Monday, August 15, 2016

Drop your "but's"

In social situations, we are confronted with "but's" all of the time. Someone will say, "I'd love to come to the party, but..." Apologies are often punctuated with this conditional word, as in, "I'm sorry I said that, but you..." Which pretty much nullifies people's apologies, as the "but" tries to justify their behavior. It's a way of saying, "It's not my fault."
Sometimes admitting one's mistakes can be as painful as a physical injury. Our use of the word   "but" represents an attempt to protect our ego. The "but" shields us from judgment, both real and imagined.

I say imagined because there are no "but's" in nature. "But's" are products of the mind. We impose them over our experiences and forget that we've done so. 

For instance, when we say, "I'd love to come over but my car is broken," what we may mean is, "I'm angry that my broken car is preventing me from coming over." The "but" here is an imposition of our will on the situation. We can just as easily say, "Sorry, my car is broken so I can't come over. I'll gladly come if someone picks me up." Removing the "but" can dissolve our resentment.

To further the grammatical analogy, the conjunction "and" better expresses the inclusivity of reality. "But" closes doors while "and" opens them. 

Here's a practice: for the next day, notice how many times you use "but." What are the circumstances? Are you trying to alleviate responsibility? Are you afraid to be honest with others? Scared to disappoint people or hurt their feelings?

Study your language to learn about your own conditioned patterns of thinking and speaking. Use your "but's" as a lens to re-view your life. The Vow of the Bodhisattva is to save all sentient beings. That means removing false barriers and opening your heart to people. Our egos--our need to control people and events--prevent us from accepting the way that things are. They cloud our perception by making us mistake how we'd like things to be with how they actually are

There is nothing inherently wrong with the word "but"; it depends on how you use it. Is it an instrument of division or of harmony? Zen liberates us from the language game so that we can eventually use language--and all other means--to liberate others. 

To do that, we must pay meticulous attention to our use of language to make sure it serves our purpose, not the other way around.  

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