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All flawed?

27/01/2015

Several weeks ago I read a review by my uncle of Richard Flanagan’s novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North (named after a work by Bashō). It’s the story of surgeon Dorrigo Evans who is captured by the Japanese during WWII and eventually becomes a national hero for his inspiring and dedicated leadership of Australian POWs working on the Death Railway. Although Flanagan wrote the book as a tribute to his father, who had been a slave laborer on the railway, Evans is clearly modeled on the real life surgeon Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop.

I found a few things to disagree with in my uncle’s review, not least his claim that the book is nihilistic and that the main character learned nothing from his life of suffering. Each chapter begins with a classic Zen haiku and at the point of his death Evans reconciles his entire life and existence – including the spiritualised cruelty of his captors and his own secular sainthood in response – realising Zen enlightenment in his oneness with the Void. But to my uncle the only valid lessons are the ones taught by his new age cult, so I’m not surprised he found Dorrigo’s life meaningless.

the void

This image appears alongside the account of Dorrigo Evans’ death.

What stuck in my head from my uncle’s review is a statement that appears in almost every review of the book I’ve read. Apparently Dorrigo Evans is, like all of us, ‘deeply flawed’.

But what does it mean to call someone ‘flawed’? Especially if that someone is yourself?

According to Judeo-Christian theology we are all fallen. Sinners who can be saved only by an external divinity. So the claim we are flawed is rarely challenged in the West. But flawed compared to what?

Is there some sort of Platonic Ideal Man out there that we all fall short of emulating? Is there an anthropic creator god who expects us to exceed the specifications he designed into us? Do we fall short of our own aspirations? Is the ‘flaw’ that we expect ourselves to be something other than ourselves?

I think the problem comes from the very act of comparison. Nothing is identical to something else. If it’s possible to judge anything at all it can only really be by reference to itself. I could say I’m a flawed Dorrigo Evans or a flawed Mahatma Gandhi or a flawed Jesus Christ, but the truth is I’m none of those things. I’m a perfect cabrogal. The only one in fact. I’m precisely the right piece to fit into the gap in space-time and cause-effect that would exist if there was no me. The universe and I embrace completely, with every aspect in perfect harmony. We create and justify one another.

Ultimately there is nothing to compare and nothing to judge. Everything is merely an aspect of the perfect whole. A node of Indra’s Net that reflects and encompasses everything else. It’s only by imagining something is separate that we can think of it as inadequate.

We are everything. Brahman. We are nothing. The Void. We are what we are. Perfectly.

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From → books

3 Comments
  1. For Fox Sake permalink

    Hmmm, whenever I hear the words “deeply flawed”, I receive it from the perspective
    of a gemmologist. Every precious stone has its inclusions and flaws which impact
    on it’s desirability and the price it will attract in the market-place.

    The geologist in me says that flaws and inclusions notwithstanding, a diamond is still a
    piece of coal that handled stress extremely well.

    Indra’s Net, what beautiful bling!

    I suspect a phonetic error is the real culprit here. Nor flawed; floored as in:

    1 tequila.
    2 tequila.
    3 tequila.
    Floor!

    Why dredge your uncle’s blog to get material for your own blog posts. Are you not
    done with discounting his earthly experience to mark up the price on your own?

    Like

    • Why dredge your uncle’s blog to get material for your own blog posts. Are you not
      done with discounting his earthly experience to mark up the price on your own?

      You know that’s a really good question. It’s part of one I’ve been asking myself for a few years now.

      Why this obsession with my uncle’s perspective?
      Why do I feel the need to prove it wrong?
      I mean it’s not as if I’m sure my own view is right so why interrogate his so ruthlessly?

      I don’t really know the answer.

      It’s somehow caught up in my experiences of October 2012, which occurred while I was trying to explain something to him that’s inexplicable.

      But it’s also part of my dislike (for many reasons) of manipulative cults and their cheap psychological tricks.

      But really it’s about my ongoing inability to accept my uncle for what he is now rather than what I once imagined him to be. I guess he may be copping some of my psychic flak that my father escaped when he died. If you believe all that Freudian stuff that is.

      What to do about it?

      I could pretend it doesn’t exist – even though it’s a significant factor in a lot of my thoughts.

      I could show some good taste and not refer to it directly on the blog.

      Or I could just work it through and use the blog as a journal to keep track of how it appears to me from time to time.

      This blog is warts and all.
      My relationship with my uncle is one of the warts.

      Like

  2. For Fox Sake permalink

    “My relationship with my uncle is one of the warts”.

    Tried Wart-Off?

    (If only it were THAT easy)

    Like

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