Monday, September 17, 2007

Money, Survival, and "Shit" Storms

"Communism is like one big phone company."
Lenny Bruce

They say that money is the root of all evil. This Forbes.com article about the Criminally Rich states, "Criminologists today frame crime in terms of relative poverty." In other words, most crime happens because people don't think they have enough money compared to someone else. It really comes down to envy for the Rich, or the wealthy, and for most people in the developed human world. This idea of relative poverty begs the question of how one differentiates a crime of survival, such as stealing a loaf of bread to keep from starving versus committing accounting fraud or some other white collar crime to keep your business and your job alive through a difficult economic business cycle. In the minds of many people, both are acts of desperate survival, but the comparison is a false one. In the first instance, the person is dying of starvation, a physical need. In the second instance, the person's physical needs are met -- their physical survival is not in question, but his or her role and status are threatened which are psychological needs or beliefs. When psychological needs are threatened or not being met, much unhappiness and pain ensues. The problem is though, that psychological pain and unhappiness are infectious.

When I came into work last Thursday, I experienced the dreadful "shit" storm from my manager. My group is not cutting enough tickets. This is not our fault in many ways. I will not go into the details, but the gist of it is that my managers' perceptions of reality are being realigned to conform with actuality. The Director of Security was unhappy, likely about our performance, and chewed out our director, who in turn chewed out my boss who chewed out my entire group making everyone unhappy. I tried to reason with my boss, but he doesn't want to hear reason when his perceived survival and job are on the line. I could palpably feel his fear, unhappiness and pain. The collective unhappiness and pain within my group was even worse. Here was my mistake, I unconsciously accepted that psychological unhappiness and pain. I became infected by it. I forgot that I have the choice of refusing such a "gift". The choice is illustrated by the following Sakyamuni Buddha parable:

The Buddha was sitting in meditation surrounded by his disciples. The atmosphere was so meditative. The trees were blooming and a sweet scent of flowers permeated the air. The birds were singing and the sun was shining.

A man came to see the Buddha. This Man thought to himself, "Ah, I am going to try and get the Buddha angry". So, he proceeded to verbally insult the Buddha. He taunted and huffed and puffed...and said lots of insulting things. The Buddha said nothing.

This made the man who was insulting the Buddha more and more angry himself. He became bloated and red. He hurled taunts in a vicious voice and stomped his feet. Still the Buddha said nothing. Finally the Angry Insulting Man looked like he was going to burst. He was so red and mad. His face was like a big red beet. He was wildly waving his arms and shouting insults. He ran off yelling and shouting the whole time. The Buddha and the disciples could hear him for a long time.
He was kicking and yelling at things.

Finally the man was gone. The Buddha and his disciples just sat meditating in this beautiful fragrant setting. The birds started chirping again. One of Buddha's disciples waited a while and then asked the Buddha,"That Man was so insulting to you...why didn't you say anything to him?"

The Buddha replied, "If you cook a lot of food and then your invited guests don't eat
it all,.....WHO eats it?"

The disciple replied, "Well, I guess the person who cooked all the food...has to eat it."

The Buddha said, "So it is with anger, if you cook a lot of anger, and your guests
don't eat it....who does?"


Basically, anger is a gift one doesn't have to accept, or in this parable, a meal one doesn't have to eat. This is what Jesus meant when he said turn the other cheek when someone slaps you. The same can be said for accepting gifts of unhappiness and pain. Eckhart Tolle calls all this
unhappiness and pain, the "Pain Body". You see it in children in the form of temper tantrums and moping (passive-aggressive behavior) when they don't get something they perceive they want. You see this in adults in the situation I described. In my case, I didn't rise above it fully, because I forgot that I have the choice not to accept such gifts of unhappiness and pain. I resisted and tried to reason with my boss and strengthened his pain and became infected by the pain/unhappiness myself.

How does one handle a "shit" storm? Well, you first have to recognize it for what it really is, which is pain, anger, fear, and unhappiness all rolled into one psychological entity or bundle. The reasons for it happening are largely out of your control. The best you can do is give your boss what he demands of you even if it is unfair and try not to become infected by this "pain body" yourself which for most people is difficult because we aren't taught to refuse such unpleasant gifts. The other options besides acceptance are to try to change the situation or remove yourself from the situation. Many businesses only experience change through and by "pain bodies" due to perception realignments by actual reality. This is a fact of life at the moment due to the hierarchical egoic nature of most businesses and the psychology of most people.

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Comments:
"you first have to recognize it for what it is" -- yes, I guess we can label it from some perspective, "pain body" in your case, or in days past we might have used a Freudian explanation, before that perhaps something to do with the devil. Lately I often see behavior explained by evolutionary biology, and I kinda like that one. But . . . the variety of possible views makes me think: back to square one; it's accurate enough to hold no explanation at all.

Shit happens, here is the child with the temper tantrum. I react, the situation resolves, and life moves on. Perhaps when we don't care about our reactions, don't fight them, they aren't as intense anyway?

That is, people are discontented about discontent. We're taught to be, by culture, by religion. What if discontent were seen as okay? That might take some of the sting out. A lot of the sting out. Things would wash over us, and we would move on.

If a label or explanation were preferred: from a biological point of view, discontent could be seen an innate function of being an animal. Time to look for food. Time to find a mate. Time to migrate. Intermittent discontent would be something natural, normal, and fine.

I'm not trying to tell you to change your "pain body" framework. I've just been musing about discontent lately, that is, discontent about discontent. And I'm still musing, within this comment box. :-)
 
Yes, discontent is normal because we can't control other people's reactions and they are part of our environment since we are social animals. However, we need not magnify the pain of the individual such that it affects the whole collective and usually we do. We are taught to accept such bad behavior as normal and for now it is, but that doesn't mean that there's a better way. Your musings are pretty much the same - remain detached and let it pass through you, "turn the other cheek". I was just trying to frame Tolle's "pain body" into words and concepts I and others can understand. In the end, the label is not the thing.
 
Maybe everyone has a motive for what they do, how they respond, a motive for being discontent, a motive for reasoning, etc.

It is very hard to quit and walk off, when you have much at stake, convenience plays a role too.

Life is hard.
 
Pretense! It's ok to be angry as long as you don't feel guilty about it.
Anyway big crooks are more cunning than you think.
 
I suggest we stop paraphrasing Krishna, Gautama, Jesus, Rajneesh or Barry Long and start thinking for ourselves.
 
Thinking is the problem. Can you perceive without thinking? Besides, it's all been said, now is the time to just do what is right!
 
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