Being a Jerk and Not Being a Jerk

jerk-storeIt appears to me that there are as many people who use “progressive” ideology as an excuse for being jerks as who use “conservative” ideology as an excuse for being jerks.

Conservatives who act like jerks are being jerks. Progressives who act like jerks are being jerks. Their respective ideologies are just an excuse to behave badly, to give in to the incessant desire to be right no matter what. 

It’s not the ideology that makes someone a jerk. It’s being a jerk that makes someone a jerk. Being a jerk crosses party lines. Being a jerk crosses religious lines. No one system of belief has a monopoly on being a jerk.

But not being a jerk can cross party lines, religious lines and systems of belief too.

Things will happen no matter what my opinion of them is. People will do shitty stuff in spite of what I think about it. I am not powerless. But I have no power to control anyone else. I can state my opinion, but my influence is limited. I am a minor author in a genre that most people aren’t even aware enough of to ignore.

Once I’ve said what I have to say, it’s time to move on. There’s no need for me to fret over whether anyone is listening or whether anyone understood me. There’s no reason for me to count my “likes” and “shares.” I already know that very few are listening and even fewer of those understand. It is what it is.

Dogen said, “Among rightness, wrongness and it-doesn’t-matter-ness, there is wrongness. Wrongness is what happens at the very moment you do something wrong. It’s not an abstraction that sits around waiting to be done. It’s the same with rightness and it-doesn’t-matter-ness.”

Your reasons for being a jerk, the ideology behind it, your intentions, your goals, your end-game, the politics of the time, what the other guy did to deserve it, none of those things matter a bit. What matters is if you act like a jerk or not at this very moment.

Dogen said, “There are similarities between real wrong actions, no matter where or when they occur. And there is a big difference between right, wrong and it-doesn’t-matter type actions. Right and wrong are time, but time is neither right nor wrong.”

Right and wrong are time. Dig that. You create a time of right when you do right. You create a time of wrong when you do wrong. You create a time of jerks when you act like a jerk.

And whatever you do lasts eternally. It is carved into the universe, as my teacher Gudo Nishijima said.

What do you want to carve into the universe?

Dogen said, “Don’t be a jerk wasn’t a teaching someone intentionally invented. It existed before anyone put it into words. When we hear it, we hope that we can learn to do the right thing and not be a jerk. This is a pretty big deal. It’s on the scale of the whole of time and the entire universe. The scale of not being a jerk is in the not being part. Just don’t do jerk-like things.”

Just don’t do jerk-like things. Your excuses won’t change what you did. Your justifications won’t fix anything. Your well-stated reasons won’t make any difference at all in what you have carved into the universe.

Dogen said, “When jerk-type actions are not done by someone, jerk-type actions do not exist. Even if you live where you could act like a jerk, even if you face circumstances where you could be a jerk, even if you hang out with nothing but a bunch of jerks, the power of not doing jerk-type things conquers all.”

I can’t add a thing to that.

Dogen said, “Jerk-type action has no fixed form. It has no existence until someone does it. If we don’t act like jerks, jerk-type acts cannot exist. You can do jerk-type things or you can avoid doing jerk-type things. The moment you know that jerk-type action does not exist outside of your own conduct, that is realization of the truth.”

No one is forcing you to be a jerk. Not even the President of the United States of America his very self can make you be a jerk. Not even if he’s a jerk first.

Dogen said, “This is not a once-and-for-all realization. It appears dynamically moment after moment. When people understand that not being a jerk requires not doing jerk-type things, they behave like decent people at each moment in the past, present and future.”

At each moment. Past. Present. Future. It doesn’t matter.

Dogen said, “By not being a jerk at this very moment, you enact non-jerk-ness and make it appear in the world. It’s not that you, as a regular person, are destroyed by doing the right thing, and yet you, as a regular person, have dropped away and what remains is an enlightened being.”

This is the moment. This is when you can be a jerk or not be a jerk. The choice is yours and yours alone.

Dogen said, “Some people think that being-a-jerk arises out of past causes and conditions but don’t see how they themselves are those causes and conditions. The seeds of Buddhahood also come from causes and conditions. Jerk-type actions neither exist nor don’t exist. Evil doesn’t exist or not exist. It is either done or not done.”

Dogen said, “Even if the whole Universe is nothing but a bunch of jerks doing all kinds of jerk-type things, there is still liberation in simply not being a jerk.”

I’ll leave you with that.


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