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So much for speaking wisely


Wooden figure 'Speak no evil'

Ah, if only I had listened to my own advice and taken the route suggested by this photo, courtesy of Darren Robertson, to "speak no evil." It's funny how that works: right after you offer up some particularly pithy words of wisdom, life hurls a situation at you that challenges your own ability to follow through. Like those times when you tell your kids, "do as I say and not as I do."

I wrote a column on communication based on the Eighth Mindfulness Training of the Order of Interbeing from the Tiep Hien Order, a Buddhist group. It talks about how we should "refrain from uttering words that can create discord or cause the community to break." Probably calling somebody a numskull or right wingnut doesn't do much to prevent discord, or preserve the community, eh?

But I was angry. They pushed my buttons. And that's exactly the time when we need to "train ourselves in the practice of compassionate listening and loving speech," to quote another section of the precept. I find it much easier to do that with my family, my loved ones, my friends- the people I am truly interested in building community with. But what about the rest of society- the offensive talk-show hosts, the politicians we disagree with, sometimes vehemently, the people we see as "the enemy"? 

I find it interesting that the Tiep Hien Order was founded in Vietnam during the war. The monks were instrumental in both protesting the devastation of their country and trying to help the war's numerous victims. The order evolved from the monks' desire to create a world with less suffering. The name, Tiep, means both "to be in touch" and "to continue," suggesting the process of getting in touch with Truth is a continuous one. Hien means "the present time," and "to make real." It's not about earning brownie points for a future Heaven, but creating a better reality in the here and now.

Could I have said what I wanted to say without employing the very tactics I detest in others, the name-calling and assigning bad motives? I don't know. I do feel that people are manipulating senior citizens' understandable fears in order to push a political agenda, and there's no nice way to call them on it. But next time, I'll try to do it without the name-calling.

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