Reflections on The Path – Part 3

Resistances. Right off the bat the author makes it tough going   at least for some of us.

Perhaps reading the previous paragraphs you recognized the use of a rhetorically oblique (but nonetheless truthful) approach that, hopefully subliminally, encouraged you to drop your defences. I think it works because  I present the so far unspecified problem first off as my problem; secondly, perhaps the problem of some others; finally by implication, probably not your problem at all.  

Note the difference to how directly Silo addresses us:

“If you believe that your life will end with death, nothing that you think, feel, or do has any meaning. Everything will end with incoherence and disintegration.”

Reading those first lines of The Path I might, reflex-like, find myself thinking things like: “Surely, something might have meaning? How do you know how everything will turn out?”

Why start in such a difficult way? Not that it’s a difficulty for you, of course, but for many, these opening two lines provoke a lot of resistance. Furthermore, that reaction seems very reasonable to me. In fact there could be a lot of good reasons for that push back. For example, absolute statements rightfully raise our suspicions. 

Couldn’t Silo have invited us in more persuasively, or at least more gently? On the other hand, what if this isn’t a rhetorical error by the author? What if he is at least as smart as you or me? What if he knows exactly what he’s doing with this provocative and perhaps off-putting approach? 

I find it interesting that we can find the author taking the same kind of approach in the very first part of The Book of Silo’s Message, right at the beginning of the Inner Look, in chapter II entitled: Disposition to Comprehend. Rather than trying to entreat, cajole, or even invite, Silo starts right off the top with a series of phrases that admonish us, that he knows how we feel, but that we don’t know how to experience the things he is talking to us about. If that isn’t enough, I feel that after setting me up to say, “Well, hang on just a fucking minute. Who are you to think you know…?” he rudely, or at least brusquely, interrupts my mounting objections, saying; “Don’t think arguing is going to help you understand!” On top of all that, in a tone I can’t help but hear as condescending, he tells me I can argue if I like, but it’s not going to be much help in making sense of all this

It’s only after getting me all riled up that in the next line he suggests the attitude he says is appropriate; that is, not to respond with a knee-jerk yea or nay, but to slowly and carefully consider what he is explaining.

Fair enough, perhaps our habitual attitudes won’t serve us much in delving into these subjects, but even if he’s right why poke us with this stick? Don’t they say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar? Perhaps it’s could be a more potent argument if it was presented with the kind of phrases favoured by our more popular pundits and influencers. Couldn’t he just have started with an acknowledgment that we are going to be talking about serious stuff and simply advised us to remember to meditate deeply before reaching any conclusions? Why this intentional provocation? I wondered about that the first time I read that chapter of the Inner Look and one might find similar objections to these first lines of The Path.

Whatever you think the author’s motive, it seems that he is purposely raising hackles. So maybe I’ll end up reading no further.  Maybe I’ll find reason to persist. It would be easy, and certainly not unreasonable, to close the book and turn away. But it is obvious that some people are drawn further in. Perhaps they simply skip over the potentially offending phrases. Perhaps for whatever reason, they feel it worth digging a little deeper. 

One goes on, another goes away, but it may well be that no one is acting from the reasons they believe explain their apparent choices.