Whenever I have a Grand Intuition about something that really is obvious, I'm never sure whether (1) I deserve to be honored in the Great Hall of Enlightened Beings or (2) laughed at for not realizing sooner what I should have understood long ago.
(Personally, I'll go with #1, but I can't argue with someone else who favors #2.)
The core of today's Grand Intuition is the title of this blog post: When you're sad, be sad; when you're happy, be happy. It's an emotional echo of some familiar Zen sayings.
Chop wood, carry water.
When hungry, eat. When thirsty, drink. When sleepy, sleep.
Probably what got me to pondering this today was a slightly delayed reaction after listening to part of an interview on Sam Harris' Waking Up app yesterday. Harris spoke with a woman who said that equanimity was a central pillar of spiritual practice.
I didn't listen long enough to learn what she meant by equanimity. I'm assuming that this refers to remaining in a more or less steady calm emotional state no matter what happens to you: good things, bad things, neutral things.
This is in line with what the Sant Mat teachings I followed for thirty-five years as a member of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), an India-based spiritual organization, taught.
Lust. Anger. Greed. Attachment. Egotism.
Those were the five deadly sins RSSB books and speakers warned against. Each has an emotional component. And in my current state of mind, each seems perfectly fine to me. They're simply a part of being human.
Sure, it makes sense to keep emotions within certain bounds. But those bounds are pretty damn loose.
For example, lusting after someone you find attractive is how relationships, and marriages, often get started. Forcing them to have sex is out of bounds. Otherwise, lust is a natural feeling. Ditto with anger, greed, attachment, egotism, and every other feeling/emotion.
What I realized today more clearly than ever before was how, even though I'm no longer overtly religious, I still carry around vestiges of the religious teachings that were such a big part of my life for over three decades.
One vestige is how I've been considering that meditation and mindfulness were supposed to help me not get very upset when something went wrong in my life, nor unduly attached to the pleasure I feel when something goes right in my life.
In other words, I'd bought into that whole equanimity thing, albeit semi-consciously.
Suddenly it hit me that life would be a whole lot simpler if I took a different approach. Be sad when I feel sad. Be happy when I feel happy. Be angry when I feel angry. Be ________ when I feel _________.
Again, not crazily emotional. Not emotional in a way that harms anyone. Just honestly emotional, embracing whatever I'm feeling at the moment without wondering, "Is it OK to feel this way?"
Yeah, it sure is OK. In fact, I've been feeling especially good today, because it feels like a weight has been lifted from my emotional shoulders. For a long time, more than 50 years, I've felt a need for self-improvement.
Simply being the person I already was -- not good enough.
I needed to meditate every day, read spiritual books, write spiritual books, improve how I related to other people, be kinder, more loving, less prone to negative emotions, you know, all that stuff the self-improvement/spiritual realization proselytizers tell us is necessary to truly be a Decent Human Being.
Which mostly is bullshit. Yes, if someone has a serious psychological problem that prevents them from functioning well or being satisfied with life, that points to a need for improvement.
But the notion that we need to become anyone other than the natural human being we already are is entirely false. When you feel good, feel good. When you feel bad, feel bad. Likely neither feeling will last very long. Embrace each while it lasts.
No pressure to become your "higher self." For one thing, there's no high or low when it comes to being human. For another thing, you aren't a self. You're simply you.
It's not easy to just ‘be yourself’. Zen practitioners who have been practicing for years may have reached that state, but for the average person, being yourself (as a mantra) is invariably thwarted by a mind full of society’s rules and regulations of behaviour.
With every good intention our cultural conditioning (particularly that which has been subjected to strong moral, ethical and religious schooling) invariably retains quite strong remnants of that upbringing. Even though logic and knowledge may tell us otherwise, still wandering around in the mind are nagging little barbs that subtly interfere with our new found enlightenment.
Although we may feel we are free of past training and can see things clearly, there often remains vestiges in the form of hopes and desires that manifest in our everyday dealings (and thinking) with life. Even with the knowledge that shows past patterns of belief to be false, it is amazing how, even new knowledge can be twisted to somehow justify (perhaps unconsciously) out former thinking.
There is perhaps one other feature with regard to ‘being yourself’, which is to do with getting old – you don’t have to conform or impress so much.
Posted by: Ron E. | April 19, 2022 at 02:25 AM
We can only be what we are.
But if we can look at our anger, lust, attachment, greed, pride, happiness, then at least these things aren't the boss.
Because it is often after they pass that we realize we acted in a way that hurt ourselves and others.
And we think "If only I had been thinking".
So, those emotions are fine. They are flags. They can tell us something.
But they are terrible masters.
So we should cultivate a second track, the peaceful track. So that when anger arises, we can be peaceful while feeling angry. But not Be angry.
So that when lust arises, we can be peaceful, while feeling lust. But not Be lust.
So that we can act aware of and thoughtful to others, not what we want them to be, not as objects of consumption, but as other human beings.
We can feel and recognize these human emotions, that are good guides but terrible masters, without indulging in them, without letting them take over.
"Indulging in anger is like drinking poison thinking the other person will die."
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 19, 2022 at 05:35 AM
Always be calm enough to give these emotions to the higher power within you. Yah, the one built right into your own brain!
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 19, 2022 at 05:57 AM
Spence, a couple of questions for you.
(1) Recently I saw an interview with President Zelensky of Ukraine where Zelensky was asked about a photo of him taken when he toured Bucha, the town where Russian soldiers killed about 500 civilians, torturing many, abusing others, shooting civilians after drinking vodka just for the soldiers enjoyment.
The interviewer asked if Zelensky's pained expression meant he was sad. He replied, "No, I'm angry." I've also seen citizens of Bucha interviewed who are intensely angry at Russia for inflicting so much death and destruction on their town. So tell me, are Zelensky and the townspeople wrong for feeling so angry at the horrors that were inflicted on people in Bucha? Is that anger really "like drinking poison," according to your Dalai Lama quote?
I also am angry at what went on in Bucha. It makes me want the United States and the rest of the world to do even more to help Ukraine and hurt the Russian military. I see value in anger as a motivating emotion. Do you want Zelensky, me, and the people of Bucha to feel no anger about what happened there?
(2) Let's imagine that you're walking in a city with someone you love and they're attacked by a couple of thugs. Seeing them punched and kicked, do you feel anger? Or are you in some sort of Dr. Spock-like rational perspective where the attack is witnessed but detachedly analyzed? "My dear friend is being attacked. Something needs to be done. I must think about this calmly without anger."
Again, anger is a natural human emotion. Evolution has brought it to us for some good reasons. It motivates us to protect ourselves from enemies, right wrongs, protect innocent people. Yet you don't seem to have much use for anger. It's working for President Zelensky, the people of Bucha, and me. Why do you believe you should stifle anger?
Posted by: Brian Hines | April 19, 2022 at 10:42 AM
Your absolutly correct Brian, Lust, Anger. Greed. Attachment. Egotism only make us human.
Now cults like RSSB and narcissist leaders Gurinder singh Dhillon will try to say eliminate these emotions, it's a sin and you should feel guilty for even thinking about the opposite sex. Lust , greed and attachment are only reserved for the false gods in human form (gsd the clown) , so they can have a great time while the rest are told to avoid it. In contrast, the rest of us have to be a slave to the guru and the institution, and not even look at a girl as it's classed as Sin. I'm pretty sure, behind closed doors, the privaledged few sevadars and in strict secrecy all sorts of wild parties go on. This is unfair, pathetic, hypocritical and sucks of double standards, a 1 rule for Gurinder and his privileged family and another for his sheepish sangat.
Posted by: Uchit | April 19, 2022 at 01:36 PM
"So tell me, are Zelensky and the townspeople wrong for feeling so angry at the horrors that were inflicted on people in Bucha? Is that anger really "like drinking poison," according to your Dalai Lama quote?"
Until they and the United States offer to withdraw NATO and to begin bi-lateral de-escalation of nuclear arms, in exchange for withdrawl of Russian forces and acknowledgement of Ukraine's sovereignty, they are indeed wrong to let anger cloud their judgment. Because they have a solution they have not offered sincerely. Therefore, by refusing to make this offer they contribute to the continuation of this violence.
The option was always available to them. The cost was only the lives that could and can still be saved.
All yourself why they don't offer it.
Anger and pride is the problem.
How angry does someone need to become to take an honest look at themselves and realize their own best weapon has always been in their hands?
You will find that if anger leads you to introspection, that anger is useful.
But if you let anger take control, it will destroy you.
Evolution favors the intelligent, Brian, not the reactive beast. Those end up I among the billions lost in bloodshed in countless useless wars.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 19, 2022 at 02:01 PM
Spence, I'm really surprised that you're a Putin apologist. Maybe you haven't taken the time, as I have, to learn about Putin. TIME magazine says in a recent story that he could be one of the richest people in the world, with about $200 billion. But nothing is in his name. His longstanding Mafia-like corruption forces Russian oligarchs to share their wealth with Putin in order to remain in so-called "business."
He kills his enemies, including journalists. He cares about nothing except preserving his wealth and power. He sacrifices Russian soldiers and sailors with no compunction. He just awarded medals to the Russian soldiers who massacred at least 500 innocent civilians in Bucha.
Yet all that doesn't bother you at all. All that doesn't make you angry at all. You blame NATO for existing in order to combat Russian aggression. Ukraine shows why NATO needs to exist. So far Putin hasn't invaded a NATO country, just Ukraine, along with bombing other civilian areas in Chechnya and Syria. I don't use the word "evil" often, but Putin deserves that term. He is flat-out evil, yet you claim that it is the fault of NATO and Ukraine that Putin invaded a country that posed no threat to Russia.
Unbelievable. But somehow you've worked things out in your mind, getting things completely backward, blaming innocent democratic nations for the death and destruction being wreaked by an authoritarian ruler, Vladimir Putin. I hope you educate yourself about Putin, because you have a deluded view of him.
Posted by: Brian Hines | April 19, 2022 at 05:03 PM
The issue, which I think your reply identifies by example, is exactly what happens in every war. The opposing force is demonized to the point where any diplomacy at all becomes impossible. Then you are actually playing into Putin's hands, indulging in the anger that prevents rational thinking.
Here are three important things to consider.
1. Have we done all we can diplomatically to end the killing and establish respect for Ukraine's sovereignty?
And the answer as I have repeatedly pointed out is no.
2. When someone is acting crazy pointing this out solves nothing. The other people who aren't crazy are responsible to come up with the answer. Sorry for the tough love.
3. Indulging in anger for one minute robs you of one minute of peace. Indulging in anger in the middle of war escalates the war.
Anger serves a purpose. It is a flag that you need to change course.
It has no other use than that.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 20, 2022 at 01:24 AM
Hi Brian Ji
Lyndon Johnson once famously said
"The world has become a neighborhood before it has become a brotherhood."
In that light please consider that we are indeed a family. A dysfunctional one.
In Family Therapy the behavior of individual members is understood to be part of a system.
One may see one family member misbehave, such as alcoholism, drug abuse or crime. But these are symptoms of the whole family. The family is a system. The family shares an ego, an identify, called shared ego mass, by Bowen, when there isn't enough of a self identity for each member. This is also called undifferentiated family ego mass.
That shared mass leads to individual members being OK because their problems are placed onto another member showing symptoms. In families with alcoholism, the alcoholic is blamed, in order for the other members to maintain a sense of superiority, which gives them their identity as functional and normal. But they are actually enablers who need the alcoholic to stay sick in order to maintain their own image of health. The real culprits may not be the alcoholic! In a family system the person showing the symptoms is not actually the only or sole cause of the problem. Other members need them to be bad in order to feel and function as "normal" and good. But that is not a healthy system. Occasionally the locus of visible symptoms can move from family member to member with unwritten rules about who gets to feel normal today and who must be the family whipping boy today.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 20, 2022 at 02:08 AM
Alcoholism is a poor analogy.
Domestic violence is a better fit. Forget about love. You get the hell out and protect yourself or wind up dead.
Posted by: umami | April 20, 2022 at 06:13 AM
In cases of domestic violence, once you are safe, intervention is necessary. if you have kids, and financial ties, even if the police are brought in and must use violence to restrain and then imprison, still, therapy is necessary, efforts to rehabilitate are necessary for any number of reasons that have to do with the fact that not all ties can yet be severed.
And in that therapy all parties must participate.
And quite often alcoholism and drug abuse are exacerbating conditions. If the abuser is someone you know and love, you make effort before writing them off. After the effort is made, and no progress is evident, then of course, all ties are permanently cut.
It's cool to react with violence. It feels good to watch on TV. It's attractive to react and not think.
But if the perpetrator is your brother, you make diplomatic efforts. You try to restore what was before the violence. Or reach a new way of living that is better than before.
And here is the real sign that we are being manipulated: The real diplomatic issues aren't being brought to the table. And people, now in the throes of emotion, don't care. That's using anger, pouring fuel on a fire, to manipulate the public.
If you are living in Ukraine you don't want nuclear war. You want the fighting to end tomorrow. You accept that diplomacy must be pursued, and if its done right is the fastest answer.
But it's not being done right at all. No third party negotiator has been offered by Ukraine or the west. The key points of contention are not on the table.
If you are living far from Ukraine, you don't care about diplomacy. You don't care about bringing the killing to a halt immediately. You want the perpetrator brought to justice.
Anger just raises the body count. Intervention will end it peacefully an faster.
But escalating violence in this situation risks nuclear war.
I'm sorry to say but the natural emotional desire to fight and for some, to kill, is simply self-destructive in this situation.
Even while Churchill decried Hitler's insanity, he acknowledged that the penalties against Germany after WWI, and the Stock Market Crash in America in 1929, fueled Germany's rampant poverty, and that gave Herr Hitler the basis for his power.
Let's try to look at the situation as it really is, and understand Putin as nothing more than a symptom of a systematic corruption in Russia that also extends right back to NATO and the US.
Why? Why look to take any responsibility? Putin's the bad guy, right?
Simply because if there is any other solution to nuclear war, it is the sane people who will have to take responsibility to initiate it. Not Putin. And those won't be angry people. Those will be very, very focused people willing and able to walk a tightrope.
Indulging in anger is the luxury of those who take zero responsibility to fix anything.
Anger serves a purpose. It is a red flag that WE must change course.
Other than that, it serves no constructive purpose. Indulging in it is destructive.
"Violence is the refuge of the incompetent".
Let's not mirror Putin any more.
Posted by: spence tepper | April 20, 2022 at 07:09 AM
At first reading this piece seemed to offer a POV that is the obverse of your Calm Acceptance article from earlier this month. So I went back and reread that piece, and came back to this one again. And, although you don't directly spell this out in those terms, so that I don't know if you're expressly going for this or not, but where I'm at the two POVs don't really seem opposed to each other. Because "a calm acceptance of what is", will necessarily need to encompass the part of it that is to do with our own state of mind. So, if something leaves us angry, seething even, well then that's part of what one observes, and accepts --- and acts on, if that seems appropriate. (Absolutely, emotions like anger and sorrow are indeed signals, that we'd be foolish to ignore.) So we end up at, as you say, "When you feel bad, feel bad. Likely neither feeling will last very long. Embrace each while it lasts."
That's what I love about core Buddhistic principles. What they aim to do away with is not so much the direct effect something has on us, but the unmindful multiplication of that effect that we end up doing to ourselves, which is what would, per their terminology, amount to "suffering". So, I'm unwell and in pain, and I observe that pain. I'm angry with something, and I accept and embrace that anger --- as you say. What I don't do (using I generically, obviously, I'm hardly an accomplished Buddhist adept) is fight that pain, or that anger, and in the process end up multiplying my suffering over it unnecessary.
Of course, probably all this is exactly what you'd been meaning to reference, with this post of yours. But I needed to think this through and work this out for myself, to understand how this "adage" is actually complementary to that earlier one: because at first read it had seemed to me that the two were diametrically opposed.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | April 20, 2022 at 07:14 AM
Putin's wealth and power are not the product of an irrational mind. He is a self-made individual. that means he wants something. He knows that no nation on earth will stand by and let Russia invade and take over any other nation, precisely because Russia is such a great threat. He knows that continuing his actions will draw the whole world into battle, and nuclear war.
But he has been pointing this out to the world for the last ten years: Russia is seen as a threat, and hence NATO has been expanding and the US escalating nuclear arms for decades and most recently. And those things threaten Putin and in his eyes, "Mother Russia".
Putin is not acting in a vacuum. We are all participants in his mindset.
And his actions are for a purpose that has a rational basis.
Hitler was insane. But so was Germany's poverty.
We can do something about this, believe it or not, that isn't violent.
What a strange idea, right?
1. We can offer to work with Russia, china and NATO to de-militarize the world, and in particular, de-escalate the nuclear proliferation over the last ten years that has more nuclear warheads globally than ever before. Better for everyone's economy.
Maybe that 's too ambitious. But if we are serious about offering to act with transparency, and third party mediation, that is a powerful leverage we have not actually offered before. Why haven't we offered it? Our own corrupt interests.
2. Russia's economy. We can, like China did with the U.S., offer corporate alliances that help Russia's economy, rather than threaten the existing ones Russia has with Ukraine.
China gained, the U.S. elite gained, and no warfare. A smart solution to greed.
I do not say these are the best next steps. They arise in the absence of your and others trying to work on this problem of using existing leverages for something like a win-win compromise.
So what is your diplomatic next step?
I am surprised you don't see what we aren't doing.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 20, 2022 at 07:32 AM
If the world is suffering, as Buddha says, diplomacy is the fastest way to reduce that, not nuclear war.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 20, 2022 at 07:34 AM
"The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath my own feet. "
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 20, 2022 at 07:52 AM
"Anger serves a purpose. It is a red flag that WE must change course."
I don't want to wade into this Ukraine thing at this point, beyond agreeing with Brian that your consistent accommodation of that monstrous murderous megalomaniac Putin does come across as weird.
Anger is a signal, correct. But not necessarily a signal that we're doing something wrong (although sure, it could be that too). It's simply a signal that something out there has impacted us, a lot. What we do about is is a separate matter. It's a case to case thing, obviously: we might elect to do nothing about it, if that seems appropriate; or we might, ourselves, course-correct, like you suggest; but THERE'S NO REASON TO RULE OUT THE THIRD OPTION, WHICH MIGHT VERY WELL BE VALID IN GIVEN SITUATION, WHICH IS TO STRIDE IN AND CORRECT THE SITUATION FORCEFULLY. (Pardon the all-caps, but I wanted to highlight that portion of my comment; and bold fonts seem disabled here now.)
While I agree that immediate deescalation, at any cost, would probably the course best suited to immediately end Ukrainian suffering; but the brave Ukrainians themselves have rejected that easy option, and have elected to face a great deal of suffering in order to uphold their honor, and to fight for what is fair and right. Who are we --- I mean the rest of the world --- to effectively sabotage that heroic effort of theirs by advocating buckling down to the bully, when they themselves have rejected that easy option even at such severe cost to themselves? Since the Ukrainians have clearly shown that they are willing to fight, and die, for what is right; I think we need to do everything we possibly can to support them.
To enable a bully, is to perpetuate the cycle of bullying. To always give in to the bad guy, is to actually enable and encourage their bad-ness. To keep on accommodating evil is to indirectly collude with evil, and to actually (if indirectly) participate in evil.
Despite having started this comment saying I don't want to comment on Ukraine, I see that that's exactly what I've ended up doing here! Difficult not to Godwin this at this point, I guess: surely the parallels with Hitler are obvious?
If you must see this in terms of families, then umami is correct to use the analogy of domestic violence, as opposed to yours about alcoholism. And, while sometimes domestic violence cases can be resolved agreeably, but absolutely, there often are times when tolerance and accommodation tantamount to enabling; and the only proper course of action is to remove the abuser and take them to task.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | April 20, 2022 at 07:59 AM
Those were the five deadly sins RSSB books and speakers warned against. Each has an emotional component.
One Aspect , rarely mentioned, . . . lets them vanish : Love, real Love
one for the elderly :
Posted by: 777 | April 20, 2022 at 09:58 AM
"Anger is a signal, correct. But not necessarily a signal that we're doing something wrong (although sure, it could be that too). "
I think you misunderstand. Anger is not a symbol that you are wrong. Is it a flag that you will need to change what you are doing to change the situation.
And why is that?
Well, because the person you are so angry with isn't responding. They can't change by themselves.
It is usually the higher functioning individual who carries the burden of adapting, not the individual who has become a burden to the rest of the world.
Diplomacy isn't accommodation, AR. It isn't enabling.
All these weapons NATO and the US have been shipping around the world has enabled Putin. And more of the same isn't an answer to anything.
If you think risking global nuclear war is the only answer, that is part of the problem, not the solution.
What enables Putin? You think more bombs shipped to Ukraine isn't enabling him?
We've been doing that for years already. It's enabling, not helping.
I say again
"Violence is the refuge of the incompetent."
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 20, 2022 at 12:04 PM
Putin has the 5
thinks about his 2 daughters an 3 year old twin boys in Serbia
No , he will not destroy them
Posted by: 7 - | April 20, 2022 at 12:41 PM
Like I said, Spence, anger is a signal that something out there's impacting us. We have three options now, any one of which might be appropriate; and which is appropriate is a case-to-case thing, and cannot be generalized. Option 1 is doing nothing (that option you don't touch on). Option 2 is self-correcting (which is what you do mention, as if it were the only option). Option 3 is self-correction as well, in a sense, but in the opposite sense, in a forceful manner, through direct forceful action (and this option too you seem to discount, generalized as it were).
That's where I disagree with you, over the broad principle of the thing, in that you seem to see just one option, where in fact there are three.
We've discussed the Ukraine war before, and I don't know that I have anything new to add.
I agree, seen big picture the US's role in Iraq was no different than Russia's in Ukraine. Also, if the US keeps on stockpiling WMDs and militarizing like there's no tomorrow, and playing strategic games to further its own "interests", then it is hardly in any moral position to object when others try to do the same. Agreed, absolutely.
But that's big picture. At this particular moment that kind of whataboutism is of limited use, in fact it is of no use at all. That discussion is important, certainly, but best kept for another time.
Unlike you I have zero sympathy for Putin, but in the past I'd agreed with your diplomatic solution, purely on pragmatic grounds. But something has changed since then. And that something is Ukraine's heroic resistance to aggression, against such huge odds, and such great cost to itself. If they themselves reject the easy pragmatic compromise; and elect, at great cost to themselves, to fight for what is right and fair; then who are we to stand in their way with our pragmatic concern on their behalf?
"You think more bombs shipped to Ukraine isn't enabling (Putin)?", you ask.
No it doesn't, Spence. Not in the here and now.
Sure, big picture Putin's arm stockpiling is of a piece with the US doing the same. But that's big picture. In the here and now, no, arming the Ukrainians isn't enabling Putin, how can you even think that? That's the only thing holding Putin back at this point --- those weapons, as well as the Ukrainians' heroic resistance.
I agree, every time the US points fingers at Russia, three fingers point back at the US itself, shouting out Iraq, shouting out Cuba, shouting out Vietnam. But now is the not the time to focus on such niceties, now is not the time for whataboutism. Now is the time for helping Ukraine as much as the world possibly can, and hopefully repelling the invaders --- not defeating them, that seems impossible, but imposing such a high cost on them that they're forced to rethink their aggression.
Yes that carries the risk of escalation into nuclear war. But I don't think Putin will actually risk that, not unless NATO actively joins the war, not simply because NATO member nations supply Ukraine with weaponry.
We've had this discussion before, in a very different context. A bully does his thing, one time you let it slide, twice you let it slide; but after a point, letting it slide is tantamount to actually enabling the bully; after a point if he punches you punch back, and to hell with the consequences. Sure be the bigger man, up to a point; but if always you keep bending over backwards, then that might damage one's spine permanently; and it gives the bully the message that bullying is fine, bullying works, so he'll never ever stop.
I've said this before and I'll say it again, there are no good guys here. Nor were there good guys in WW2. I mean Hitler was Hitler, but what the fuck was imperial colonist UK, what the fuck was that fat slob of a racist Churchill? The only difference between them is that Hitler lost, while Churchill won; which is why Hitler is today the personification of evil, while Churchill has statues celebrating his life and his career and his foul racist imperialist agenda. (I'm saying both of them were equally vile, equally evil; but one got his just desserts, while the other got away.)
That said, there's a time for big-picture generalizations, and a time for focus and action. And now is the time for focus and action. Not that what we say here, you and I, directly impacts anything one way or the other; but still, I really don't think the present is a good time to distract our focus by indulging in broad whataboutery. What is called for NOW is focus, and that we do what we can to help Ukraine, help them materially I mean to say.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | April 20, 2022 at 12:49 PM
"But that's big picture. In the here and now, no, arming the Ukrainians isn't enabling Putin, how can you even think that? That's the only thing holding Putin back at this point --- those weapons, as well as the Ukrainians' heroic resistance."
Since this was Putin's stated complaint for the last five years, and in particular NATO investment of missile platforms in Ukraine, I don't think it is meaningless in the current situation.
But more importantly, it costs nothing to offer de-escalation in exchange for a negotiated peace, and full sovereignty for Ukraine.
You are arguing what you believe is necessary for peace.
But no argument is adequate against diplomatic options for the same peace that have not been attempted.
Weapons in Ukraine from the U.S. is not holding Putin back at all. That is just press propaganda. He has a much larger army, and military than Ukraine. He isn't going broke anytime soon, either.
Press likes to create drama, suggesting that Putin can be beat with military and economic sanctions, and without diplomacy at all (which is less romantic, though it would save lives).
What if it turns out, AR, that a military or even an economic option will not actually stop the war?
What if I'm right on this?
Then we have all wasted time and lives ignoring diplomatic options around the very issues Putin has complained about, rather than addressing them, and proving to the world that this was all made up.
Unless we call his bluff with real diplomacy, we will never know. Meanwhile guns are firing and children are dying.
Again, all the nobility in the world among Ukraine and all the weapons we can pour into that nation, and all the economic sanctions we can muster internationally will not end Russia's incursion into Ukraine short of nuclear war.
Diplomacy is the only option. Diplomacy around things Putin has claimed are important but which the West and our press are summarily dismissing, rather than offering in exchange for peace and sovereignty.
This is where you and I may not agree.
Time will prove who was right, and at some cost of more lives.
We learned our lesson in Viet Nam, and it took well over 20 years.
Now we have forgotten, and are at it again, but the nuclear stakes are higher than they have every been.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 20, 2022 at 01:21 PM
Spencer may have some points regarding the conflicts between Russia and NATO. It requires a lot of reading up and I see that there are the usual variety of views on what lead up to Russia annexing Crimea and invading Ukraine. However, to engage in such massive destruction of cities and people must be the outcome of minds that think differently than mine. I also include all wars that cause senseless pain and suffering – primarily to ordinary people.
Spencer lists anger and pride as being the problem although I don’t see much of either exhibited by Putin, Biden and other world leaders. Generally, the responses from all leaders seem to be calm and rational (from a political point of view) with outburst of indignation!
Spencer’s views reflect a religious attitude toward anger and other emotions. As I mentioned in my earlier comment: - “With every good intention our cultural conditioning (particularly that which has been subjected to strong moral, ethical and religious schooling) invariably retains quite strong remnants of that upbringing. Even though logic and knowledge may tell us otherwise, still wandering around in the mind are nagging little barbs that subtly interfere with our new found enlightenment”. This referred to ‘Being yourself’, as in my view, to be yourself, the content and processes that are the mind need to be understood.
But anger, as with all emotions are very natural, in fact anger – if not viewed as a sin – is part of our evolutionary history and is also a factor in our survival. And anger comes in many forms. Fear based anger for instance can arise when danger threatens, flooding adrenalin through the system to fight off the threat. Apparently, the type of anger individuals exhibit depends entirely on early experiences and how concepts were formed around them. (A read of Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book ‘How Emotions are made’ is worth a read.)
Undoubtedly, some types of anger are unwelcomed in society and need to be dealt with. But others! I saw Prime Ministers questions earlier regarding the P.M. breaking the ‘Covid’ rules at Downing Street. The responses from many M.P.’s was anger – but warranted and appropriate.
Posted by: Ron E. | April 20, 2022 at 01:27 PM
Hi Ron E.
The question of anger is one of degree.
Are we in charge of our anger or is our anger in charge of us?
Nothing religious about it.
But as to its utility. Like fire, it can warm our homes and cook our food. And like fire it can burn the entire planet to a cinder.
Putin has become angrier and angrier in the months leading up to the invasion. And yet the complaints coming from his mouth are the same he has been sharing publicly for years: more weapons pointed at Russia, more nuclear bombs pointed at Russia.
So when the west points to the evil of war that is entirely Putin's fault, and the nobility of the Ukrainian people, all to justify pouring more weapons into Ukraine at an even faster pace, as the only answer, the only option, that is anger talking.
When we see the murders of children and the answer promoted by calm speaking pundits is only to fight back harder and kill more of them then they are killing us, that is anger talking.
The same senseless anger that caused this.
The same senseless anger that caused the useless genocide of our incursion into Cambodia.
And the solution is the same.
Diplomacy. We must befriend both Russia and Putin.
Making that harder is only costing more lives in the Ukraine.
And besides, we simply haven't made the effort.
For all the talk of peace we haven't actually made the effort.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 20, 2022 at 03:57 PM
I don't think it's true that NATO has missile bases in Ukraine, but the US did withdraw from Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, citing violations on the Russian side. The link below gives a balanced discussion of the tensions that followed. You echo much of what Putin has said; however, there was an effort at diplomacy. My read of the Russian position is that use of any such missile would prompt a nuclear response. My read of the US position is that Russia made unreasonable demands as cover for a planned operation against Ukraine.
Russia raised the nuclear threat today.
Russia raised the nuclear threat in 2018 before our withdrawal from that treaty.
We hear nuclear, nuclear, nuclear from the Russian side, and they're blowing Ukraine to bits. If you understand Mr Putin's mind, how are reckless threats and naked aggression supposed to achieve the goals that diplomacy couldn't?
Posted by: umami | April 20, 2022 at 04:08 PM
I find that it’s much easier to control my emotions (or stabilize) if I stop trying to control the people and events around me.
Our family has been hit with 6 terrible events in the past 16 days. It’s mind blowing. It’s almost as if we have a target on our backs—I don’t actually believe that, but that’s how bizarre it is.
I have two more family members in the hospital and three deaths since April 4th.
You know… there’s just a point where you realize that you can’t control life, and when you let go you feel this sense of peace.
I never realized before this how much effort we as human beings put into controlling the things and the people and events around us.
Letting go takes a little practice but once you get the hang of it, it’s like a weight has been lifted.
I can’t really explain it. All I know is that despite everything I feel fine. I don’t like seeing others in my family grieving but all I can do is be there and love them. I can’t fix these kinds of problems but I can show my love to my family. Most importantly, I had to learn to let other people grieve. Just be there. Be a pillar of strength. Don’t keep screaming fire, go get a bucket.
If you can maintain a sense of inner peace and show love to others then you’ll get through whatever life throws at you a lot easier than if you try to control the things that you really have no control over whatsoever.
I feel peace. And I feel even greater love for my family and friends than I ever have before.
You can’t control life. You can only control your thoughts—that’s really the only free will we have.
Let go. It makes life soooo much easier. 🙏 😌
Posted by: Sonya | April 20, 2022 at 04:32 PM
Thanks for the links.
From the first article you may have missed this...
"Russia’s proposal for ending the current crisis stipulates that the United States “not deploy land-based intermediate- and short-range missiles in areas allowing them to reach [Russian territory].” One need not take Russian rhetoric at face value to consider how America’s potential reintroduction of formerly banned missiles to Europe influences Russia’s decision-making on Ukraine. Examining the United States and Russia’s differing responses to the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty highlights the interconnectedness of these events and the failure of the nations to communicate. While Russia’s threats are fundamentally tied to maintaining influence over Ukraine and deterring NATO expansion, a renewed focus on arms control can still play a role in finding a peaceful resolution."
The fact this isn't in mediation by an agreed third party illustrates the poverty of diplomacy.
And if you are in the mood for information, the United States began a new push for more nuclear arms under Trump.
" The Trump Administration’s push for more nuclear weapons is part of a perilous global drive to miniaturize and modernize devices that already promise annihilation."
" Russia and the USA together possess over 90 per cent of global nuclear weapons. Both have extensive and expensive programmes under way to replace and modernize their nuclear warheads, missile and aircraft delivery systems, and production facilities.
‘Both Russia and the USA appear to be increasing the importance they attribute to nuclear weapons in their national security strategies,’ said Kristensen."
This will never justify murder on Ukraine.
But what justifies the absence of diplomatic efforts on our part?
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 20, 2022 at 05:43 PM
@ Ron E. : [ Undoubtedly, some types of anger are unwelcomed in society and need to be dealt with. But others! I saw Prime Ministers questions earlier regarding the P.M. breaking the ‘Covid’ rules at Downing Street. The responses from many M.P.’s was anger – but warranted and appropriate. ]
Hm, I've watched televised sessions and I daresay the M.P.'s anger seemed
performative art for constituents more than anything else. Now it's catching
on in the States, but it's far more entertaining in the U.K. :
Posted by: Dungeness | April 20, 2022 at 06:32 PM
This conversation went from Zen to Cold War pretty quickly.
Posted by: Sonya | April 20, 2022 at 10:09 PM
I really was trying to stay on topic but now I’m questioning if I understand what I read in the blog post. 😂
Posted by: Sonya | April 20, 2022 at 10:13 PM
Those articles were an eye opener. The insanity! What hope is left for the future?
It's all a big game of chicken, isn't it? For now, who really wants the world to end? There must be back channel negotiations. The Great Powers will draw new boundaries, and an anxious peace will settle until the next upheaval. Tragically, Ukrainians are caught in the middle.
Anger, what's that next to Ego? Jagat Singh: "Pride or egotism is a malignant kind of selfishness and is the most sturdy and masterful of the baneful five. It has also the greatest longevity. It is the last to surrender. Its fundamental assumption is its own infallibility."
Giving it to a higher power is easier said than done. Most think they do, I suspect, and deceive themselves.
Posted by: umami | April 20, 2022 at 10:32 PM
The brilliant Stephen Fry says it in the most eloquent way: third party meditation is the way through this conflict. The only rational way to avoid nuclear war right now.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | April 21, 2022 at 09:56 AM