240. Abundance (VI)
To understand what it means for there to be a countryside, we have to divide an area into fields; if we did not, we would have wilderness—and even the wilderness would be understood in contrast to cultivated land. As we divide into fields, we arrive at wholeness; we arrive at the idea “countryside”: we cannot locate this wholeness in any particular field; and our access to the wholeness comes about through the divisions we make.
This tendency to divide into two must be a primal aspect of the way humans navigate the world: food, healthful and unhealthful; plants, poisonous or safe; money, rich or poor; knowledge, true or false; and, in politics, friend or enemy. The first dichotomy we start with is “self” and “other”—a child learns that he is not an extension of his mother; he is an independent organism with his own wants and desires.
The idea that we access the whole through dichotomies is ancient; in the West it goes back to the first philosopher, Heraclitus, and in the East it is the Tao: the two parts contend to make a whole; if there is no contention, there is no whole. I hold up two sticks from different trees in front of my face and try to work out which one is stronger; with the stronger stick I make a spear. I will look for the stronger stick from now on; if my neighbour asks me about the best stick for spears I show him the stronger tree.
The stoned hippy, the leftist, says: “Man, we’re all one people. One world, one race. Universal love and harmony, like, it’s totally Zen, man. Forgive everyone man. One love! Open the borders…” It sounds like non-dualism: the man who says it sometimes sounds very kind and spiritual: he talks about how everything is “one”—even science says it, something to do with energy fields and Einstein. This path leads a person to drop his standards and defences—moral and political—on the grounds that they are “going with the flow”. Yet this is not non-dualism: the path to the whole is through division. We must make a division in order to see the whole; and this is true in politics, too: we only see the whole man when we see the particular; we prefer a man who is particular to his national identity because we see our difference to him—as we complement him, we go beyond him. If he acts just like us, there can be no tension and no whole.
The right’s error is to only see the division, not the whole; and this is moralism. “Libtard college professors get it wrong, AGAIN. Israel is good and Palestine is evil. USA! USA! USA!” This approach holds the division too tightly; it only sees the fields, never the countryside. If you only concentrate on perfect division you will never go beyond. This position is found in the efficient worker who categorises perfectly but has no sense as to why he does it: “It has to be done this way! It’s the right way!” Privately, he thinks: “What’s the point of it all?” And yet the whole exists; unlike the divisions, it does no work.
Buddhists say morality is a coracle; good and evil take a person to the far bank, then the coracle can be discarded. In politics, we make divisions for a practical reason—to defend ourselves from threats—but we are not owned by the divisions; as we divide, we see beyond and so hold “friend” and “enemy” lightly; even our enemy can strengthen us: he is easier to love than a friend. In logical systems there is an element that paradoxically breaks the rules in order to preserve the rules: this is the role played by Christ and Buddha in religion. Jesus divides the sheep from the goats, yet he is the whole; he defies the Pharisees and the law—and yet, as he divides, he completes the law.