I’ve been talking with my older brother who’s having difficulties from being, in his words, ‘very judgemental’. Various Eastern philosophies hold that personal unhappiness and ‘suffering’ stems from attachment and having a judging mind.
I’ve been trying to explain to him how he should ‘not judge’ because that is the result of a personal attachment to a situation which is ‘not equal’ (sameness) to his internal expectations. And how that imbalance is provoking in him emotional ‘unpleasantness’ – anger, frustration, or whatever upleasant experience. If he had no expectations, then he would be in balance because there would be no mismatch between his internal state (no particular emotional attachment) and the event he’s witnessing.
I tried to use a scenario about his son, my nephew, and said to him: “When [your son] was a baby, did he play with his poo? When you caught him, did you judge him and think he was a BAD HUMAN because of it? Or did you rather not judge him because you knew that somewhere, some when, you must also have played with your poo when you were his age? See, babies don’t judge , they EXPERIENCE. Poo is just ‘sticky squishy smelly stuff’ – it is what it is – and it’s neither good nor bad. The human body produces waste, and if it didn’t it could die.”
The Utility of Judgement
I then went on to show how medical doctors have to have that same kind of non-judgement. I brought up the old urban legend of someone who managed to get their pet hamster stuck in their rectum (as an absurd and funny-ish example). But the point is very serious: if that had happened – the doctor can’t afford to judge. They have a real problem on their hands, and they have to do something about it. Doctors see all kinds of crazy shit throughout their careers. They can’t be successful doctors unless they have that capacity to ‘take abstraction’ – remove themselves (emotions/judgements) from the picture.
Or, for a more unsettling example (if rectal hamsters isn’t enough!), imagine an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician – the first-responders of the medical corps) showing up at the scene of a terrible car accident. One of the passengers is haemorraging from a severed artery in his thigh. The EMT cuts off the man’s trousers to gain access to the artery and apply pressure. Now imagine if the EMT sees the man is wearing a pair of bright red women’s underwear. Do you think that is in any way important to the present situation? Does an EMT have any room – let alone right – to judge? It’s such an insignificant detail to the present situation that it doesn’t even merit judgement.
Living fully is exactly as ‘immediate’ as being on the scene as an EMT. Every moment is ‘now’, so judgement is a distraction, and it detracts from the present moment. So, I told my brother babies experience without judging, and said that kind of innocence can be regained as an adult. Then I made an interesting parallel by saying that wisdom is also experience…
Wisdom or Ignorance or Both?
While I hope that helped him get a better idea of what that kind of detachment and non-judgement means (he’d mentioned the Zen buddhist ‘no mind’ but that’s often too high-flying or just plain bizarre for we Westerners), it has brought up for me a question of distinction: when we think of babies’ innocence and we often attribute that to ignorance, how is it that we also equate a lack of judgement to wisdom? Is there a difference between judgement and discernment? We will say of someone who has acted ‘foolishly’ that they lacked judgement. So what kind of ‘judgement’ are we talking about when someone is foolish?
There’s some fudged lines there somewhere. It’d be interesting to figure out why we’ve conflated these different types of ‘difference making’ (analysis, rationalising, discernment, etc.) as ‘judgement’. I suspect that it’s the same kind of non-judgement for a baby as for a wise person. So wherefrom the wisdom?
What are your thoughts on this?