Thread: Neutralizing.
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Old 08-30-2011, 09:41 AM   #15
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3,184
Re: Neutralizing.

About neutrality, lack of emotions,control of emotions and so forth: in Buddhism, equanimity is one of the four limitless qualities, whose development provides one with the tools to become enlightened. So, equanimity = good thing. But it's important to remember that just because words have the same root, doesn't mean they have the same meaning. Equanimity is good...but equivocation is not, nor is creating false equivalences. The development of equanimity does not call on us to pretend that things are the same or that they have equal value, when in fact they do not. To use a rather stark (but not at all contrived) example: consider the case of a Holocaust survivor, who tells of what she experienced and what she witnessed. And then, you have a Holocaust denier, who claims that it never happened. The pursuit of equanimity does not require us to look at these two views and say there's nothing to choose between them, that they are equally valid and equally true -- that's just crazy talk. Instead, equanimity seeks to interrupt the strong tendency of human beings (partly learned, partly innate, definitely conditioned and brought to a high art in the typical example of the species) to reflexively size situations up and assign them as quickly as possible to categories with dualistic labels: good or bad, with me or against me, I-approve or I-don't-approve. The pursuit of equanimity calls on us to pause and see what is as fully as we can before we try to draw conclusions from it -- and also, to not make these conclusions final, to be aware that the situation will change and our conclusions will need to be revisited in light of that. It does not call on us to blind ourselves to reality in the name of some hypothetical, wished-for equilibrium. Doing so would have the opposite effect of why you pursue the four limitless ones in the first place.

Similarly, emotions are not bad or to be avoided. What we want to avoid is the fueling of emotions so as to give them unnatural life, so to speak. I'm sure we all know the difference between feeling a momentary irritation at being cut off in traffic, and fuming about it for the next ten miles. And, if you think about it, we also know the difference between authentic irritation or anger or resentment, and the manufactured variety: the former happens when someone cuts you off in traffic and makes you slam on the breaks, the latter happens when someone switches to the lane in front of you without actually impeding you (but they're IN MY LANE!). Paring away the manufactured, destructive, self-fueled emotional excess is actually very simple (which is not to say it's always easy): you recognize the poison, you recognize that you're the one fueling the fire at this point, you simply stop fueling it and watch it evaporate. What you're left with is something much closer to the truth. Simply saying "Anger is bad" takes you further from the truth, not closer to it.
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