Principle 2. The Principle of Action and Reaction. Fourth Week.
When you force something towards an end you produce the contrary.
Last time: Compulsions
This time: Appropriate Responses, A Story, Examples and a little video.
Over the last three weeks we focused on the general structure and implications of the principle, how it played out (or didn’t, or could have) in the past and in the present. This week we look at what it could mean in the future. Can I discover where this principle might be helpful in situations I imagine I will be facing?
Here’s some raw material that I hope you will find useful in your own reflections.
Focusing on another aspect of this principle we could derive something like:
The Principle of Appropriate Response:
Not every job needs a hammer… but some do!
You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Sometimes this principle (as well as others) can strike one as vague. That this apparent short coming is perhaps a necessary characteristic and one whose value is perhaps not obvious at first. For example, in this principle “forcing” is an empty term. What does it mean? When is my action insufficient? How much applied energy is just right? At what point does it cross the line and become forcing?
As noted on other occasions that’s a moving target, there is no set answer. The amount of physical force needed to untangle a delicate knot of thread is clearly orders of magnitude less than what it takes to lift a heavy weight. The amount or intensity of applied energy appropriate in one case, is far too little in another. And vice versa, what is appropriate in one situation is forcing in another. Diverse demands require diverse responses. It’s what not in the principle, i.e. its this apparent vagueness, that makes it useful. Each context determines what is forcing and what is appropriate. How could it be otherwise?
Have you ever gone to lift something you thought was heavy (like an empty container you thought was full)? Have you been surprised as it jerks up much higher than you anticipated? It’s only that you realize you have used to much force. I can think of lots of situations where I have done similar things but in interactions with others, or with situations rather than things. I can easily recall or imagine situations where I misunderstood what was happening, and so overestimated or underestimated how much effort, energy, or force it would take to be heard, or make a point.
That’s of course that’s not to mention all the times where, for example my original intent — to respond in a calm and thoughtful manner — was lost. Not in this case because of my misjudging or misunderstanding, but rather because I was taken compulsively by the sudden eruption of deeper tensions. And with that all my plans flew out the window as I found myself responding much more aggressively, than I had planned.
The vagueness of the term “forcing” is then not a shortcoming but the key to applying the principle. In this dynamic and always changing world I have to judge, explore, intuit, or calculate what is required here and now, with this specific interaction in mind.
I am ashamed to admit that I’m not very good at algebra. But I understand the usefulness of being able to solve an equation where X is a value that differs according to the rest of the numbers and operations. I no longer aspire to be good at that kind of thing but I do hope to improve my ability with these existential equations. In this case solve for X where force=X.
Using the Principle in Reverse:
I was thinking of every day experiences where I encounter this principle. Last night one came to mind and so I put together my own version of some thoughts taken from Lao Tzu aka Laozi)
Standing on tiptoe you risk falling over.
Rushing ahead you can trip and fall.
Trying to outshine others you show your dependence.
Believing yourself always right, in itself makes you wrong.
Boasting of your accomplishments puts the real credit in doubt.
Such actions are hindrances.
Like overeating they leave you
uncomfortable and full of regrets
In the mode of Lao Tzu
Another example was close at hand. It also had the benefit of taking this sort of warning about consequences (if you, then you), and using it in a constructive fashion. That is, it shows how you can sometimes produce the desired outcome by forcing things in the opposite direction.
For example, in the elementary relaxation exercises where, in order to cause muscles to relax I tense them to the maximum, hold and finally let go and focus on the sensations of unclenching. It’s a very effective, if primitive technique to get muscles to relax. It’s also an important way of starting to familiarize oneself with the registers of letting go on a muscular level.
Try it out when you just can’t get to sleep. I think it will prove its effectiveness. It certainly has for me and I’d love to hear about your results. So next time you are tossing and turning, worrying about how tired you’re going to be in the morning if you don’t get some sleep, just gently and slowly tense to the max, hold as long as you can, abruptly let go and focus on the sensations of the muscles relaxing. It’s important not to tense, too abruptly or too much, it shouldn’t hurt, and shouldn’t cause pain afterwards.
Repeat three times. Sometimes I don’t even get to the third round.
A Strange Little Parable.
Many tales are told of Silo’s friend the ice cream maker (not really but I liked the sound of that). This story is said to have taken place near the small town of Chacras de Correa. One day the merchant climbed up a ladder to repair the roof of his shop. His (always demanding) neighbour came out from the coffee shop across the way and called up to him asking to borrow his hammer. The ice cream merchant said, “you can see I’m using it to fix my roof. You can have it when I’m done.” The insistent neighbour replied, “I wouldn’t ask but I really need it”. Again the he shouted down, “just wait”. His ‘friend’ replied, “come down and we can discuss it”. The ice cream maker said, “please just let me get my work done”. His neighbour (an obnoxious fellow as you can see) gestured insistently, and said, “well come down I want to talk to you about something else.” Finally, exasperated he came down. And, perhaps not surprisingly, his neighbour said: “well, now that you’re down here and not using your hammer you might as well lend it to me.” The ice cream maker gestured for his neighbour to follow him back up to the roof. The overly insistent neighbour pleased that his persistence has paid off scrambled up the ladder. Badly out of shape he made it to the top puffing and panting. The (up to now patient) ice cream vendor looked at his neighbour and shouting: NO! continued with his work.
This link takes you to a lovely and wise little animation on reconciliation. It was an international collaboration between friends in Argentina, the Philippines, and Hungary. Thanks Boldy and friends:
Over the last weeks we looked at the general structure and meaning of this principle. We thought about how this principle played out (or didn’t) in our past. We focused on situations where I applied, or violated, this principle in the present and reflected on the consequences This week let’s imagine our future and try to imagine how this principle might apply, and what possibilities, or difficulties, it might hold in the situations we see facing us.
This week we are considering this principle and how it may apply to future situations. Next week we’ll look turn to principle three, The Principle of Well Timed Action (or if you prefer “Timely Action). It says: “Do not oppose a great force. Retreat until it weakens than advance with resolution.”
Much of the time when I’m supposedly awake, I am in reality in a state closer to dreaming.
Attempting to apply the Principles of Valid action as an ongoing practice will produce something extraordinary — a new vital direction. And some of us believe that is the most important thing one can have in life. Not something perfected, or finally accomplished, but a moving towards — hesitantly or firmly — directly or in a round about way — a finding one’s way towards unity of thought, feeling and action oriented toward others.
These notes have been posted on Facebook and sent to our email list, and thanks to Fernando Aranguiz on my website www.dzuckerbrot.com