To judge

To judge means to come to an affirmative conclusion, whether the process be a quick or a studied reflection. Judgment suggests thorough attention to nuances and thorough access to the relevancy involving a person or situation. But often it is not the case. whether studied or hasty, judgment implies certainty that is definitive. Neither seems optimal, especially if what is being judged is itself a passing phenomenon, an avoidance, or a prejudice made manifest. On that basis comes the advice of Jesus: “Do not judge.”

The factors for judging unerringly or simply without scruple, mercilessly, as it were, are seldom available in a totality. If the situation to be judged does not, ultimately, matter — not to oneself at any rate — judgment is a mere alternative to a lack of caution. We may want to judge what we take to be thoroughly embedded in an infrastructure of harm, but lots of people will make uninformed statements about what we observe without knowing much about the context and circumstances.

So judgement may be perpetually tentative, leaning towards a flattery of our prejudices, or, less nefariously, coaxing ourselves to a safe ambiguity or relativism, a lackadaisical avoidance of having to make up one’s mind. After all, our instinct is to fight or flee, that is, to judge and fight or judge and flee. Sometimes the effort to fight is literal and violent, sometimes it is just anger-provoked fulminations. To judge in a hasty, prejudicial obnoxious way is usually the reaction of crude and stupid people. Most people want to avoid provocation to anger. It doesn’t mean that their style is less stupid or erroneous.

But the rest of the saying of Jesus about not judging is “… lest you be judged.” This is the obverse of fight, the caution and foresight that must accompany all judgment, however accurate in one’s eyes. We expose ourselves to backlash, namely of the nuances of the situation that will undermine or invalidate the presumed power of our judgment. And this can happen with any abstract or theoretical issue, or event a real–life situation when one claims one thing and another person claims another, or when one argument seems sound but another has its logic, too. The pragmatism of not judging lest you be judged is essentially paraphrased as “Do not fight lest you meet your match, and then what.”

But there is no counterpart harm to fleeing, no saying like “Do not flee lest you ..” Lest you what? Be shamed for not fighting? Be called a moral coward by those on the sidelines of your dilemma? Or, worse, be labeled with as suffering from an antisocial disorder, as would DSM5.

Judgment is the provenance of those enmeshed in the world, bent upon making broad moral statements, even fulminating against nature, the world, society and the design of the universe — if not their neighbor or others not like themselves. Note that the motive here is not knowledge or experience or understanding but speaking, projecting one’s thoughts and emotions beyond the circumscribed world of that self. Indeed, if the judge lives within very narrow circumstances, others may suffer from these outbursts more than the world — one’s family, acquaintances, work colleagues, little circumscribed circles. The more power one has, the more impact the judgments will make, and the more noxious the results because of the “fight” element intrinsic to all expression. The advantage of the powerful, and what makes them uninhibited in their dispensing judgments, is that their judgments have a more noxious impact on larger and larger social circles, circles based on power that expands with every judgment.

The absence of judgment is the “flight” aspect of the duality of response. Perhaps the flight suggests fear or social avoidance. Perhaps, as many common people are wont to say, silence or lack of fighting engagement and repartee means fear. Such a view is so entangled with social relations and protocols that it represents a fear in itself. But to avoid society because of its inevitable habit of setting up social and psychological power over others, over ourselves, is not relativism or fear. Are we to praise the predator and admonish the prey? — for that is the relationship that society has constructed for all of its vital activities.

When we break out of the worldly paradigm, we become hermits, not in the sense of social avoidance but in the sense of leaving the world behind to its errors. We judge the world — that is inevitable. But we judge “back” as it were, we do respond but not with violence or anger, without cowardice but with courage, made or forced to respond to the world’s “fight” instinct. So the hermit flees, and that flight constitutes a judgment, but it avoids judging anyone or anything as well. The sage goes to the mountain or forest or desert no longer motivated by repugnance or exasperation. Truth is not in society or in the world but there in the silence and solitude.

Body, health, solitude

The hypersensitivity towards the body today has its ironic counterparts in two divergent classic points of view: the derived hedonism of ancient Greek thought mistakenly identified as Epicureanism, and the extreme asceticism described in the biography of the Buddha which he attempted but came to reject.

Both extremes view the body as an irresistible physical blunt force to be exploited, either for pleasure or for the antithesis of pleasure. In both cases, the body is assigned an ineluctable essence contrary to any subtle or cooperative context in the breadth of being and function.

Society is always on the brink of either extreme as a model of power and temptation, but usually, given the average person, society slouches towards hedonism. The other extreme of asceticism is reserved in the popular mind as a temptation for the scrupulous, of which there are fewer, it seems, every day, unless their scruples are quietly turned into neuroses, in which case they intersect with the hypersensitive of the hedonist school. Again, most people avoid the extremes from wariness if not conviction or taboo.

In contrast, the body is better conceived as a conduit of living forces by other, subtler, traditions: the temple of the Holy Spirit by mature Christianity, or the channel of energies by yogic and Eastern schools of thought. In both cases the body is viewed as a natural living entity with a necessary ordering function that promotes optimal health functions for physical and mental well-being. Such a view can then better sustain other fields of human efforts: ethics, environment, and proper social relations, extrapolations not available to the narrow indulgent’s views of the body as bundles of evolutionary instincts to be either crushed or exploited.

The premises of the solitary with regard to a system of thought about the body thus becomes relevant. The average person of average beliefs and habits succumbs to cultural norms that do not promote health or healthy habits while at the same time curbing the moralistic aspects of this indulgence. Gluttony, sloth, or other vices are acceptable under different names and more circumspect indulgence. Such a person may object that they do not pursue extremes, that they are not ascetics or hedonists. This protestation will fit the spectrum. They are in the average, the mean, the norm, of indulgence versus abstinence. But in the case of food habits, any participation in the average fare of modern culture will itself be a form of indulgence, for modern culture promotes a point of view that is unnatural. The food technology industry masks the natural character of food with unnatural food, unnatural food growing, and contrived “food.” Bodily health and its attainment is therefore nearly impossible with the given fare of modern society.

From eating habits to views of health, medicine, and disease, credence to cultural habits impact economics, knowledge, environment, and the entirety of social and cultural premises about peace, harmony, and well-being.

The goal of the solitary in safeguarding the physical aspects of solitude is linked to maintenance of health and avoidance of society’s exploitation of the body through sources of disease and debilitation. Indeed, these sources only come from society’s technological contrivances and modifications. In this effort, most people will pursue an extreme, themselves being at an unwitting extreme of indulgence that has become so mundane that it is not recognized. True, the care of the body (and health) echoes the ascetic’s discipline of appetite, but this practice can be conducive to health without being labelled an extreme. The ancient hermits were often extreme — or stories about them went to extremes in order to make a point. But as with any perception, the wisdom of self-discipline is in the observation to be incorporated into one’s life and habits, for there is to be found a source of wisdom distinct from the act or motive of the past era.

Reincorporation of what is lost, the safeguarding of the temple, the opening of the energy flow, bring us into conformity and harmony with larger forces. Regulating the complex of bodily activities becomes a responsibility to those who want to understand and promote their well-being — the opposite of a passivity that accepts society’s definitions of food and food habits. This internal harmony becomes a ground for mind and spirit, a prerequisite condition for working towards greater well-being.

The solitary is best disposed to pursue these goals of well-being because of the predisposition to avoid social pressures in media, health, consumption, life-style, and conformity. Ultimately, good habits and self-discipline extend the solitary’s efforts to cultivate the ongoing state that daily vitalizes the sense of well-being that is intrinsic to solitude.