The day you teach the child the name of the bird…

The day you teach the child the name of the bird, the child will never see that bird again.

– Jiddu Krishnamurti

To me, this quote is misguided.

Our stories obviously color our perception and life, and so also our stories about a bird.

The name of a bird is one story along with a range of other stories.

It’s possible that after knowing the name of a bird, we’ll be satisfied with the label and not bother so much with the bird anymore. But that can happen even if we don’t know the name of the bird. If someone responds that way, they probably would anyway.

And it’s also very possible to know the name of a bird, know that it’s just a human-made label to facilitate communication, and be fascinated by the bird. We can be in awe of it, notice a range of small details, get to know its behavior, and so on.

To me, this is an example of what Ken Wilber calls the pre/trans fallacy.

Yes, a baby without language may be fascinated by the bird. It may take it in without the particular filter of stories about the bird. (Although we still operate from a huge amount of other filters from our senses, physiology, evolution, and so on.)

And we can also learn the name and all sorts of other stories about the bird, recognize these as stories and know that reality is always more than and different from our stories, and operate from genuine curiosity, receptivity, and take in our sensory experiences of the bird.

This Krishnamurti quote may not only reflect the pre/trans fallacy, but also a generally cynical view on humanity.

Dream: Krishnamurti

I am with Jiddu Krishnamurti and he is clear and optimisic, but has one slight regret. He had hopes about a specific young man who he thought would be a light for humanity, and what happened didn’t exactly follow his ideas and hopes.

We have a free and flowing conversation, as if we are old friends who understand each other easily, and share our perceptions of a range of things. Someone says the easy connection is because we are at about the same level.

There is a sense that when he talks about the young man he had hopes for, he is talking about himself and me as well. In clarity and oneness, we are the same, and in our human expression there are a lot of similarities as if we were brothers.

We look at some art the young man had made, and Krishnamurti expresses some disappointment. I point out that the art is actually quite good, and he can see that as well. (It’s a watercolor with yellows and reds and a lot of layers and depth.)

I help him see that what happened was perfect in its own way, and that it was his ideas about what should happen that set him up for the disappointment. Life didn’t follow his ideas, and that doesn’t mean what happened was wrong. He agrees and is able to find more peace with it.

Through the dream, I had a sense that the three of us were the same, and I didn’t always know if he talked about himself, or the young man, or even me.

Of course, the topic of this dream reflects his own life. He was expected to be a light for humanity by theosophists, and then chose to go his own way. The young man in the dream did the same. And it reflects a theme in my own life. I had high hopes for myself – in art, psychology, research, and so on – and it didn’t materialize for a variety of reasons, including major health challenges.

The dream-maker in me may have chosen Krishnamurti for exactly that reason, and since it mirrors something in my own life. I generally like him, have read about him and some by him, and generally like his writings, but it hasn’t resonated as much with me as some others. (Adyashantiy, Byron Katie, Douglas Harding and so on.)

In the dream, I help him find peace with what happened, and even see that what happened had its own beauty. This is a process I have gone through in regards to myself and my own hopes and ideas about my own life, which took a different turn than the young version of me had hoped for or planned.

Just like Krishnamurti in the dream, I am helping myself see the beauty of what happened and find more real and genuine peace with it, grounded in a more honest and sincere relationship with it.

The essence of the dream is the easy connection and communication with Krishnamurti, as of old friends who understand each other well. The sense that the three of us – him, me, and the young man he is talking about – are all expressions of the same clarity and oneness, and even as humans have a lot in common. And helping finding peace with lost dreams and hopes, and seeing that what actually happened has its own beauty.

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Krishnamurti: No measure of health

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a sick society.

– Jiddu Krishnamurti

I partly agree. And it also seems slightly cynical to me, and it seems it can be used as an excuse to “check out of” or “rebel against” society.

I agree that it’s not necessarily a measure of health to unconsciously and in certain ways be well adjusted to our society. It’s perhaps not a measure of health to work yourself to the ground because it’s expected of you, or go to war to benefit corporations, or ignoring your own needs while trying to get love and appreciation from others.

At the same time, being healthy includes being well adjusted to society. We can be well adjusted, contribute in meaningful and valuable ways to society, and still chose to not participate in some of the expectations and habits of our society. We can even work to change society in constructive ways, including by supporting new expectations, structures and habits.

The quote does highlight something important, and perhaps especially in the historical situation it was initially said. At the same time, I would question both assumptions behind the quote, and also find examples of how the reverse is true.

The original:

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a sick society. Yes, I can find that. It’s possible to be well adjusted to unhealthy expectations and habits of our society. For instance, being really good at suing people with only money in mind, or increasing profits of your organization with little or no regard for the social and ecological consequences, or selling things that people don’t need, or producing things that destroy life. Or even to ignore our own needs and wishes, to the benefit of our work life, or an image, or being liked and accepted.

Our society is sick. I can find that too. We live in a society that’s not aligned with ecological realities, and where what’s easy and attractive in the short term – for individuals and organizations – sometimes is not good for society as a whole, and often is not good for ecosystems and future generations. We have organized ourselves in a very short-sighted way.

The reverse:

It is a measure of health to be well adjusted to our society. Yes, as mentioned above. It’s perfectly possible to be well adjusted to our society, not participate in certain expectations or habits, while actively contributing to creating a more healthy society. (However we envision a healthy society.)

Our society is healthy. Yes, in many ways. There is room for improvement. And in a historical context, we live in a quite amazing society where we are allowed to vote, speak our minds, explore our passions, and more.

Note: I assume that Krishnamurti spoke about our modern western society, since they lived there, the ones he mostly spoke to.

Inquiry on teachings

It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
– J. Krishnamurti

Someone posted this on Facebook, and it’s a reminder that statements (quotes, teachings) can be fertile ground for inquiry.

Some statements from the quote (which I don’t consciously believe, but it may still be helpful to look at):

Society is sick.

It’s not OK to be well adjusted to our society.

It’s not possible to be healthy and well adjusted to society.

And some that comes up for me:

It’s too conventional. (The people posting it are caught in conventional “anti-conformist” views.)

He is cynical / unclear. He hasn’t looked at it closely enough.

 Note: Although this quote doesn’t align with my conscious view, I may be surprised by what I find if/when I do inquiry on it. It’s a pretty common view so I have probably taken it in, and I remember holding it as a conscious view in my early/mid teens.