women are not hard-wired to be happy with one man. They want a clan.
Another of life's little paradoxes is that all relationships have to be managed. In US culture the prevailing myth is that relationships don't have to be managed, that we fall in love and live happily ever after. Too bad it's not true. The truth is that if you don't manage your relationships, the truck will run off the road into the ditch.
How do you manage a relationship? Use assertiveness skills and self-defense skills. If your sweetie has some bad behaviors, ask them to change. Make agreements and negotiate to get your needs met. Make sure that you don't blame the other person or allow them to blame you. Give lots of appreciation, and ask for it for yourself. If the other person is a woman and she's upset, she needs to talk. If the other person is a man and he's upset, he needs cave-time. If your sweetie isn't happy, manipulate them shamelessly into being happy. To manipulate someone to make their life better is a good thing.
Many women already know how to do this. Most men don't.
Another of life's little paradoxes is that fun and satisfaction aren't the same thing. There are lots of ways to have fun in life. I could name hundreds, everything from collecting Victorian bottle caps to jumping off a cliff with a hang glider on your back. But I can only name a handfull of ways to find satisfaction and fulfillment. Helping others is an obvious one. Having good relationships with other people is another. Being in nature, acts of creativity, raising a child if you're a woman, having sex if you're a man... You see, already I'm running out of items. Can you suggest more?
Another of life's wonderful little paradoxes is that doing what you want is also the best way you can help the people around you. Isn't that curious? If you follow your heart, if you find your passion and do it, if you do what's selfishly the most fun and satisfying for you, then you'll find you're being of the most service to others.
If you're a painter, and you create a mighty ouvre, you inspire thousands or millions. If you're an inventor or a musician or a martial artist or a teacher or an honest politician you can get paid for having fun and at the same time be of use to humankind.
Take me, for example. I like lots of art forms, but the one I'm the best at and like the most is counseling. The clients mostly never guess that I'm doing this because I just find it so much fun.
Or to put it another way, I find it satisfying.
Another of life's little paradoxes is sensitivity. During the first part of your life, sensitivity is a great curse. You get bullied and hurt. The second part of your life it's a great blessing. The reason is that all the great martial artists started out as sensitive people.
Being sensitive means you spot the abusers sooner and can take action. You're hard to sneak up on. And it means you can defend yourself better. Self defense is not about strength. It's about balance and self control and humor. So sensitive people are better at it.
Another of life's little paradoxes is that only positive thinking is realistic. As a counselor I've watched clients clean the negative thinking out of their minds, and the more they got rid of, the more realistic they became. When they got the negative thinking completely stopped, they were now grounded and clear and realistic.
Another of life's little paradoxes is that the good life is within easy reach for most people, even right here in the middle of madness. All they would need to lay claim to their birthright, which is to have a good life, is reach out and take it. In order to do that, a few attitudes might need to be changed, a couple of beliefs, maybe a few new skills learned. But these changes aren't difficult for most people, and once they're made the good life is within arm's reach.
Another of life's little paradoxes is that you can meet your soulmate and have it not work out. That one's particularly poignant, isn't it? Most people meet three or four soulmates in a lifetime, is my impression. You'd think when you meet one it'd be guaranteed to work out, right? Oh no. It's no more likely to work out than the less meaningful relationships. Your soulmate might be a ship passing in the night, whom you never see again.
Another of life's little paradoxes is spirit. One of the ancient questions of philosophy has been whether spirit has limits. "Can God create a stone He can't lift?" It turns out that spirit does have limits. And ironically, they're the same as mine. The macrocosm and the microcosm mirror each other in a fractal way. I'm limited by my own nature. And spirit is limited by her own nature.
When her only choice was to remain one or become many, it was her nature to choose multiplicity. It was her nature that the creation of the true home would leave as a residue billions of souls who are unable to feel bliss. And it was clever of her to create places these handicapped souls can go to ripen until they're able to return home.
It's the nature of these souls that they're unable to learn and grow without pain, so in her compassion spirit invented pain. And in her detachment she uses as much as necessary to awaken people and prepare them to return home.
Principles of paradoxes:
Paradoxes are benign, and ultimately for our good.
The teacher is sometimes tricky with the student.
Spirit has perfect compassion and perfect detachment, and she also has perfect playfulness. When the saints break through into enlightenment, they cry out, "God is play," or, "The universe is God dancing!" Nobody cries out, "God is work!"
The ultimate paradox is that life is play. It feels so serious, but the perfection of any art is transcending the medium into play.