the lost man chronicles
85. do the right thing (the cutting edge)
There is a story in which the living buddha of all buddhas, the reincarnate himself, Mr. Dalai Lama, offers a hypothesis conjecturing the will of a hundred hunters against the solitary determination of solitary monk.
Albeit, the chance of occurrence of such a radically numerically disparate juxtaposition it quite unlikely, it serves well to act as a metaphor for his advice on how one should decide the truth for herself.
It is essentially a fable about the fate of the individual opposed to the will of society. To abuse an old cliché, if only because you'll surely understand my point readily—should everyone jump off a bridge, do you follow suit?
Usually, we never get a chance to answer that question, for it is implied that the answer is "no," we must assess every path that can be taken when we encounter each fork in the road. Thus, we ask ourselves, "do I conform to the safe and beaten path or do I wander into the unknown, nonetheless, conforming to non-conformity by choosing 'the path not taken'?" Or do I do something truly creative and original by turning around and going back home—"Fuck it, it's too cold to be out here, and I was much more comfortable just sitting around in my underwear doing nothing but watching a little harmless TV."
The Lama's point is that each one of us must decide what is "honesty" for ourselves—does the monk "tell the truth" and lead the hunters to their prey? Or does he remain true to himself and respond with a prayer of silence, so that he might serve the greater good of preserving life?
Meanwhile, there are a hundred scrawny kids starving back in the village because their fathers cannot find that stag. Or, more realistically, if we entertain this fantasy, the hundreds of hungry hunters will eventually track down this defenseless animal and kill it anyway.
Thus—we can justify anything, it's all relative, to err is human.
What the sappy hapless monk should have done was to have some fun with the hunters. He should have pointed them in the wrong direction, rather than remained silent in a poor ruse that would not save his friend's hide for sure. For while the woeful monk mulls over his decision, feeling guilty for not having been able to have done more, the ratty little Mongols are cheerfully sitting around the campfire with warm bellies.
The monk's mistake was to not take advantage of the relative truth. By leading the brutal horde in red coats awry (actually, these guys probably would have looked more like Kubla Kahn replete in a brown patchwork of pelts), our dear monk might have saved the orphan doe the pain of her woes after all. Either way, the monk would have chosen to lie, because omission of the truth is just as deceitful as a wayward finger.
Once again—it's all relative, it is human to err (and lie), and we can justify everything (i.e. lie).
Cynicism aside, I agree with His Holiness—one must ultimately decide for herself what is good and true to one's respective principles. Hence, should one do something which may stir others to shake their finger at you or hang their heads in shame, knowing that unless you dare break with decorum to have this experience or conduct this experiment, and thereby extract the knowledge with which you can strive to serve a greater good, fulfill an awesome potential, or develop a latent talent—does she justify her actions? Or is she still wrong to do so?
Those who make important discoveries, settle wild frontiers, venture into the unknown, create magnificent works of art, or just somehow make a difference from which all of humanity benefits almost always have to push the boundaries of propriety, irk those in power who maintain the status quo, or just make a lot of people uncomfortable because they question the foundation of their complacency. These are those who dare balance their fate on the cutting edge.
And they do risk, for the edge cuts (both ways). Because in order to see what's inside or dig deeper, you have to be willing to take a blade to those constructs and rules which neatly package our understanding of everything which others may already hold reverently as Holy and whole.
edge, edge, edge,
This word edge has me edgy.
Is this the edge in ledge
or the edge as in the urge
to jump off of it?
Is it the cutting edge,
liable to slice those
who dare wield its blade?
or the one made to question
everything—and all things
stuck in the fusillade,
the barrage of all that matters?
Is it the edge that matters
when one must host
this provincial malaise
day after day
or is it the tedium
that pushes you towards it—
the edge that is.
and when this is its
most certain definition,
do we hoist a hammer
to sledge off a bit of contrition
or do we shatter
all the rules to confuse
all that live a life
less keen—more certain,
unobtrusive, coyly serene,
safe, pallid, in the drone—
where edge never ventures,
for it must wander,
always on the verge—
the naked truth .84 86. Life is a Big Fat Lie