Thursday, October 9, 2014

Envisioning a Complaint Free World

Dirt on a Stairway
Will Bowen has been envisioning a “Complaint Free World.” I’ve been wearing his bracelet for a few years now, and have never stopped complaining. But I see the point. Rather that bitching that the world is not how you’d like it to be, it is a matter of smelling the roses. Enjoy the world for how it is.

I buy a new toaster and it breaks in less than a year. I return it, only to be told by the manager at K-Mart, “You don’t expect a toaster to last more than a year, do you?” I asked to speak to his superior and quickly get a new toaster.

“One should speak only pleasant words, words which are acceptable (to others). What one speaks without bringing evils to others is pleasant.”—Buddha, That 21

“Abandoning divisive speech he abstains from divisive speech. What he has heard here he does not tell there to break those people apart from these people here. What he has heard there he does not tell here to break these people apart from those people there. Thus reconciling those who have broken apart or cementing those who are united, he loves concord, delights in concord, enjoys concord, speaks things that create concord.” —Buddha, An 10.176

A Buddhist temple may throw you out if you speak against the temple. So what do you do when you disagree? Or when you see injustice?

In Japan, you don’t express your views until you know what the others believe. And you always vote as your parents vote. In Burma, the kids bow every day to their teachers, to their parents, and to monks.

We face an interesting dilemma when we see an injustice and we feel compelled to make waves. As a nation, we are complainers. We didn’t like the rules in England, so we came to America. And when the rules followed, we had a tea party. More complaining.

That’s who we are. When we see rules that hurt people, we want to complain. When we buy a lemon, we want to complain.

Yet Bodhidharma said that suffering injustice is one of the four important Buddhist practices. Are we between a rock and a hard place?

Look at all the freedom that has been created through complaining. Especially now, with the advent of the Internet. Look at the power of bad reviews on Amazon.

We have the expression “go with the flow” and we relish the idea of flow in positive psychology ”flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.” This sounds like mindfulness. Is this the antithesis to complaining?

Or is complaining actually part of the flow? This article, The Mind is like a Hammer, beautifully describes how in Zen, the point is not to change the mind, but rather to discover who is holding the hammer…who is complaining. When injustices appear to be about us, we reinforce a false dualism of ourself and the other. When we look at the problem from everywhere, we aren’t saying anymore, “I was wronged” but rather ”We were wronged” where there is no distinction between us and them, where “we” is the whole. Love has now replaced hate and anger. Change as growth can now occur.

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