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The Infrastructure of Trust
Brene Brown gave a talk on the Anatomy of Trust, this raised a number of issues.
Before and after listening to the talk I have only one trust – the path. Am I following the path? Or am I letting self/ego take over? Am I being Gaia-conscious or ego-conscious? Am I connected to Mother Earth?
Brene didn’t discuss any of this in her talk. Even though her psychiatrist said that she had had a spiritual awakening, she is still an academic. Despite that what she raises is very interesting, and it is probably because of her research methodology – grounded theory – building her theories from the data ie data first rather than hypothesis. But of course what that is not is path-first.
Investigating trust gave her BRAVING:-
This acronym, BRAVING, reminded me of the many numbers in Buddhism, 4NT, Noble 8-fold path, the stages of paticcasamuppada, and it suffers from the same weakness – you cannot build up the whole from the parts. This is a holistic or insight question, no description of the whole is ever complete when you try to summate all the parts. Here is an analogy that works for me with mathematical training – it probably won’t work for mathematicians who worship sankhara and are therefore likely to be dismissive of a holistic process. How many straight lines does it take to draw a circle? Using BRAVING we have 7 straight lines that when joined form a heptagon – not a circle. The analogy I am after is that this heptagon might be good but there is only one way to get the circular path – and that is to be on the path. You might argue 50 or 100 lines, and such 100-sided polygons might visibly be indistinguishable from the circle but on close examination are not circular. No matter how many attributes you work on to improve yourself you will never reach the path with a summative approach (a summation of parts). You have to be the path.
Be the path, how does that happen? And that is a difficult question. In my case there was an upheaval/breakdown (Brene had a breakdown as well), and from that time there was the path. There was still ego to deal with, but the path was in ascendancy. How did I deal with being the path and overcoming ego? Meditation. This again is a holistic mental approach. You don’t work on the parts in meditation you work on the whole.
Without a holistic approach what happens to BRAVING? Suppose Oprah’s clan decide they want to be BRAVING. They go home and analyse how they are BRAVING, they sort out this detail and that – improve themselves. But in the crunch what happens? In the pressure of the situation their ego ascends. They can analyse why they failed but they cannot trust in something to be successful. In the crunch they have no path. From the time of my upheaval I could rely on the path, the only time I couldn’t was when I was immersed in ego, and in the crunch the ego becomes the wisp it is, it is vulnerable and cannot cope. I could rely on myself because I followed the path. The path fits with BRAVING, but the summation of BRAVING can never be the path.
Having said that BRAVING are good attributes.
At this point I began asking if I was trustworthy, and because I follow the path I undoubtedly am. But then I asked “do people trust in me?”, and the answer regrettably is no. Do people think I have BRAVING attributes? I haven’t asked them but certainly some – honesty for example. So why do people not put their trust in me? And the answer is the path. The path is so far from the conditioning that people are in. And what does the path do? Tell the truth. And there’s the rub, most people don’t want to know the truth, they want to keep their conditioned illusions. They cannot be BRAVING with illusions but they are conditioned to prefer their illusions rather than face the truth – conditioned through fear and insecurity. These are boundaries that the path makes me cross because the path makes me give – educate. Because of the illusions of conditioning I cannot be trusted. I do help, I advise, I am questioned. But because of the distance between the path and conditioning there is not the intimate trust Brene is talking about. She is talking about trust between friends, can you rely on friends to look after kids? Can you rely on friends to respect your illusions? Yes, because they want their own illusions protected.
But the path is Gaia, and in the end greed and illusions are destroying Gaia. The path has to try to end that destruction. Whilst our conditioned illusions are destroying the planet, people following the path cannot be trusted even though they are trying to be BRAVING.
But can you be BRAVING if you have illusions? And the answer to that is no, you can go some way towards it but can never be truly BRAVING because of the illusions. BRAVING are attributes to describe when someone has broken trust as Brene explained, but they cannot fully be the truth of trust. People hide behind their ego and illusions so you think you can trust them but you have to be discerning – a faculty of the path. I don’t know wise boundaries for my own trust because being on the path is far more important than what matters to the disillusioned such as greed, this leaves me open to exploitation – therefore I cannot always trust myself to be wise. Because of the illusions of others.
I want to specifically mention integrity here because integrity, or as Buddhists call it, sila, is the social way forward. If we maintain moral integrity in our society then there is an infrastructure that we can trust, a way forward for us to live together. I could of course say that trust would be such a social infrastructure – trust in a compassionate society where we are connected to Gaia. When you consider small rural communities they trust each other because they have lived together for so long and know ways – strangers give them problems. But numbing through stereotypical responses such as xenophobia is not the answer.
In my case I accept negative interactions. The path is wonderful, I trust the path. When I speak the truth people don’t like it, and when I am weak, ie too much ego, I meet bad reactions. This I accept, I trust the path but I do end up avoiding people because of their illusions, illusions that are shared – conditioning.
With sila and trust being the infrastructure of a compassionate society it is noticeable recently how much division is being caused. When evaluating our own trust it has to be recognised that such divisions are being manufactured, and it is necessary to ask who benefits from divisions. An academic does not ask this question because division is a faculty of sankhara – the dividing aspect of mind. Division (distrust) is being manufactured by the 1% so that the 99% are not united against them. Distrust is created by the ego and by the 1%. We cannot overcome distrust until we recognise these two components – following the path does that because it recognises what is. Academia (TED) avoids the political, so the trust infrastructure can never be built up because of this avoidance. (In much the same way focussing on the political avoids the ego that divides the movement – Pathtivism Manual).
Returning to Brene Brown she raises good questions and her answers are useful for learning – bouncing off. But she does not focus on the path so whilst BRAVING is a useful mnemonic it is not the answer. Trust as infrastructure is a socio-political answer, the path can provide this – and of course BRAVING can contribute to our following the path but with summative restrictions.
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