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Chapter 49 - The ideal breeds conflict
Our brains are very old. They have evolved through countless experiences, accidents, death. The continuity of the flowering of the brain has been going on for millennia. It has varieties of capacities, is ever active, moving and living in its own memories and anxieties, full of fear, uncertainty and sorrow. This is the everlasting cycle it has lived, with passing pleasures and incessant activity. In this long process it has been conditioning itself, shaping its own way of life, adjusting itself to its own environment as few species have, combining hatred and affection, killing others and at the same time trying to find a peaceful life. It is shaped by the infinite activity of the past, always modifying itself. But the basic structure of reward and pain remains almost the same. This conditioning attempts to shape the outward world, but inwardly it is following the same pattern, always dividing the "me" and the "you", "we" and "they", being hurt and trying to hurt, a pattern in which passing affection and pleasure is the way of our life.
It is necessary to observe all this without value judgement if there is to be any deep, living change, to perceive the complexity of our life without choice, just to see exactly what is. What is is far more important than what should be. There is only what is and never what should be. What is can only end; it cannot become something else. The ending has greater significance than what is beyond ending. To search for what is beyond is to cultivate fear; to search for what lies beyond is to avoid, to turn away from what is. We are always chasing that which is not, something other than the actual. If we could see this and remain with what is, however unpleasant or fearful it may be, or however pleasurable, then observation, which is pure attention, dissipates that which is.
One of our difficulties is that we want to get on: one says to oneself, 'I understand this, then what?' The "what" is slipping away from what is. The "what" is the movement of thought. If something is painful, thought tries to avoid it, but if it is pleasurable, thought holds it and prolongs it. So, this is one of the aspects of conflict.
There is no opposite, but only what actually is. As there is no opposite in the psychological sense, the observation of what is does not entail conflict. But our brains are conditioned to the illusion of the opposite. Of course there are opposites: light and dark, man and woman, black and white, tall and short, and so on, but here we are trying to study the psychological field of conflict. The ideal breeds conflict; and we are conditioned by centuries of idealism: the ideal state, the ideal man, the prototype, the god. It is this division between the prototype and the actual that breeds conflict. To see the truth of this is not a judgemental evaluation.
I have studied carefully what has been said in this letter. I understand the logic of it, the common sense of it, but the weight of the past is so heavy that the persistent, constant intrusion of cultivated illusion, of the ideal of what should be, is always interfering. I am asking myself whether this illusion can be totally dispelled, or if I should accept it as an illusion and let it wither away. I can see that the more I struggle against it, the more I am giving life to it, and it is very difficult to remain with what is. Now, as an educator, as both parent and teacher, can I convey this subtle and complex problem of conflict in human beings? What a wonderful life it would be without conflict, without problems. Or rather, as problems arise, which seems to be inevitable, to deal with them immediately and not live with them.
The way of education so far has been to cultivate competition and thereby sustain conflict. So I see one problem after another piling up in my responsibility to the student. The difficulties drown me, and so I begin to lose the vision of a good human being. I am using the word vision not as some ideal, not as a goal in the future, but as the actual deep reality of goodness and beauty. It is not some fanciful dream, a thing to be achieved; the very truth of it is a liberating factor. This perception is logical, reasonable and utterly sane. It has no overtones of sentimentality or romantic froth.
Now, I am faced with the total acceptance of what is, and I see my students caught in the avoidance of the actual. So there is a contradiction here; and if I am not careful and watchful in my relation with them, I will bring about conflict, a struggle between them and me. I see, but they do not, which is a fact. I want to help them to see. It is not my perception of truth, but for each one of them to see the truth which belongs to nobody. Any form of pressure is a distorting factor, as in giving or being an example, so I have to go at this very gently and interest them in investigating whether the ending of conflict is possible or not.
It has now taken me perhaps a week or more to understand this, to grasp the significance of it. I may not actually be living this, but I have grasped the delicate device of it, and it must not slip away from me. If they grasp even the perfume of this, it is as a living seed. I am discovering that patience has no element of time, whereas impatience is in the nature of time. I am not trying to achieve a result or come to a certain conclusion. I am not engulfed by all this; there is a regenerating factor.