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Old 07-30-2005, 10:33 PM   #12
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Re: Does Budo require a sense of shame?

Is there a relationship between shame and pride? For example, can we be proud of who we are and what we are doing if we have no sense of shame (i.e. no sense of being repulsed from that which does not allow us to have pride in who we are and in what we are doing)?

The word "bad" kind of goes with the word "good" and when these words go together it usually implies some kind of moral or legal agenda. To be sure, cultures across the world have tried to find institutional support in our positive and negative states of emotion, but isn't there something more primal - more pre-nation state - to our emotional senses like shame? Do we always have to think of shame in terms of good or bad? To be sure, modern culture wants us to see shame always as bad. However, can it be something more related to self-respect, pride, honor, integrity, etc.? For example, can it be something more related to an ideal, a desire to near that ideal, and a proximity (or lack thereof) to an ideal? Can it be something more positive - something we should not want to avoid (assuming we would always want to avoid feeling intrinsically bad)? Such that, for example, we feel shame because of our desire to commit to an ideal while showing a contrary desire to not approach that ideal as near as we can? In this sense, the shame is not really about feeling bad (or being bad) but rather about bringing awareness to a disparity in our desires and thus in our actions, thoughts, and words. In this way, shame can seen as something positive, as it can be the doorway to a reversal in direction - one more in keeping with our stated commitments and thus one more akin to things like self-respect, honor, integrity, etc. (which is ours when we make good on our commitments).

I think that if we can say that every master has suffered for his/her art, then we might also want to say that no master has achieved his/her greatness without some repulsive energy (e.g. shame) that was pushing them toward their ideal in a way very similar to how their desire for achieving that ideal was pulling them. In other words, we might want to suggest that a master is pushed and pulled along in their expertise. They are pulled by their internal longing to achieve their ideal (i.e. a desire to master). But they are also pushed by their internal repulsion toward not achieving it - toward being like those that have not achieved (i.e. a repulsion toward being unable to master). Somehow, in my opinion, the words "bad" and "good" seem to be falling short in describing this particular aspect of mastery.

No doubt, many of us see shame as something related to that which is bad and thus as something we should avoid at all costs and/or whenever possible. I think this is why we often claim a lack of responsibility when responsibility would open us up to a charge of shame. So maybe I'm talking about something else when I am trying to delineate the presence of a repulsing energy that I am suggesting should be vital to our spiritual pursuits. On the other hand, one can see how much leeway there is in the definition of the word "shame" (as offered above by Peter) - so - for now - I'm still one for opting to use this word "shame."


David M. Valadez
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