Codes and Misunderstanding

To some extent or other we all live by some code, which may or may not be rigid. It may be a professional code of conduct, it may be Budō or it may be Buddhism. We may live our lives according to Sharia or Kosher and have outward laws to be obeyed. If our colleagues are followers of Islam, we might make allowances for them to pray at certain times of day. It is unlikely that we will understand any code other than our own. Earlier today I talked of a core teaching which I hold sourced in the Dhammapada. Without knowing it, I held this long before I read Buddhism in depth. It is possible that my involvement with Buddhism is significantly longer than 53 years. The question is do I have the same “right” to this belief as someone avoiding pork on religious grounds? If so, there are many implications in regard of working with me, sufficient probably to make it too weird to be workable. Best then that I simply stay far away from status-obsessed people.

To give an illustration of how different codes work. I have been involved in martial arts since the age of 16, albeit with a long gap recently. Unless you have been involved like this you will have no comprehension of what that means. In all that time I have not lost my rag and hit someone in rage. In training I have choked people to the edge of unconsciousness. And fifteen years ago, I nearly came close to a big bust up. I used to live in Brixton and there is a gang culture there. One autumn evening I was walking back from the bus stop down a partially lit street laden with shopping. There was a gang of youths on the corner and they fired a firework rocket at me. One of them happy slapped me. They followed me down the street and it did not look good. I stopped, took off my ruck sack and coat and stood with my back to some railings. I adopted a fighting stance and seeing that there were nine or ten of them I decided to hold nothing back, to use lethal force if necessary. A couple of them made a move forward, full of bravado. They changed their minds and the gang sauntered off. After that I never had any trouble from them. According to their code, I was OK. Now this is not the kind of thing that one might expect from a bespectacled academic. Yet many have sat with me completely unaware of this aspect of me, they have some other ideas of what I am about. On occasion I have seen carotid arteries pulsing temptingly in the necks of angry people, but in each case, I managed to resist the temptation to give them a squeeze. Some came closer than they might ever have imagined.

pulling out a silly club, so you stand
with a fake-assed badge and a gun in your hand
but take off the gun so you can see what’s up
and we’ll go at it punk, and I’m a fuck you up!


Because I was involved in pastoral care and soft skills people assumed that I was all dove. Unlike many I can show restraint and control. But I do have another side. I am not an angry anti-establishment punk rocker, in me there is a deep philosophical underpinning and I can tolerate well, up to a point.

We do not know what code others live by, we may assume it to be similar to our own, when it may not be.

This difference in core-codes underpins much misunderstanding. We do not all seek the same thing, nor do we share the same aspirations. This last statement is an expression of the bleeding obvious, but it is amazing how quickly and profoundly this can be forgotten.

Many espouse one code or a code of conduct but for them it can be a flag of convenience. It can take more than a little effort to live up to a code. These are then by way of aspiration and not attainment, as of yet. The code is bent when it suits. All of us have at least some hypocrisy. The trick is trying to limit this. That way our words and deeds converge. As these converge the sense of peace and equanimity increases, as if by magic. People tend to misunderstand the deeper implications of the code they choose and espouse. In nearly all cases they are way deeper than first imagined.

Hmnn… I like that, it sounds much more do-able than any absolute….a work in progress…a middle path even…

The trick in living is to limit our hypocrisy and aim at getting our words and deeds to converge.