NEVER ACCEPT THE GIFT OF TOXICITY
Oh bloody hell! The American elections are over and the divisive Donald Trump is President-Elect.
We woke up in the not too distant past to news reports of anti-Trump protesters in the streets of New York, Nashville, Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle, proclaiming “Not my president. Not today”. The divisions of the presidential campaigns have become deeper still, and it is now incumbent upon Trump to unify the broken states of America. I for one will observe closely how he chooses to respond to his multiple challenges ahead.
WE’RE HUMAN FIRST
We in the UK saw a similar effect following the Brexit process in June. Families and friends became fractured and divided over the outcome and their differences of opinion, losing sight of one key fact: Before any of us are a Brexiteer or pro-EU, Democrat or Republican, English, American, Catholic, Muslim, male, female, gay, straight, black, white or Native – we are all human. We are all meat coated skeletons, riding on a rock through space, so let’s keep perspective. Our natural resources are finite, we’re in this together, so we’d be wise to get along, make the best of what we’ve got and embrace the fact that more connects us than divides us. None of us are getting out of this thing called life alive, so let’s focus on what we can achieve whilst we’re here.
So that’s my idealism aired for the day, now back to the rather stark reality. I sympathise with the Democrats, and I fear for every US citizen who doesn’t happen to be a white, straight man. I strongly dislike how Trump’s campaign appears to have embraced and legitimised bigotry, religious intolerance and sexual abuse (to name but a few). The non-white+heterosexual+man demographic genuinely has much to fear, hence the protests. We too had significant ugliness following the Brexit result, where hateful pockets of bigotry were seemingly given the light of day and oxygen of life. It’s going to be hard to hold on to and protect the progress we have all made, especially now there are determined efforts to send us all back to the attitudes and culture of the 1940’s – where women, children and people of colour “knew their place”. But we must hold on, and if we must we can!
WHEN THEY GO LOW, WE GO HIGH
Although there are fights to be fought, both here and in the US, there are roads to be chosen. During Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, Michelle Obama encouraged the Democrats “When they [the Trump campaign] go low, we go high”, because the high road is always the wisest and strongest option. The alternative is to get low down and dirty, and the problem with that is this: When you throw dirt, you lose ground.
Leaving aside politics for a moment, look how the same lessons apply to your life and personal circumstances. Who amongst us has never experienced conflict in our relationships? No one. Even if you have to stretch your memory all the way back to your school playground years, because you now live blissfully in a hollowed out tree on the island of Zog, you are going to have encountered hostility and conflict at some point. Conflict with others is a natural part of life. It’s almost essential, so that we may learn how to settle disputes peacefully, and grow as a result of the experience. Deeper understanding and greater knowledge is our reward, it helps us to “level up” and develop further, to quote a gaming reference.
HERE COMES THE WISDOMOUS BIT
I know “wisdomous” isn’t a real word, but it’s a small homage to my young son who once anointed me as such, following some help with his homework. Anyhoo, the wisdom is Buddha’s, and the story is this…
Buddha was walking into the market one day and, near the city entrance, an old bitter man was sitting on a box glaring at Buddha, who was smiling broadly. The bitter man started cursing at Buddha relentlessly, telling him how pretentious he was, how much better he thought he was, and how he did nothing worthy of the air he breathed. Buddha simply smiled and walked on by.
The next day, Buddha returned to the market, only to experience the bitter old man again. The insults and cursing had intensified to now shouting and screaming at Buddha. As Buddha continued to walk past, the bitter man directed the insults towards Buddha’s mother, father and everyone else in his life. Buddha smiled and walked on by.
This went on for a week, when finally the bitter old man approached Buddha out of curiosity: “Buddha, every day you come here smiling and every day I curse your name, I curse your family, and I curse everything you believe in. But every day you come to this market with a smile, knowing that I await you with my harsh words and insults. I know what by speaking with you now that you are not deaf, so why do you keep smiling, while I do nothing but scream the worst things I can think of to your face?”
Buddha, with the same smile still on his face, looks at the old bitter man and asks: “If I were to bring you a gift tomorrow morning, all wrapped up in a beautiful box, would you accept it? to which the bitter man replies: “Absolutely not, I would not take anything from the likes of you!” “Ah”, replied Buddha, “Well, if I were to offer you this gift and you were to refuse it, then who would the gift belong to?” “It would still belong to you, of course” said the bitter man. “And so the same goes with your anger. When I choose not to accept your gift of anger, does it not remain yours?” smiled Buddha, as he walked away with inner peace.
During your next conflict, recall the image accompanying this article. Visualise your adversary attempting to hand you a gift of toxic waste, because that is exactly what their anger towards you is. Anger is a low, negative energy, which has the power to debilitate and disable your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. Treat their anger exactly as you would a literal seeping, oozing box of radioactive goo. Never accept the gift of toxicity. Smiling as they attempt to transfer their low, negative energy over to you in vain, is optional.
You do not have to attend every argument you are invited to. It is impossible to decode silence and cannot be converted into ammunition against you. If someone rears up at you, it can only become a conflict if you accept the invitation to hostility and accept their gift of toxicity. Why would you do that? When you refuse their hazardous gift, it remains theirs to deal with, and fails to become your problem. Buddha also teaches us that being angry is like drinking a cup of poison and expecting the other person to die. Don’t do it to yourself. You have the right to choose what to accept or experience, or not. You only need to decide. Imagine their anger as a steaming box of toxic waste, and you’ll find it so much easier to not engage.
PS: To the anti-Trump Americans protesting in the streets: You would do well to remember and heed Michelle Obama’s wise words: go high! Trump plunged the country into fear and loathing as a campaign strategy. Don’t play the game by his rules, in his comfort zone; elevate the debate to higher levels, where he struggles. His flaws and weaknesses have been well documented, and are obvious to those who study him. Use the law vociferously, exploit his weaknesses mercilessly, give him the fight of his life and work determinedly to remove him from power in November 2020 (if not before!). Work silently and let your results do the talking.