Zen Spot #132 — Mindfulness, meditation and a culture of vicious, interdependent contrarian balance February 22, 2018 00:05

Failure to upset the herd

Over the course of my life, I’ve observed a spirit-crushing phenomenon that can’t be mine to experience alone. It’s toxic, awful and a description follows. Built on the idea that no individual should get too far in front of the herd, nor too far behind, a social mechanism is put in place that, by my observation, helps no one. 

More than once I’ve been a part of communities where, through sarcasm, cynicism, derogatory language and ephithets, a person within a group is made to feel awful about themselves. By itself, this phenomenon is sick. That said, I’ve observed, in the same groups, a corrective behavior where, if the person to whom the intimidation was directed makes a self-deprecating remark mirroring the comments of the original offenders, the exact same offenders will remark that the observation is incorrect:


Offender: “You’re dumb as a brick.” 

The offender may find such statements benign. Few offenders will be accountable in the rare event that the comment was clearly designed to control and hurt. Moreover, they may deny they said it or meant it or that the recipient was being too sensitive. Given the prevalence of bullying, there is nothing uncommon about this behavior and, were it to end there, it would still be awful. In almost all circumstances, the recipient eventually tries to find a palatable but crappy solution.

Palatable but crappy solution

Target: “Sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake.”

Designed to defuse a toxic situation (while preparing for a better long term solution), when this kind of self-deprecating remark is offered, the original offender will be the first to offer an observation of your competence, talent and winning personality.

I’ve experienced this culture many times in my life and it is absolutely devastating. For those of us searching for order, calm, quiet and justice, the phenomenon can eventually make participating in the group unbearable. To be sure, I’ve never wanted to be part of the herd and with my lack of desire comes a natural conflict with almost any group’s entropy. Too, I’m a bit of a flake. Like many of the people who will read this essay, I exist, at times, on a slightly different plain, with different priorities. What motivates the average person often doesn’t motivate me — and there are tens of millions of people just like me.

I know I’m not alone.

Experiences like the one described have made me choose a life of semi-solitude because the alternative is just too confusing and painful. It should be noted that I am a 6'4" 270 lb. male who, in the past, could physically intimidate most people at will. It should further be noted that I have fought back verbally in the past and, when I did, it never worked out. I was always viewed as the offender because of my gender and my size.

The goal of a mindful, ordered, calm, quiet and just life isn’t easy. I hope sharing this makes those with similar experiences feel less alone.

About DharmaMechanic

An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among over 600 DharmaMechanic has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read the story of these wheels or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.

What are The Four Noble Truths?

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

What is The Noble Eightfold Path?

  1. Right view
  2. Right intention
  3. Right action
  4. Right speech
  5. Right livelihood
  6. Right effort
  7. Right mindfulness
  8. Right concentration

What is a Dharma Wheel?