Analysis (Services and Self)

Koan Bremner's view on life as a database and data warehouse professional / addict and non-genetic woman

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A Can of Worms Part 2 - Map-Reading

Following on from a previous post, this one addresses one of the issues I raised in that post, i.e. item 6):

"If I compiled such a book, wouldn't it be akin to saying "this is how to do *it*"... whatever *it* might be. As a Buddhist, I have a fundamental problem with *telling* people how to do things. Again, this is such a fundamental issue for me that I'll address it in another post."

So what am I getting at here? Well, let's assume that one possible justification for (or, if not justification for, then at least by-product of) such a book would the idea that it might capture some experience or knowledge that might help others on some problematic life-journey of their own.

Here's a very high-level summary of two of the key aspects of Buddhism. One is the notion of the "Three Treasures"; the other, the "Four Noble Truths". The Three Treasures are the Buddha (the Enlightened One), the Dharma (the "body of Knowledge" that represents the teachings of the Buddha) and the Sangha (the Buddhist community). The Buddha made the Dharma available to the Sangha. But you don't get the full benefit of the Dharma just by reading it. You can't (well, you shouldn't, at least in my opinion) take it on trust; you have to consider it, examine it, think how it applies to your life, your circumstances; meditate on it. My analogy would be this; even assuming I had something worth saying, am I actually doing the people who might benefit from it a service by conveniently packaging it up for them? Don't they have to work at it themselves to get the benefit from it? A master craftsman could justifiably train his apprentice; but should a coach give steroids to his athlete? If I wrote such a book, would it be training or steroids?

The Four Noble Truths (depending on the source you use and the translation you apply) basically state that a) life is suffering; b) suffering is caused by craving; c) suffering can be overcome; and d) there is a path to follow to overcome that suffering. That path, the Noble Eightfold Path, describes the behaviours and attitudes which may lead to enlightenment. So here's my analogy; the situation I'm in has meant that my life has been pretty painful, up to this point. Maybe I've figured out how to correct that; maybe the path that worked for me could work for someone else. But (and it's a big but), *maybe that path only worked for me because I took so many wrong turns before I found the right one*. Maybe if I hadn't taken such a twisty path, I *couldn't* have reached my destination. Or appreciated it when I got there; or enjoyed the journey when I was clear about the destination I aspired to.

So I'm a bit stumped as to what to do for the best! ;-) Here's another analogy; let's assume I'm a map-maker, a cartographer. I construct a map of how I got from a) to b), clearly marking the route I took, the areas I strayed into that I wish I hadn't, the areas I strayed into that I'm glad I did, the areas I didn't go into which I regret I never saw, and the hazards I'm glad I didn't wander into. A navigational guide from starting grid to the chequered flag, if you like. Perhaps I write a little travelogue that describes the journey. What kinds of people could use or enjoy the map and / or the travelogue?

1) People who start from my starting point and aspire to my destination could retrace my steps, as accurately as I've recorded them;

2) People who start where I started and aspire to my destination could take a different path, but at least they'd know where my path was if they found their own a little too taxing;

3) People whose starting point and / or destination are different to mine, but who need to cover a part of the same route, could follow my path where appropriate, or use similar navigational techniques over a different part of the map;

4) People who aspire to my destination, but decide that my path is simply not for them, might still be encouraged to know that hacking through the jungle is worth the effort;

5) People who have no interest in joining me at my destination, but who like a good travel story, might just want to enjoy learning about the journey I made! ;-)

And there are undoubtedly other ways to extend that analogy. My point is, that the higher up that list you are, the more you might appreciate the guidance; but the higher up that list you are, the more nervous I am about the consequences of leading you astray. In my CrossOver audio shows, I've typically made a comment along the lines of "I don't give advice; I can only talk with authority about what has worked, and what hasn't worked, for *me*". And I'm keenly aware that at times I *had* to make painful mistakes and go through enormous torment, because otherwise I wouldn't have had the motivation, resolve or necessity to take seemingly drastic (but actually quite essential) steps.

I've a horrible feeling I've completely shrouded my dilemma in confusion there! :-) Actually, that's probably the nub of the matter; I'm afraid that in trying to do the *right* thing, I may actually make it worse for someone else. And I don't want to do that.

This jungle is awfully dark; pass me a torch, someone, please! ;-)

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