A pink camper adorned with rainbows and butterflies drove past. There were other words on it, probably peace or joy or something, but the one that caught my eye was at the top, by the sleeping nook. Discernment.
The problem: how can I maintain gentleness in the face of the desire? Especially when desire keeps telling me how gentle it can be and tangles me in word yarn? How can I keep an open heart with the narcissistic and the pissed off–even just the confused–without becoming a confused, aggressive, and defensive douche myself? How can I avoid the tit for tat when my tits would just like to go for it? The noble assistance of Wikipedia, was, this morning, as ever, at the ready.
The first part was okay:
“Discernment is the activity of determining the value and quality of a certain subject or event, particularly the activity of going past the mere perception of something and making detailed judgments about that thing. As a virtue, a discerning individual is considered to possess wisdom, and be of good judgement; especially so with regard to subject matter often overlooked by others.”
Wisdom? That would be nice. Good judgement? Ditto. Virtue? I try. Going past mere perceptions? My talent and my peril. Subject matter often overlooked by others? Sort of my specialty, especially in the desire department.
Which is when the bad news came:
“The mark of dispassion is true discrimination; for one who has attained the state of dispassion does all things with discrimination and according to measure and rule. Without dispassion, however, you cannot achieve the beauty of discrimination”
Dispassion? After that word, I was all ready to hear something like, “and for God’s sake you don’t want that–ever passionate, ever bold!” –so deeply ingrained is “Passionate” as one of my personal signifiers. So then I’m like, well fuck discernment then. Overrated, like temperance. If wisdom is disembodied, you can keep it. If I have to be lashed to the wheel of fortune and its concomitant suffering, then I’m going to take the body’s warm/hot consoling joys as well.
Maybe that slash is the problem. Warm/Hot. Intimacy/Desire. Defended/Graceful. Those are some pretty unstable dichotomies. I have typically chosen passion over reason every time, taken the cues of the body, that handy ship of learning. But what’s a ship without a captain? The captain is not a captain without a ship and the ship is just metal but for the sailing. It takes some humility for the captain to know the power isn’t all hers, no matter how much desirous diesel she’s put in the tank. The purpose and the power of sailing are only realized through the skillful relationship between captain and ship. Discernment is what keeps the cargo ship captain from flying the jet. Or the jet from yearning for the coxswain. Coxswain is a fun word to use and means boat servant, so I only sort of digress…
Discernment is easily squatted on by all the negative connotations of discrimination, but only if I don’t trust my instincts. Only if I choose defended over graceful. The shitty bits of discrimination come from judging without holding steady in my own humility and gentleness. Just making assumptions all over the place is not discernment, but rather the worst discrimination has to offer. That word could really use a little re-grounding and redemption. Pull it out of the stereotypical language ghetto, so to speak.
Luckily, Wikipedia is pretty straightforward in its final summation:
“Discernment is the ability to make wise decisions in difficult situations.”
That seems pretty do-able. There’s no room for wisdom, or its pretty cousin grace in the uglier forms of discrimination. Maybe that’s it all there is to it, idea-wise. Maybe discernment is desire tempered by grace. I’ll try that and get back to you.