Listen not to what is contrary to propriety 非禮勿聽;
Look not at what is contrary to propriety 非禮勿視;
Speak not what is contrary to propriety 非禮勿言;
Make no movement which is contrary to propriety 非禮勿動
Analects of Confucius from 2nd to 4th century B.C
From what plain of consciousness do we honestly self-assess our own propriety, our own morality? Can we do this amidst the systems we are so deeply and invisibly entrenched? These are the large questions stirring in our collective consciousness on all levels as we grapple with ancient fears of the foreigner embedded in racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia in a polarized political climate and a world pandemic.
To begin, we might consider how conscious we are of the roots of capitalism and their promise to feed us, empower us over others (enemies included!), and free us from the natural laws of life and death. When we are hungry, thirsty, tired, sick, cold, and/or without shelter, these promises easily become our masters and terror of the foreigner in all its forms abounds.
These roots (promises), when invisibly held in the realm of innocence, easily become our jailers, keeping us yoked to Plato’s cave, afraid to leave, afraid of our own shadow and insatiably thirsty, hungry, wanting for more. Paradoxically, we can be profoundly comfortable in this agonizingly uncomfortable situation because we are simultaneously held in the womb of the Maya Illusion. Wandering, aimless, powerless, empty, we are obsessively caught in our own rituals of purification, attainment, and worship. We believe we are in control when we are not. Our will for good is activated but suffering and sacrifice cannot be reconciled in this naive, immature position. On this plain, “propriety”, what is right and wrong, is solely determined by the dictates of pain and pleasure, life and death. Intentions of seeing, hearing, speaking, and moving with “propriety” lead us further in the wildernesses until adversity wakes the seeker, the student, the follower or kills us. On this plain we are essentially orphans, regardless of our chronological age. Lost sheep in need of a shepherd, a shepherdess, a teacher, a friend. It is our choice to seek or deny him or her or them. It is always our choice. May the student arrive.