Thursday, October 8, 2009

No opinion

I just posted the following on facebook -

I'd like to write a Facebook quiz in which all the choices are No Opinion. Like
(a) no opinion because I don't care
(b) no opinion because I don't really know enough about it
(c) This is not important enough to have an opinion about
(d) I have embarrassed myself expressing opinions in the past.
(e) I think opinions are inherently divisive.
Then I could collate the results and announce that the respondents were in universal agreement.

Where was I coming from with this? Ah, yes. Experience. There was immediate experience, reports on facebook about a teenage boy in Georgia who insists on dressing in drag in school. Who did I side with, facebook asked me? Actually, with the poor Principal and guidance counselor, who I pictured holding their heads in their hands. As I got into the story, quick before it goes away, I learned that Jonathan would not settle for being the only student in school allowed to use the administrator's restroom; he insisted on going into the girl's. On the other hand, there he is in lipstick and heels, do you want him going into the boy's? These are the weird dilemmas of a country where individual freedom is valued.

On the more serious side, there was my experience the other day at what was called A Listening Session at church. This was a carefully designed opportunity to express our uh-oh opinions about what we want in an associate minister (yes, this is a Unitarian church). Despite expert leadership, it veered quite naturally into more and larger opinions, a chance to state our own backed-up ideas and grievances. I found myself running out of time expressing my conviction that the church needs to address the needs of the variously handicapped (such as me, with hearing impairment) in a serious way.

It's not that my opinions are wrong. This one was right, everyone seemed to see it. There wasn't any conflict on the subject. What got me was my sudden realization that I was really wound up. Boy, did I have opinions, and the more I said them, the harder I believed them, and the more energy I had. My frustration had been hiding down there, left over from a Memorial Service at which I couldn't hear, because the earphones were not charged. So it was good for me to address the problem.

Sometimes people talk about justice being fueled by anger, that this is a good use of our anger. Thus I have attached a picture of Manjushri, the Buddhist icon who represents wisdom. He is usually shone wielding a sword. But it isn't supposed to lead to bloodshed, but to be the sword of clear wisdom, cutting through the nonsense to the heart of the issue, and leading to skillful action.


  1. I couldn't agree more about the Facebook quizes.

  2. Anger has a multitude of faces, of course. And many folks make a simplistic argument that the energy of anger can be used to benefit rather than harm. Mmm but I dunno... My take on Manjushri and his sword is that clear wisdom is actually coming from a deep center of calm and that's quite different from the twisted energy of anger. Like you said— the sword of skillful response is not the same if "blood is shed".

  3. Yes, I think you clarified that, Kris. The idea is to transmute that anger by sitting with it, even plunging into it - but not acting it out. I think there is a fear/anger that is a straight adrenaline response to something frightening. But much more often, our anger is a mental construct made out of frustration and willfulness, and a perception or belief that something is wrong. That's what can be turned, by addressing the injustice (if it exists), devising actions you think might help. To do that, we have to be cool.

    Thanks for the interesting response.