11 Sep Cain in the train
CAIN IN THE TRAIN
It just happened today. I ran so everything was correct, everything was right. I played according to the rules, I obeyed the system as I usually don’t do, and I was punished. I was punished for doing what I thought was right.
For those familiar with Jordan Peterson, at least two ideas can be easily detected. The first is: if you want someone to completely stop doing a behavior, punish it when they think that what they were doing was right. For example, if your girlfriend brings you flowers, or makes you the dinner, and you behave as a rude asshole and tell her that you don’t like flowers, or that the dinner is tasteless; I can guarantee you that you have extinguished a behavior that probably was going to make you a lot of good in the future. When the intentions of someone are positive, and instead of being rewarded, these people receive a punishment, they learn very tough lessons. There are no rules on this world. No matter what I do because life is arbitrary. Why continuing behaving well if I am going to receive bad? And then, there is a continuous downhill straight to hell.
So, the second idea is the mythological representation of this very human process. So human, and so basic, that is the second tale in the Bible: the story of Cain and Abel. Abel was doing right and receiving good, while Cain was doing what he considered right and receiving bad. So unfair and unjust was the whole situation to Cain, that in a rapture of rage and revenge, he decided to inflict suffering in the way that he found most efficient. He killed his brother, Abel, the favorite of God. Most likely, before committing such an attempt of justice, Cain asked himself, “Why continuing trying to do good, if I am going to receive bad?”. And with such thoughts of destruction, he did his best to create bad, to directly alter the order and equilibrium of life, and express the chaos that he held inside outside in the world.
That is more or less the interpretation that I have done about the tale after reading Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life. An Antidote to Chaos”. I wasn’t sure to have understood it completely. I wasn’t sure to have found a clear example in my life to embody such lesson. While reading the book, I developed an intense level of responsibility for my life and the situation of my Being. When things are good and I am in Heaven, I am doing something right. But when things are bad, and looks like I am heading to Hell, it is probably because I have committed some sins.
Today, there were no sins, but I felt Hell very deep inside me.
I arrived just in time to catch the train (maybe the first sin). My attention was attracted by the look of some commuters (second sin). I didn’t have my ticket (third sin?). I asked a couple of train tickets reviewers on the platform whether I could buy the ticket directly to them since the train was almost arriving at the station. They said that I had to pay a higher price for buying it to them, even though there was no train around. So, I ran up, go to the machine and bought the ticket. Got distracted for a second. Hearing the whistle of the train and running downstairs to the platform to catch the train before the doors closed. Safe and sound. Complete success.
I was calmly reading in heaven, with my smartphone at home (something done right) and my full attention on the content of the book (“21 Lessons for the 21st Century” – Harari). A book that I actually bought, me, that I am used to downloading pdf’s online. So, I assume that I was doing the right thing. A legal and moral book, in a legal and moral train, with a legal and moral ticket. I was feeling at peace, the heavenly peace of knowing that you are doing the right thing to do. I have traveled a lot in the past in a more hellish situation, whether the tickets were consciously wrong, or the conditions had been altered. But in this case, I was right, I was good, I was moral. All was good.
Maybe too good, considering that in our capitalistic society the entrance to certain types of Heavens is more expensive than others.
Two train tickets reviews passed by next to me while I was about to hand them the ticket, but they didn’t ask me anything. I supposed that the morality of my behavior was irradiating around, so they didn’t even need to ask me for the ticket. They seated a couple of places in front of me. All in calm. Good for reading. Maybe too calm. Too good for reading.
Arriving at my destination, I was deeply focused on my reading. However, part of my mind was thinking about the consequences and the feelings of behaving morally, and how although reluctant at the beginning, the outcome of doing the right things is always positive. The train is slowing down, is arriving. I am about standing up to go out of the train but I want to read another paragraph, I am only 4 paragraphs away to finish the chapter (Greed of knowledge is also a sin, isn’t it?). A third reviewer appears on my left and asks me about the ticket.
“No problem,” I think. “I did the right thing”.
I open my backpack and hand the ticket.
“ID,” he says.
“Well, he wants to check the date, since it is a ticket for young people, and I am still under 25”.
“Yes, the date is right. But I am going to have to charge a supplement because you are in first class”.
My whole peace and bliss disappear in an instant. Tragedy strikes. I got incredibly annoyed and refused to pay the difference.
“I am not gonna pay a fine when I know that what I did what was right.” I thought.
“It was obviously a mistake,” I tell him, “I don’t care at all about where I am sitting. The second class is only 5 meters away. Do you think that I care about walking 5 meters?”
It doesn’t matter. It is too late because I already showed him the ID and he got the data that he wanted, which wasn’t my birth date. Maybe, too much trust and willingness to show my credentials was another mistake, another sin.
“Be as good as Jesus, but don’t let them crucify you”.
“Call the police,” I told him. “I am not gonna pay a fine”
If I wouldn’t have shown him the ID, he would have had a hard time trying to get it from me. But it was too late. I felt the fire of Hell coming up from my feet to my face and chest. I felt the unfairness and the injustice of God over my Being.
“Tell me your name. I am gonna write a reclamation. There are two other reviewers in the wagon, they showed me filling the paper, and they didn’t tell me anything.”
“I am just doing my job”
Later, overthinking the conversation, I have a moment of “l’esprit de l’escalier” [staircase wit], that sensation that is left when after an argument you come up with the right words. “You are doing your job, right. But what are the ethics of your job? Nazi soldiers were also doing their jobs.” A bit over-dramatic, but works the same. Brokers investing in manufacturing military weapons and managers of textile factories using child labor are also doing their jobs.
I was still trying to prove how wrong it was what he was doing.
“You know that when people are doing good, and they received bad, they stop doing good. What is the reason for doing the right thing, if what I receive is bad?” Following Peterson has to be useful at some point.
It didn’t matter what I told him since he had already put the sanction.
“I will write a reclamation.” He didn’t seem to care.
So, that is just half of the story, since Cain jumped off the train feeling the Hell wildly burning inside him. I took the other train plotting about ways to destroy the facilities of the train, just so my fine would end up paying the costs of the reparation. I was being consumed by rage, and a multitude of thoughts about aggressiveness and violence were invading every corner of my mind.
Stop. Meditate. “That is what I teach.”
I seated on the other train, looking with bloody eyes to the new ticket reviewer, an old woman that was probably two years away from retirement. “If she asks me for the ticket, I will bark her like a panther.”
I put my hands on my legs, my feet well placed on the floor, and breathe.
“I am unusually well dressed, with a shirt, with shoes. I was thinking that looks matter, thinking that something matters in this fucking life, and then that fucking shit happens to me. Fuck! It is so unfair.”
“Focus on your breath. Focus on your breath.”
My mind was a merciless battlefield of thoughts. I was trying to feel my body, but my thoughts were wild and aggressive like beasts released from a long-life torturer.
“Focus on your breath. Focus on your breath.”
“If she dares to touch me while I am meditating, I will tear off her hand.”
“She is just an old lady. Don’t generate more suffering in the world. She has nothing to do with what happened before.”
“Okay. But I will not talk to her. I will not open my eyes. I will not move.”
“Bonjour,” the woman says.
Immobile, still, silent. Observing how his words spark more aggressive thoughts.
“Bonjour, Monsieur! Bonjour, Monsieur!” No reaction.
Then, she taps my shoulder. I don’t move. She taps me harder.
I open my eyes. Look at her as if I want to kill an old lady that is not responsible of what is going on inside me. “Do not increase the suffering of the world.” I think.
“Le ticket, s’il vous plait.”
“The ticket?! The ticket?! I have the ticket. Here is the ticket!” I was about giving her the one I bought at the station, but I gave her the one with the fine, the one I had received on the other train.
She just puts it in the machine, checks it, and says “It is okay” and keeps on walking.
“Fuck! For that, she has interrupted me?! Fuck!”
The train arrives at the final destination, but I have a lot to work on. I remain there, still, breathing, feeling my anger, and trying to avoid listening to my thoughts.
“Hell is inside. No one around cares about how you are feeling. The rage you feel won’t change anything. It is just making you feel bad. You are suffering because you want to. It is purposeless to experience this.”
I breathed in, hold the air a bit longer, and observe how my mind gets incredibly peaceful in a matter of seconds. I experience bliss for a couple of seconds, and then some thoughts come back, but this time weaker.
“I will be here in the train as long as it needs. It doesn’t matter if it starts moving away. I will sit here and wait until I reach the peace again.”
At some point, I start opening my eyes, looking at the furniture of the train, still thinking of ways to destroy something, still thinking about revenge.
“Keep on moving. Be practical. Don’t create new sankharas. Send the reclamation email, and try to calm down.”
I get off the train. And on my way to the office, I remember that I had forgotten a series of conferences that started in the early morning. I am obviously late. I want to check the information on the phone, but my phone is at home.
“Very good, my friend. Very good.”
I ask my colleague to check the information. She does. And, I am going to the destination. I go downstairs, open a door, and hear how it bumps against the shoulder of a girl that was naively walking on the corridor.
“Sorry” I utter without the slight hint of remorse.
“It is okay,” she says.
“Well, you better look around next time when you are walking,” I think while I walk briskly almost pushing over her friend.
“You better look around next time when you are walking.” Exactly the same lesson that would have avoided the whole story… Life does this types of things too often to me. Showing me how prone I am to teach others the very exact lesson that I have to learn.
I arrive at the auditorium, sit down, and try to focus on what is going on. Not really working. Writing always helps. It always helps. I jot down some ideas and think about the moment when I will find time to sit down and put everything out (about one hour and a half ago).
Thus, I don’t know to which point writing is creating Sankharas, or healing them. It is an interesting metaphor, since making the Sankhara really fixed and stable, I can feel how I feel better. I have been trying to send the email with my complaint repeated times since the website is not working, and even calling the customer service without spitting my anger at the worker at the other side of the line. I felt more in control but still enraged.
Thanks to this small adventure, I have been able to understand a bit better the tale of Cain and Abel, and how the world can become an incredible unjust place exactly on the same day you are trying to do everything right. But it happens. So, what better than to learn from the experience.
The fact is that now, I have the option of coming back home with the train again. But I am so tempted to lock myself in the toilets and not buy a ticket, that I rather do some hitchhiking, just to recover the faith on humankind.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you learn something.
“Don’t create new Sankharas”
Keep on trying, keep on trying.
Love to you all.