Sunday, July 10, 2011

"Life is One Continuous Mistake"

David over at The Endless Further had a bit of a run in with comment responding yesterday.

He writes:

In response to yesterday’s post, someone left this comment, “based on this you just might be a stream entrant who just doesn’t know it yet.” Now, I don’t know if he was being sincere or not. It occurred to me that it might not be a compliment, but I figured he probably meant well. Anyway, it’s late in the evening here and I had a brief moment of flippancy and unfortunately it ended up in my reply. It was a small attempt at humor, apparently very small . . . and he took it the wrong way.

You know, I get so few comments that when one comes in I really hate to screw it up.

I have totally been in this position, and I'd imagine anyone who has blogged for awhile, and has a regular readership, probably has also been here. If, that is, he or she has been paying attention, and is operating out of sense of care for those who come to these spaces.

There are so many things that can get confused when it comes to blog commenting. One or both people misread what is said. A reader says something that sounds like an insult to the blog writer. A writer says something that sounds like an insult to a reader. Humor misfires. Words or concepts aren't clear, or are not understood by one or both participants. A person responds to a comment not directed at them. The list is kind of endless.

This is the comment David received from reader Mike:

based on this you just might be a stream entrant who just doesn’t know it yet

Now, for those of you who don't know, stream entry is considered to be one of four levels of awakening along the Buddhist path. And as such, it is usually a mark of someone who has dedicated him/herself to practice, and demonstrates a fair amount of depth and insight. You can learn more about the four levels here.

However, it's also the case that stream entry, being the first level amongst the four, has been a site of ridicule, a sort of punching bag if you will in some of the classical Buddhist teachings. Those considered stream enterers are sometimes set up as foils to others who are "further along" on the path, and so it's possible to view a comment like the one Mike made as a form of insult, knowing it's use in the teachings.

Beyond that, it's even more likely the case that people leaving clipped off comments like that are merely trolling, looking to stir up trouble. Faux compliments are standard fair amongst trolls, and in the Buddhist blogosphere, dropping lines about a writer's wisdom, enlightenment, or insight are commonplace. So, those of us who have been around awhile, reading and writing blogs, are gonna wonder about any such comment, especially if it isn't backed up or elaborated on. This is especially the case with someone who has rarely or never commented on our blogs before.

The way I see it, the back and forth that followed Mike's initial comment demonstrates both the easiness of making errors online, but also the willingness on both sides to return to practice and to respond out of a position of caring and listening. It's really in that kind of way that we are actually living our lives fully, and not doing whatever to protect our small selves and "precious ideas." David and/or Mike could have simply decided to flip off at the other, again and again, until one or both grew tired of flinging insults and projections. But they both didn't.

The rest of us can learn from that as well. It's not just the perfectly handled comments, or blog posts, that offer wisdom. This is something I have learned through doing this blog the past two and half years.


ZenDotStudio said...

sometimes we have to go to weird places to really get it. this is perhaps an exhibit of our humanness and how tiny things can trigger us to do things we regret. I have learned many things in this way, things I can't take back but inform my behaviour next time around.

Never was a Silva said...

"sometimes we have to go to weird places to really get it."

So incredibly true!

David Ashton said...

I guess we get wiser with each "I wish I hadn't said that". I'd like to think that it happens less often but can't really say it does. Although I seem to be catching more bloopers before I blurt, I still regret the ones that get away.