The Metaphysics of Respect

People often seem to be under the curious notion that respect is something that will just be handed to them on a silver platter. I’ve often said that things such as: money, material acquisitions, titles and stations, or having male genitalia do not automatically gain you respect, at least not in my eyes. But many people seem to be under the notion that all they need are these things in order to have respect simply dropped at their feet. There are situations when yes, respect is a thing to be demanded. However, if the persons to which you are demanding the respect find that you consistently cannot back up that pitbull mouth with your poodle ass, then they are just gradually going to become frustrated with you over time. At the very least. Action talks. Bullshit walks.

Now don’t get me wrong. Ego is a great thing to have. I’ve never agreed with the notion that one shouldn’t have ego in a spiritual tradition. If you want to live without ego, become a snapping turtle. Egoes are important. They are our sense of self as higher-thinking and functioning entities. It’s what you do with it that can ultimately fuck you up and piss off those around you. When I see things like jealousy, backbiting, or two-faced behavior, it tends to tell me two things: that the person or persons involved are highly insecure, and behaving in a cowardly way. An in spiritual systems that would be termed “warrior traditions”, this sort of thing is especially unwelcome. It’s like the crippled elk attempting to conceal a broken leg from the wolf. Or an injured seal leaving a trail of blood in shark-infested waters. The inevitable fallout from these types of behaviors takes away from the goal, and can distract those around you and hinder their progress. What do you have to offer? What do you have to give? How do you plan on helping those around you, even if it means lending your back to allow someone to step up higher than you?

In very traditional spiritual systems such as Palo (Kimbisa, Brillumba, Mayombe, and etc), Quimbanda and Ocha/Santo, the individual takes second place to the needs of the munanso, ile, household, family, what have you. If all you’re doing is spending time figuring out how to tear another person down, then you’re largely missing the point. As my Yayi tells me: The size of the prenda does not reflect the ability of the palero. Knowledge, wisdom, patience and strength of character will get you many places. Material objects won’t. The former are things that need to be earned through hard work and respect to those around you. Showing up at a household with your hand out will get you nowhere. If you have a lot of money to throw at a fancy car, and yet don’t know how to drive, then you’re just a chump with a useless hunk of metal. And anyway, if you don’t have a driver’s license, no amount of strutting or money-waving will encourage any scrupulous car dealer to sell you an expensive car. If you’re going to talk the talk, then expect to walk the walk. Otherwise you will simply be left in the dust.

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