(Re-post from old blog, original date Sep 24, 2010)
We have all heard the saying about not judging books by their cover. Even though we know there is wisdom in these words, I’m sure many people, including myself, find themselves engaging in judgment, often without noticing. We say “oooh, don’t be so judgmental” – but when we say that, we are actually judging the judge! I find this very funny.
I think judgment has a bad rap. So much of our interaction with the world is dependent on our ability to exercise judgment. Judgment is taught to us early so that we can make decisions – from deciding to put on an oven mitt before reaching into the stove, to planning a career, to making our dinners. I think judging and placing things in heirarchies are part of our nature, and is important in helping us live our lives, and isn’t something I feel the need to be cleansed of.
Rather than fighting that nature, I would prefer to nurture it, and develop better judgment, be aware of my judgments, and exercise my skills so that I may feel I am interacting with the world in a clear and authentic way, and therefore… judging myself to be a good person.
I’ll share one of my practices: When I find myself annoyed with the world – those days when everyone and their stupid dog, and their stupid hair and their stupid baggy pants are all driving me insane, I try to stop. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and when I open them, I try to imagine every person I see as someone’s beloved relative. I take a moment to look at one person at a time, noting the lines in their face and hands, the curve of their shoulder, as I would if they were my grandmother, or a dear friend, and I just breathe. Sometimes I go a step further, and I ask myself what it is about that person or their behaviour that is bothering me, and see if I can find something in myself that it is reflecting. Often the thing that we dislike the most about others is the thing that we dislike most in ourselves.
This year at Burning Man, I observed a lot of judgment. We like to think that the Burner community is so open, and judgment-free that everyone is free to just be themselves, let go, and play. But, in fact, we still engage in the same judging games we play in the default world. There is still an expectation for people to dress and behave in according to social rules, and those who do not conform get judged negatively.
I saw a lot of books being judged by their cover, and the measuring sticks seemed to mostly be whether people were wearing costumes or carrying cameras. What if that “tourist” wearing “normal” clothes and “taking pictures” was one of the people from the Heart Machine, or Bliss, who has been working hard all week to make some of the coolest installations I’ve ever seen on the playa, for all of us to enjoy? IMHO, fun fur and blinky lights do not make a Burner, and a drop of spectating should not spoil a bucket of participation. I invite you to try my Beloved Relative exercise the next time you are bothered by that dude with the hat that you’re sure just came here to party.
This epiphany made me think hard about participation in general, and specifically my own. Ultimately, my meditations have brought me to a place where I am examining myself, and asking “how do I want to interact with the world?. What moves me? What do I have to offer that can move others?”