Zen and the Public Defender



When in the throes of pain and disability several years ago, I learned several valuable lessons. One thing that I was able to learn is that disability, or pain, or the loss of income, does not define me. Making the change from breadwinner to house-husband did not define me.  My desire to be kind and understanding best defined me. Since when does kindness need to be defended like a castle with high walls with a moat?  I laughed easily and sought my pleasures in the simple things. 
But I cultivated a desire to be a better parent than the parents I thought I knew. I sought to be the wise master of the home, the great father, the best husband, a good son; a good guy to know. And to that, I was attached.
The problem with identifying with any changeable sense of self is that you can find yourself in the position of always having to defend your position. I AM wise, I AM the best husband, I AM a great father. There is nothing inherently wrong with striving to be a good family man, husband, or parent. It is your attachment to - your identifying with the role of family man, husband and father and a good guy to know that can create suffering for you. These are roles: impermanent, ever-changing. 
You can begin to think of these labels as something that is "real", something worth defending, the "real you". But in doing so, I have found that it begins to absolve those around you of their own personal responsibility and their ability to learn their own life's lessons.  Perhaps herein lies karma, my Ouroboros. I have exerted a tremendous amount of energy defending my wife to my family, my family to my wife, my kids to my wife, my wife to my kids, my friends to my wife, my wife to my friends, my siblings to each other and me to everyone. When did it become my role to stand as the mediator, advisor, referee, spiritual leader and the ever present consoling ear? When do you stand back and let them work it out, or not work it out, for themselves? No wonder that I began to feel like a bitch with eight teats trying to feed a litter of fifty!
I am exhausted! 
Every year we spend billions of dollars increasing our military forces, our prisons, our emergency personal, fire, and police in a never ending effort to protect ourselves - from ourselves. We legislate morality, pass more and more safety rules and regulations and I find myself now, no more safe than I was forty years ago. One could perhaps make the claim that I am less safe! A noble effort in an attempt to govern and protect the people but something is really missing the mark here. 
Something is wrong. (another post :)
But I digress. It would seem that I have been conditioned by so many years of being a Public Defender that I almost naturally fall into that role. Yes, there is kindness and understanding. There is wisdom and friendship, but as I have so often counseled others and have less applied to myself is, "When the opportunity to do good arises, do good; and then pass on, never looking for an outcome or result"  (or becoming defined or identified by your good actions) When you identify with your role and deeds, you will listen for the labels being assigned to you and you will feel good about them. I AM such a good husband, I AM such a good father, I AM such a good friend, worker, sibling, member of the community, etc... AND what happens when someone questions or begins to tear away at the image of ourselves that we so tightly cling to? 
Why, we get on our high horse or soapbox and defend ourselves! We argue, hold grudges, become smug or we may turn inward and passive and shut ourselves down with depression or self loathing. And the problem continues as such, (identifying with the changeable self) because we are rooted in something that is not real. It is rooted in the past (memories) and the future (hope and desire) and never seems to recognize the present moment. That is why we "defenders"  (and "attackers") are so often still talking about what happened in the past. Who did this to whom and who did what to us, etc...  We use  an exhaustible amount of energy defending our sense of self, be we King of the castle or Victim. It is thinking stuck firmly in the past and grasping wildly at the future.
We think in terms of linear - a point that falls somewhere between our birth and our death. And from that point, we look back and define who we are: and we look forward to who we want to become. In so doing, we miss the only reality, the power of now


To be continued...................

Comments

Shubhajit said…
True. The attachment brings misery.

The goal of life is to see God face to face. and unless we get rid of this attachment, its not possible to attain anything. it is very very difficult but that doesn't mean if I do not get Mary so I stay with Emily. Dogged perseverance we need, for this life and for other..our karma will impel us to attain.

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Nice post.