Friday, September 18, 2009

Some chapters of theory

Say something nice -- and if you can't, don't say anything

I remember very well the day I arrived in Copenhagen for one of my first Buddhist workshops. It was in November 1979, and on the way there, I had stayed overnight in a moist farmhouse which caused me to caugh incessantly. One of my compassionate Buddhist female buddies had not been able to sleep well, due to my caughing, and she said: "I'm not going to sleep another night with you around!" So when I approached the reception in the Copenhagen house to check in, I asked if they had single rooms, too. (Oh, I was ready to pay a little more!). Usually, we pilgrims slept side by side on camping mats, sometimes in the temple if it was crowded, once I slept on the office floor without a mat.
The lady at the reception, a sturdy and radiant viking lady, smiled at me brightly and said: "Oh, I know exactly what you want: A single room with a bath and a view on the sea."
Gosh, I was taken aback. A little shocked, even. Was this the Buddhist compassion?
A few months later, I made remarks like this to other newbies. And they learnt to laugh about it, just as I learnt it. A few weeks later. I learnt that the aim is getting rid of the ego, taking oneself less important, and this demands a sense of humor. Pride is ego. But, what is more important: Being a victim is ego, and this is worse ego than pride.
We support one another. We confirm one another about what we're doing. This is great. For centuries -- sorry -- for decades I was yearning for approval, something I have been striving for since childhood -- and don't we all? Some of us lack this when they need it most.
This is heartbreaking. Yes, we need to be confirmed, to be strengthened by other's appreciation, and I found that it heals old wounds to give this confirmation to others much more than to get it.

Hearing praises blocks efforts

Success can be a problem. To say it in a Zen way: The innocence of undesigned action is lost. To act non-action doesn't mean to be lazy and lethargic, it is the flow of not planning, but working in a natural way. How does blogging influence this process? We work in public, share steps and phases before we show the complete work. This is highly social and it is welcomed by other bloggers who get inspiration and know-how. It is so different from the lonely experimenting before. It has helped me to an enormous extent to find a direction.
Yet I want to encourage my readers to criticize, too. This is difficult in a society in which each one "thinks for others". This responsible feeling is stronger in the USA than it is in Europe. It is close to tutalizing sometimes. If someone gets hurt, it is my fault.
It is great to be social and compassionate, but it should not fence us in. Sometimes, confidence in other's ability to take a critical remark is needed. Supporting someone else's ego by respecting their vulnerability may not be better than helping by saying: "Oh, you can do better".
I had an arts teacher who decapitated one of my drawings with the remark: "This is young girls' kitsch."
He was a great teacher. And I knew he was right. I'm grateful even now, 45 years later.

11 comments:

AeFondKis said...

very inspiring post! I agree that the ego can be an enormous obstacle to letting go and just being! Straight forward honesty can be the best leveller and when a teacher that you admire for all the right qualities comes along and gives advice take it. It's how you use it that helps you grow.

I am a teacher in art and design to people with learning difficulties and my favourite saying is...when the student is ready the teacher will appear!
Linda

Chris Gray said...

Constructive criticism always has a place.....without it growth could be restricted...

..but sometimes....

...seeing the "constructive" part of it can be a little difficult....


...and I think, that's when the ego has got in the way...


Nevertheless......

...praise and/or encouragement can help another person immensely...

...and if it's positive to GIVE that praise/encouragement....

..then, surely, it must also be positive to receive it graciously...

Deb G said...

I appreciate hearing your perspective on this.

I think that a lot of people don't know how to give constructive feedback. It's not something most of us are taught to do or a quality that is natural to most. It becomes safer and more respectful to just not say anything if we don't like something. Feedback by omission. Especially if we aren't in the role of teacher (and indeed it is their job to give constructive criticism). Perhaps in the blogging world that is even more true since we judge a person's tolerance for feedback only on what we read on their blog.

Eva said...

Deb, I agree with you that written words are understood as something more serious than a spoken word, and even this cannot be made undone. This is a reason to be very careful, and I appreciate this mindfulness, knowing what ardent debates I already read! And I know how a nasty word from an unknown person can stalk us.

ArtSparker said...

It's a girl thing isn't it? Do Americans do this more? This is exactly why I enjoy being in touch with people outside the U.S., for the perspective.

It's so interesting to me though that some criticism falls into taste...that is, through the blogging medium, I can see my limitations (for instance, stuff that is just beautiful becomes boring...I need something irregular as a way in). So there is that too...is a response from individual emotion legitimate as criticism? There may not be an answer to that.

Karen said...

Well said. My crit group is going to focus more on some of the guidelines of critiquing so we can do a beter job, and not worry so much about hurt feelings.

jude said...

well stated, now let's get on with it....

Clare W said...

Yes you're right although it seems a lot of blogging is about fishing for compliments don't you think? Mine is more a diary but when someone says a nice comment I get a glow - is this polishing the ego? Hmmmm probably. I have just started to notice that some people are commenting with what seems like a cut and paste nice generic comment for reciprocal nicities.

Eva said...

Clare, I agree! It might be "dangerous" in the sense of making addicted to praise. There is nothing wrong with receiving a positive feedback, but I noticed that I have to take care not to become too concentrated on my own person. Is it addictive? I don't know.

mendofleur said...

Well this is a fascinating discussion, and it has caused me to go back and evaluate so much of what I have been thinking lately. What is it that my ego is interfering with via my blog and others? I also like getting another perspective outside the American cultural one. Are we seen as too fragile (ego-wise)? Perhaps we are. I am guessing that when one is true to any artistic expression, it comes forth through the inner self not the one that needs praise and adulation.

Cecilia Levy said...

Really interesting post. I've also given this whole blog thing much thought. I don't mind constructive criticism, but I'm more happy with positive remarks - I'm my own worst critic anyway.