Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blogisattva Hatred and the Mind's Passion for Gravitating Towards Criticism

A post over at Nella Lou's blog about the Blogisattvas has spawned some discussion, including this post and this one (I'm pretty sure). Nella Lou comes from a place of strongly opposing the awards, and then takes the opportunity to use the award her blog was given to support the work of another blogger whose work hadn't been upheld.

I actually don't have much interest in hashing out pros and cons about the awards. What I mostly found interesting is how a single piece of writing standing strongly against something spurred a lot of defense of the awards. A similar thing happened regarding the only other post that stood strongly against the awards.

Basically, what's at play is the very common - perhaps universal - tendency to gravitate towards negative reviews and opinions of something you have said or done. There were probably dozens of bloggers who wrote positive things about the Blogisattvas, who congratulated the winners, who were excited and/or humbled to be mentioned at all. And yet, the moment a negative review comes in, the mind fixates on it like it's a cancerous growth, threatening to kill. Or, in this case, many minds became fixated on it, including my own to some degree.

This just shows how challenged many of us are around perfection narratives. Thinking we have to discredit the handful of dissenters to our work, or our ideas, in order to feel ok about it. It's not enough that the vast majority love what you did or said. You want it all. I know I've been like this before.

In some ways, it might even be easier when most are against you. When your ideas or actions are either misunderstood, or totally hated, there's no illusions about being loved. If you keep going, or stand behind what you're saying, it's because you believe you're on the right track. (Obviously, there are plenty of pitfalls here, but perfection narratives like "Everyone needs to love this" aren't one of them.)

I spent a year working as a teaching assistant in 1st and 3rd grade classes. The kids loved me. The two teachers I worked with had great respect for my experience with "difficult kids." The principal of the school nearly cried when she had to tell me the school didn't have the funding to hire me back for a second year. In other words, I was doing a good job. But you know, more time than I'd like to admit was spent fixating on the negative comments made by the other 3rd grade teacher, who I occasionally had to work with. She didn't like me much, and frankly had no confidence in the work I was doing. And even though most of her teaching colleagues found her sour and difficult to work with, I still found myself believing her views of what I was doing. In fact, to the point where my work with the kids was actually worse when she was around.

This was a year before I began practicing Zen, so I'd probably handle it differently today. However, it's also probably true that I'd still get fixated on her views to some degree - even with all these years of "mind retraining."

Gravitating towards criticism, and attempting to mitigate it, is a classic defense mechanism. A habit that's hard to kick.

May we all be successful in kicking it, one moment at a time.


Algernon said...

Really hadn't noticed the brouhaha, but my blog-surfing has been at an ebb this week. And I've been obsessed with torture and domestic surveillance lately, so my blog is not exactly a barrel of monkeys either.

Anyway, yes. It is easier to stop at the negative stuff, especially when we have something to defend.

zendotstudio said...

I took an online course called "Awakening Joy" a number of years ago feeling it was an antidote to what I saw as a personal "negative outlook" on life. I remember a talk given by Rick Hansen from a site called Wise Brain in which he basically said this is a natural human tendency stemming from the reptilian brain. So the research was saying that we need to use our awareness to orient ourselves toward the positive.

Kyle said...

Don't worry, I'm done defending the awards. Anyway, there is a lot more to it than you know...and no my post was not about who you think it was. If you notice on Nella's blog I only had one comment praising her blogging skills. I think Tom was doing most of the defending there. She requested to give her award to another blogger, which was cool, he could post he won, we don't care, but we told her we couldn't change the name on the blog site since others were nominated...she got angry and demanded to Nate that she be removed from the awards site. No biggie there, was kind of expecting it...kinda sucked knowing 2 weeks after the fact, but there ya go.

What I wasn't expecting was let's just say some unhinged guy thought it would be funny to email me a (haha kidding) I'm going to kill you email over the damn blogging awards! ..or how should I put it "if we ever met, I will end you." Think I'm kidding? I'm posting about it tomorrow. That's what I was upset over, and there is no excuse for that kind of behavior.

I'll give ya hint though, he's a blogger too, and you all know him.

Kyle said...

PS - Just to be clear, my post was about one thing pertaining to the whole hubbub, but it wasn't exactly what you think. Ack, confusing...anyway, it will be clear tomorrow.

Brikoleur said...

Been doing some gravitatin' myself. Read all about it here.

Short version: as Kyle and Nate's latest actions show, the misgivings of the 'haters' have been more than well-founded. They've appointed themselves pillars of the Buddhist blogger community. That puts the in a position where they can do a lot of hurt. They have. It pisses me off.

Brikoleur said...

Oh dear, looks like the Dynamic Duo is doing their best to sweep this thing under the rug. is no longer even acknowledging that the list has changed, and naturally all those... disruptive... comments are gone too.

Good to see they're upholding such high ethical standards for the Buddhist blogger community they appointed themselves to curate. Tsk tsk..

Kyle said...

The post wasn't about Nella, it was about Petteri. So there ya go. I've now asked in public for Petteri to leave me alone. Given his track record, I'm doubting that will happen.

Mumon K said...

Criticism is like everything else - a phenomenon.

We can do with it what we will.

In the course of my job, I have to deal with a great deal of criticism, most of it ancillary to the performance of my duties.

Yeah. It's true. I could go into details about this in terms of office communications sent and their correlation to the objectives of the project I lead, but it's irrelevant, ultimately, because they're far, far larger issues at stake here than whether or not somebody in some other department is piqued at something about which they know little.

The far, far larger issues even aren't the objectives of my project, but rather, the practice of maintaining peace and harmony in my workplace "sangha" which doesn't know it's a "sangha," if you catch my drift.

I think it's the same thing with all this hub-bub about these awards.

Mumon K said...

Most of what I thought I wrote was pretty neutral on the overall subject, other to say that we're often pretty bad judges of whether we're good or not at something.

Mumon K said...

...And that it's good now and then to recognize differences in performance.

Nathan said...

Mumon: Yeah, I included your response because it was a response. That's all.

Petteri and Kyle, I'll refrain from commenting here, and look at your posts.

Carole, I keep running into writings reminding us that for much of human history, survival often was staked to being keenly aware of threats, whether from other humans, animals, or the environment. When I take a look around at the world, or just inside myself, I can see how commonplace that sense of threat still is. And yet, the level of threat is almost always a mirage - and when actual threats are present, we often miss them or underestimate them. It's all pretty goofy.

Algernon, I had to pull myself away from Wikileaks after three or four days of reading everything I could find. In fact, I stopped myself from writing a Wiki Buddhist post because it just seemed like too much.

NellaLou said...

"but we told her we couldn't change the name on the blog site since others were nominated...she got angry and demanded to Nate that she be removed from the awards site."

THIS IS UTTER BULLSHIT. I did not ask to change anything on the website of their little club. I did not communicate at all to anyone before my post. I got angry because I was told I could not regift the award after the fact by way of some non-existent rules these guys were making up as they went alone. I'm not going to sit by and be falsely accused by others doing ass-covering.

Brikoleur said...

For the record, I have not sent a death threat to Kyle—or anyone else, for that matter—by email, nor in any other medium.

Under the circumstances, I've posted all the email correspondence I've had with him on my blog. Regrettably not as interesting as Wikileaks, but there it is.

Incidentally, my hit count is way up. What was that about the attraction of a train wreck again?

Dean 'Jagaro' Crabb said...

Nathan, I noticed a similar thing with my post about "The Illusion of Hope" the other day. I've never had so many comments on my blog. I've reflected on it a lot since then and I can't help but feel they completely missed the point. My post touched a nerve that they weren't willing to look into because it challenged their whole sense of identity and their sense of self, and also their sense of hope. It challenged their ideas about Buddhism and what they feel is important in their practice so they came out referencing this and that to prove what hope meant to them, to prove and ratify their sense of self. But I feel they missed actually reading what I was talking about and the implication of hope to their spiritual practice and development. While I see their point and the application of hope that they imply I can see they don't get mine. The mind just fixated on what opposed it's sense of self, and we do this is lots of little ways, with little views and little thoughts. As soon as there is opposition to them, we challenge them and come out fighting because we're attached to the thought.

Anyway, I hope you have a great Xmas. It has been great having you as a dharma friend on this path of practice and I feel glad for meeting you. Of all the blogs I read, yours I race to read each time. I affiliate with your sense of dedication to the path of practice, it's a wonderful thing. I hope you have a great Xmas and I look forward to sharing ideas on our blogs together in the future.

Dean 'Jagaro' Crabb

Anonymous said...

Kyle deleted his blog, said he is quitting. Looks like for the last 24 hours or so Pettri has been giving very strange and frequent updates about everything Kyle does.
After reading the personal emails Pettri posted and watching this very strange post, I can see why he came to the conclusion he is kind of being a bit of a stalker.

Nathan said...

Hmm, I missed all the "fun" apparently.

I was having pizza with friends and family yesterday. A good time!

As Dean pointed out about his hope post, this post was mostly about the tendency to gravitate towards the negative, but hey, where ever the comments go, they go.