Monday, July 19, 2010
Maybe this post won't interest too many people, but I have a little extra time, so I'm going to write it.
The post I wrote this morning about the Treeleaf online community, and the tussle they recently had with one of their members, wasn't one of my better ones. I didn't want to take a firm stand for or against the leaders of Treeleaf, who decided to eject the member in the middle of the tussle, because I really don't know what to think of the situation. It raised a lot of questions for me about online Buddhist practice, and communities - many of which don't have clear answers. So, I wrote the post this morning without a lot of clarity, and failed to make it clear that I wasn't sure what I felt would be the best approach in dealing with challenging behavior in an online setting.
To be honest, what most interests me about the situation is how everyone, including the teachers involved, struggled to work online with the messiness of the various narratives playing out within their community. I saw similar strugglings in my own sangha several years ago, during a major upheaval. And I've seen them at my workplace, in my family, and most everywhere at different times.
Working with communal samsara is tough, sometimes brutal. And even people with great wisdom don't know how to proceed all the time, or maintain the peace. There isn't always clarity available when circumstances arise, and action is called for. You have to do the best with where you are at, and who you are with.
I'm interested in this lack of clarity because I've been experiencing a lot of it in my own life lately. What I have found in my own experience is that not being clear can manifest in many different ways. You can become mousy and subservient, afraid to say or do anything. You can become loud and defensive, feeling like everyone is against you. You can become pious, thinking that if you act the "right way," maybe you will find the way out of the mud. And you might even become nihilistic, saying fuck it to everything because hanging in the murkiness for a long time is just too challenging.
One of the things I've seen online over the time I have been active on here is that there isn't a lot of tolerance for this kind of muddiness. The various kinds of "acting out" that occur in peoples' writings tend to be responded to with another form of acting out. Not always, but pretty often. People struggle to be kind and generous when others are acting out, myself included, which is why I think it's too much to simply slam Treeleaf and call it a day.
This post feels a little clearer then the last one. Maybe some of you would rather I shut up until I knew what I was talking about.
But that is precisely my point. If there is no place in sangha - online or "brick and mortar" - for struggling, confusion, and messiness, then what's the point? If the teachers must always be beacons of wisdom and excellent action, and the students always good and righteous followers, then why bother having a community at all?