Taming the Wild Ox – Local to Global

"Taming the wild ox" is a traditional (non 'religious') zen description of the individual coming to terms with his/her own mind for sake of deeply personal 'enlightenment'. For me, the metaphor is ideal for both individual and society at a more pragmatic level of coming to terms with 'human psychology'. The goal *might* be some kind of enlightenment, but at pragmatic level would boost individual thriving in context of thriving community on thriving earth.

“Taming the wild ox” is a traditional (non ‘religious’) zen description of the individual coming to terms with his/her own mind for sake of deeply personal ‘enlightenment’. For me, the metaphor is ideal for both individual and society at a more pragmatic level of coming to terms with ‘human psychology’. The goal *might* be some kind of enlightenment, but at pragmatic level would boost individual thriving in context of thriving community on thriving earth.

Dear Readers!

Hmm. How to work thoughts into written language without sounding like a cheerless Calvinist! I am aware my ‘drumbeat’ is strongly oriented toward declaring and examining “errors” in human thinking and doing.

Part of me is aware that I am as vulnerable to subjective view as anyone else. Part of me accepts that we are not a “saintly” crew! (I haven’t investigated, but suspect even the canonized have had very real and very human flaws. Maybe not. Like I say, I have not checked this out.)

A problem for me is that I don’t know how to encourage more of us to settle into reasonable, rational, thinking in addressing “humanity, life, and earth issues”. “Taming the Wild Ox” is metaphor for realizing our potential, our very normal  but very  powerful psychological foibles, and training ourselves away from foible, toward potential. How do we make progress in “taming the wild ox” within ourselves, within our collective actions, unless we notice that we have the strength and power of the metaphorical wild ox — and come to understand the need to ‘tame’ this capacity?

The whole of our human psychology, so far as we understand it to date, should alert us to our habitual unhelpful forms of thought as well as to our helpful forms of thought. The latter seems so easily set aside in momentary decisions to act! This seems such a loss of potential! Among the most common unhelpful quick decisions we make, most are based on ‘short term gain’. Gain of ‘belonging’ in social comfort is a common example (“I’ll go ahead and use a Styrofoam dish/cup because to ‘make an issue’ of the non-recycleability of Styrofoam could create social discomfort for me or for the group I’m with.”) Often our smallest ‘niggling feelings’ that we should ‘take a stand’ are quickly ‘shut down’, over-ruled, by none other than ourselves as individuals.

Social “acceptable behavior” attitudes support this. I think there is something to look at with our beliefs about “social graces”. This is tricky ground – because we actually do want and need behaviors toward one another that are generous in spirit! So how do we begin to pose aloud questions about small choices when none of us are perfect enough to justify “personal authority”?

This last question may be a “crux” question. May be at the heart of our inability to settle into rational thought in addressing “humanity, life, and earth issues”. How do we think, speak, with honesty, integrity, generosity, and firmness all at once, while also knowing of our personal inconsistencies, while also wanting to be non-judgmental, while also wanting to help shift social awareness toward ‘most helpful’ thinking and action?

If none of us can justify “personal authority” due to personal frailty, then it’s ‘rational and logical’ for another to ‘dismiss’ any authoritative statement we might make.

It seems to me we are not examining this contradictory, conflicting, set of “human truths” found in ourselves. We are not asking: “Does this contradiction within our human natures prevent us from being comfortable enough to “model rejection of Styrofoam solutions”?” (Styrofoam an example – chosen as a ‘perfect example’ because it can seem so trivial, so petty, to take a stand on a disposable cup!)

I observe many people remaining silent in moments when they might speak up, especially in small social contact moments. Email ‘fwds’ and spoken ‘clever quips’ that are clearly racist, bigoted, sometimes accompanied by “brutal humor” descriptions. I hear good and well-intended people make statements that describe personal conflict in these situations, usually ending with “but what can you do?”.

I also hear people speak up. Not to deliver lecturers or sermons, but quietly and briefly stating: “That’s not how I understand the people you mention”, (followed many times with brief description of the principles of universal humanity on which they base inclusive humanitarian thinking.)

Kudos to these people! I have benefited from their spoken and ‘corrective’ observations of some of my own spoken thoughts! I sometimes do not ‘take’ their ‘correction’ but am very appreciative of their courage and willingness to offer it!

The least helpful of our responses in small social settings, when “unhelpful” attitudes are spoken or displayed, is to excuse such statements or actions all together. Excusing, explaining away, is common. (“Boys will be boys”, “that’s just who so-and-so is, you can’t change so best accept”, “toleration is the same as compassion”.)

“Toleration” is NOT the same as compassion. Genuine compassion wants the best to shine forth from self, from other, from all life. Genuine compassion practices making “corrective” statements and learns over time to do so with the mix of respect and firmness required.

Genuine intent on the goal “the best humanity can be” cannot be accomplished unless we are willing to examine ourselves thoroughly. We must also be willing to “call to question” statements and behaviors witnessed that seem to have lost sight of the goal. We must also be willing to receive challenges to ourselves.

It is my experience that the group above to whom I send kudos is on the right track. Their corrective challenges and statements are delivered with non-judging and “naturally respectful” attitudes toward the recipients. Their corrective challenges and statements are based in their commitment to “something” much larger, much grander, even more mysterious, even sacred – the “mysterious” promise carried in the seed of all life, most damaged or actively nurtured by human consciousness. Moments of decision to challenge do have an element of “either/or” about them!

Political, economic, and other higher profile “leaders” are among those we must so-challenge. We cannot continue allowing mis-taken policies, (policies that do not support the distant goal of our demonstrating “the best we can be”), to go unchallenged by this or that “person of prominence” because “on the whole” we generally agree with that person.

Moment by moment, choice by choice. Small local social gathering, larger settings right up to state, national and global levels. We have got to recognize our power and begin to “tame the wild ox”. We have got to foster interest in this taming among those who are most powerful and “don’t have time for” personal reflection and examination of personal motives.

As of this morning, with reports that the Gulf oil spewing continues, with assorted statements that it is “an ordinary spill and we’ve had these before”, with revelation that spills actually occur all the time around the globe, with “what’s life for if not for fun and pleasure” attitudes and pursuits continuing at full gallop (“while Rome burns”) …

With all this going on at once, (including, of course, wars, weapons fired from a distance to assure comfort and safety of the person pulling the trigger, increasingly individual punitive laws developing within the US borders (Arizona – draconian problem solving), increased to point of near global coup by mega-corporate practices, citizen representation in ‘democratic’ process usurped by powerful wealth interests (military, industrial, mega-corporate complex) … it seems to me we’re nearing a time of needing to make changes in our ordinary thought processes and the actions that emerge from these!

The need is upon us if we genuinely believe our own rhetoric about extraordinary qualities of human consciousness and creative capacity.

I insist that the situation is ‘dire’ only IF we do not make some fundamental shifts at personal level, and from improved self-awareness, self-responsibility, speak up to those in our human family who presently perpetuate un-helpful thought and practices!

This is really “no more than” a couple of really good friends being deeply honest with one another for the sake of both their growths. Viewed in this way, calling to question, and challenging – even toward those we ‘more or less’ admire, has all the compassion and respect needed!

I’ve said before: I do not expect myself or anyone else to become the “never-contradictory model of perfected humanity”. I also do not expect any one of us to be “so skilled at challenging” that we never allow a “challengeable moment” to pass unaddressed. I also do not expect each of us to easily or  always “appropriately adjust” our own thoughts and behaviors when rightly challenged. I also do not expect people in very demanding career and personal circumstances to drop responsibilities to those matters.

But I truly believe we’ve gone as far as we can go without more of us speaking up, more often, even to the point of excess if it comes to that. So long as we do so with compassion and respect we will be on the right track, and our skill at doing so will increase with practice.

With ‘luck’ we will begin to hear one another, siblings all. With ‘luck’ we can look back 10 years from now and realize we’ve actually achieved new distance toward a goal of “humanity as best it can be”.

And – My Heartfelt Best to Each of You! –MaggieAnn.

Later post, directly addresses same theme, “What is Willful Blindness vs. What is a Whistle Blower“.


About maggieannthoeni

A description once given of me was "rooted in the earth while roaming the stars" - and this has felt 'right'. I believe in something akin to this for each of us. I am a passionate supporter of discovering the autonomous self while serving the whole as primary intent. I believe in discovery of innate principles, clearing the overlay of socialization that obscures this from us. I believe it is our responsibility to leave no one behind - most particularly to respond to suffering as best we can whereever we find it, whenever we are made aware. I believe in this for the insect as well as the most magnificent form of humanity. I believe in brother/sisterhood without boundary. I believe in righteous indignation when it is appropriate, but do not believe in an enemy. I believe in consciousness, in intelligence, in logic, in rationality, in emotion, in transcendence - and am convinced until we generally practice explore and honor all this in ourselves, we remain profoundly immature. (I believe real maturity is known and practiced by many young children, and not enough adults!)
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