On the human realm

 “…we never leave the human realm. That is depression’s lesson.”- A. Ehrenberg

Tony has been reflecting recently on the Dialogues of J. Krishnamurti and David Bohm. He refers to

David Bohm’s tremendously powerful illustration of the way a failure to recognize proprioception leads us to causing unnecessary harm to ourselves. He uses the example of a woman who has been paralyzed on her left side by a recent stroke. She awakes in terror. She’s being pummeled about the face by an unseen attacker in the dark. Her cries bring a caregiver into the room. He turns on the light and they both see that her paralyzed left hand is poised in a fist over her head…

… held in place by her brother, who sits beside her. He is playing his favourite game from their childhood, gripping her by the wrist and using his greater strength to override her resistance, smacking the hand against her face as he says “Why are you hitting yourself? (smack) Hahaha. What’s wrong with you? (smack) What are you, an idiot? Hahaha. Stop hitting yourself! (smack)”

I wonder if Bohm had a sister (“called Judith, let us say”) Was this sister someplace in the background, while he and Krishnamurti conducted their Dialogues, mapping out their philosophies together, two insightful men confidently bouncing groundbreaking ideas off one another? Was she perhaps in the other room, boiling the kettle, setting the tea tray, preparing a light refreshment in loving support of those two busy thinkers, themselves too engrossed in the flow of their ideas to tend to such mundane details? Did she carry in the tray and set it down unobtrusively, gracefully rearranging the table mic and water glasses to make space for it? Did she make offerings of interest and admiration, did she ask questions and request opinions, did she show good faith in their integrity?

Did she attempt to sit down with them herself? Did she join the discussion, offer her own suggestions, intrude upon their already Established Dialogue? Was she gently but firmly dismissed, postponed to later, did they promise to listen at a time more convenient to themselves? Did she raise her voice, push harder, demand attention? Did she lash out, frustrated and angry, unnecessarily critical – did she cut too close? Should she have imposed herself more carefully, more discreetly, more strategically? Made her presence felt more softly? Should she have communicated more reasonably, controlled herself better? Did she need a rest?

I know, I know: I am missing the point of Bohm’s anecdote, I am completely sidestepping the points of wisdom offered up in Tony’s generous and deep-hearted posts. I am also embroidering amalgamations of people and incidents from my own experience into my scenario above, to make my own point. I don’t know anything of the characters of the real Bohm and Krishnamurti to say how they would have received a woman into their discussion. And I’ve only read a small portion of their Dialogues so far, though with the best of will making my way through the copy I’ve had on loan from the library for nine weeks already and renewed yet again, a mark of my respect for Tony’s enthusiastic recommendation. It’s not the first lead from him that I’ve followed.

But it is slow going reading the book; there’s only so much I can fit into my days and there have been extremely limited opportunities to slow down sufficiently that I can sit quietly, and focus adequately – without fatigue – on the content and quality of the ideas contained in it. Therefore I must rely on Tony to acknowledge that

Two things that come across most clearly in Bohm and Krishnamurti’s dialogues are Bohm’s affectionate and empathetic listening, and Krishnamurti’s deep reflection before speaking. Between the two they embody and communicate the two sides of the activity they are discussing. Contact with Mind, and the inter-connectivity of all things, leads to a profound sense of love; and that connection with Mind requires a deep act of listening, not only to the “other,” but to the upwelling of Mind as we quiet the brain’s striving. Their example of patience, coupled with an insistence to couch their discussion in a terminology that is both open and precise, is another of the wonders of these dialogues.

I do understand that by creating my own scenario above, my brain is striving and twisting things round, dragging the discussion to where my ego wants it to go. My striving brain is focusing the spotlight on what is meant by the “other”. What if the “other” in this dialogue were a woman? Would she have been listened to as empathetically, as patiently? If her hands were full of dirty dishes and a distracting toddler was clinging to her leg, would she have been included in the dialogue? Or would it have been assumed that those cluttering dishes and that distracting toddler were her responsibility, that she should go take care of them in her “other” room, and allow the thinkers to carry on connecting their Minds without such interruptions? I respect the ideas being discussed by Krishnamurti and Bohm but I can’t help but wonder: who were the women in their lives and what was their contribution to the ideas therein? Where did they fit in this dialogue? Even Krishnamurti and Bohm cannot leave the human realm.

Awareness of proprioception may well unveil a real phenomenon of habitual self-hating thought processes. But those self-hating thought processes leading the woman in the metaphor to beat herself black and blue are the same self-hating thought processes leading her brother to enjoy his smacking game. The self-hating thought processes by which Judith carries in the tea tray are the same self-hating thought processes by which David takes his cup so perfunctorily from her hand, while focusing so intently on the Dialogue with his colleague.

And what do I feel when I discover myself yet again carrying in the tea tray so dutifully? How did I get there? How did my brother get to that seat where he awaits his cup? Before he arrived there, did he find time to do the shopping, prepare meals, wash dishes, tidy the flat, help with homework, pack lunches, sort laundry, make phone calls, chaperone to Brownies, write emails, take out rubbish, clean out cat litter, clean a PE kit, sweep the floor, sort out the recycling, clear and wipe the table and counters, buy and sign and post birthday cards, bake cakes for the school fete, pay the bills, make the beds, spend eight hours at the desk of a paying job…was he engaged in Dialogue on ‘childcare day’ or did he manage to schedule around that? How did he arrive in that room with the seat, there with his colleague, and not in the kitchen, tending the kettle? Why are there two separate rooms? I can’t help but observe that, whether or not I should, I do feel anger about this. Does he feel anger about it too? Or does he not understand? Does his salary depend on his not understanding?

So here I am again, I have landed up once more at that emotion: anger.

Anger is our friend. Not a nice friend. Not a gentle friend. It will always tell us when we have been betrayed. It will always tell us when we have betrayed ourselves. It will always tell us when it is time to act in our own best interests. (Julia Cameron)

I’m trying to work out how to act in my own best interest. I’ve tried various strategies already and not got it right; all I’ve managed to do is exacerbate a battle with two defensive sides, wounds bleeding from the furious cuts inflicted.  I recently came across the following quote: “Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.(Lyman Abbott) Yes, that I understand. I recognize that I was taught never to be angry, by a well-meaning family themselves taught the same. I recognize that denying one’s anger leaves it buried like toxic waste in one’s heart, and the most effective method of its management is a blanketing depression, lying clammy and stifling like a cloak of firefighting foam through which one struggles to see, smearing a mess over everything one touches. I recognize that I have much still to learn about how to be angry.

As I’ve been writing this other chores have been neglected – dirty dishes sit stacked on crumb-scattered kitchen counters, the beds are unmade, the bin is full – I’m not even dressed yet and I must now take myself to my paying job. I’ve been dwelling in one room at the expense of the other. One step forward, two steps back?

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