Near-enemies

I love the concept of near-enemies.

In Buddhism, near-enemies are manifestations that are quite close to a desired state, yet are actually a whole lot different. So different, they are actually dangerous.

A desired state of Buddhists, for example, is equanimity. That is to say, a way of being calm and focused no matter what happens around you. It is “stability in the face of the fluctuations of worldly fortune“.

Equanimity has a clear enemy, a “far-enemy”. That is restlesness, anxiety, the desire to have things the way we want them to be. The near-enemy, though, is indifference.

From the outside, equanimity and indifference look perhaps the same. Yet they are substantially different: equanimity is not desiring things to be one way or the other; indifference is not caring whether things are one way or the other. With equanimity, we feel everything: the good, the bad, the ugly, the despair, the difficulties, the joy, the sorrow. We are simply not stuck there. With indifference, we feel nothing.

This makes me think of how much we are nowadays focused on near-enemies.

Activity, for example, that is an active force, a state in which things happen and are being done, is often mistaken for its near-enemy busyness, that rarely leads to any progress.

In the same way, our popularity (definitely not a Buddhist concept), that is the condition in which we are liked, admired, supported by others, is often mistaken for its modern near-enemies likes, fans, followers, visits, clicks or any other vanity metric of your choice.

If we expand the concept a little, we can also see how easily we are distracted by near-enemies in our pursue of something we deem important. We do not want our community to be racist or bigot or closed, we want to pursue an ideal of openness. And to do that, we aim at a target, we attack, we label and brand, we separate. Ending up in a community that is even more close than it was before.

Near-enemies are an incredibly powerful concept. If we manage to go behind their seduction, if we do not fall for their attractiveness and easiness of reach, if we force ourselves to open to the real objective of our journey. That is when the highest states that we want to achieve – for us, our families, companies, communities – become not only attainable, but also natural.

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