Every time I am certain that I have things right and that I KNOW something, sooner or later (and often it is sooner), something comes along to show me (if I am paying attention) that maybe, just maybe what I was sooo certain about might just be a bit of an other way. As I have searched for stories for this blog, as I thought and taught in the past, I was fairly sure that individuals and small groups needed to change, grow, develop, evolve to create a more loving, just and compassionate base before we could adequately and effectively build more just and humane social structures. Well, I kind of thought that. I do remember enough Buddhism most of the time to know that the solid ground we stand on is mostly ephemeral quicksand.
But we live in a rational, linear world don’t we? OK. I know we don’t really. But we have been socialize to think we do. Many folks have been raised with the American koan that asks: who came first, the chicken or the egg. Many have pondered it thoughtfully and deeply. … Until the around 2009 when the answer was revealed in this joke: “A chicken and an egg are laying in bed together. The chicken is all happy and has a big smile on it’s face while the egg is irritated and looks a bit disappointed. The egg turns to the chicken and says, ‘Well, I guess we solved THAT riddle.’”
So, chicken or egg? Individuals or structures? It is a bit of a koan in a conundrum in a riddle in an enigma.
Then I was prowling the internet looking for parables from Poland, the homeland of my grandparents. And I found this poem by Ignacy Krasicki (from his book Fables and Parables)
The Blind Man and the Lame
A blind man was carrying a lame man on his back,
And everything was going well, everything’s on track,
When the blind man decides to take it into his head
That he needn’t listen to all that the lame man said.
“This stick I have will guide the two of us safe,” said he,
And though warned by the lame man, he plowed into a tree.
On they proceeded; the lame man now warned of a brook;
The two survived, but their possessions a soaking took.
At last the blind man ignored the warning of a drop,
And that was to turn out their final and fatal stop.
Which of the two travelers, you may ask, was to blame?
Why, ’twas both the heedless blind man and the trusting lame.
So, you might think its settled! These guys need to change, get over their issues and learn to trust or we will never be able to build a better world. Ah, but Wikipedia to the rescue! Because there we are reminded that Krasicki wrote this around 1779 just after Poland had been taken over partitioned by Russia, Prussia and Austria, an action that ultimately abolished the commonwealth of Poland until after World War II. So, the social structure shaped and constrained the experience, view, imagination and dreams of its inhabitants. Which leads me to re-member: both/and indeed is better. Who came first the chicken or the egg? Life would be so much happier if they both come together. Who changes first the individual or the community/social structure? Life would be so much happier if they both changed together in consort and harmony!!