Fear The Person: Koans

Fear the person
who believes too much
in themselves.

These lines stand alone, their lesson is timeless. They are a koan, a koan that is each person’s to account for and understand for themselves. The nature and purpose of a koan is to give the rational mind a problem it cannot account for, thereby forcing the student to reconnect with intuition to find the riddle’s solution.

This lesson reemerges now with unique urgency and relevance. This year, our calendar-year of 2024, humanity has again built a dangerous and familiar momentum.

The cliché, “History repeats itself,” is not without substance. Through history we are shown our human vulnerabilities cyclically exploited at great cost to ourselves and our world. History illuminates the human being’s capacity for zeal; it illuminates how easily power-and-influence exerts its leverage on a zealous populations’ spirit. It shows factions and countries and continents turned against each other over and over in devastating repetition.

 Through history we see our religions reduced to faith-by-threat. We watch the righteous contort piety to serve themselves. We see their loyal crusaders, drunk on patriotism and valor, marching mindlessly into their wars. We see that humankind is all too easily made to suffer and to inflict suffering.

          Fear the person
          who believes too much
          in themselves.

We have entered, yet again, into a period of destabilization. A time of heightened violence, of war, atrocity, and division.

 The public’s consciousness is being preyed on in all the usual ways. We have been assigned our fears and their corresponding enemies, we have been made to believe in our faction’s fundamental rightness and the opposition’s wrongness, we have been divided and are being pushed further apart by those who seek to profit from our division.

 Our situation is already compromised. But we do have a chance to de-escalate.

          Fear the person
          who believes too much
          in themselves.

For some, it is already too late. The fighting has begun and has long been raging. The only way the rest of us can help those who are suffering is by choosing to not be further divided, to not be deceived or further escalated.

 We have the collective ability to disempower our emotions and egos, to dissolve our need to be right and for others to be wrong. We have the ability to realize how we’ve been misled and begin to self-correct. We have both the opportunity and the ability to reach out beyond ourselves.

           Fear the person
          who believes too much
          in themselves.

History tells us that impassioned populations wake up too late, that we’re too attached to our egos and beliefs and opinions to realize our mistakes before irreparable harm and suffering has been inflicted. It tells us that we wake up to being used only after we have been devastated.

           Fear the person
          who believes too much
          in themselves.

One can walk up to an abyss and turn away from it but cannot return to a ledge after stepping over.

 Solve this koan’s riddle and be true to your answer. There is much at stake.

In the degradation of the great way,
come benevolence and righteousness.
With the exaltation of learning and prudence
comes immense hypocrisy.
The disordered family
is full of dutiful children and parents.
The disordered society
is full of loyal patriots.

 —Tao Te Ching, Sutra 18. Translation by Ursula K. Le Guin.


Originally published on Douglas Balmain’s website

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