False Face

The Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine.
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

William Blake

A couple of days ago I was listening to Poetry Please on Radio 4 as I drove to Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey. This poem stood out as one I’d want to link to here. It speaks to something we probably all do at some level.

When we are completely honest with ourselves does friend mean somebody like me and foe mean not like me?

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3 thoughts on “False Face”

  1. Hello Reverend Mugo

    Thank you for another thought-provoking blog entry.

    In response to your question, and maybe I’m not being completely honest with myself here, I am not so sure that foe necessarily means “someone not like me”. To illustrate the point I am thinking of working life in a large corporation. It is an age-old situation, but during these austere times there is a heightened sense of competition, resulting in a need to be seen to be “adding more value” than colleagues so that when the axe next falls, it will not be “me” that gets the chop. In it’s most repugnant form, this type of competition can also lead people into doing each other down, i.e. poisenous apples aplenty. Sadly, such insidious activity can be fairly widespread and I have certainly played a part in it. I strongly suspect that the people who partake in it have very similar motivations. In that sense at least, people can simultaneously be alike and also be foes.

    For me, the challenges posed by interactions with certain “other people” is perhaps the most difficult part of trying to lead a preceptual life. Maybe I am reading too much into your post, but I guess the foregoing example of corporate life may lead one to try to see the essential similarities between self and other. For me, seeing our common humanity is much, much easier to type about than to realise! However, whilst I keep on falling into emotions of anger, disappointment, resentment, revenge etc at the moment I can’t find a viable alternative to keep on trying that approach. Anyway, I often become confused on the subject, cannot make any claims of complete honesty but thought I’d share where I am up to in my rather fuzzy thinking in the hope that you and other readers might share some more of your thoughts and experiences on the subject.

    In gassho


  2. Not at all easy Andy because in those situations we are asked to give all up. It takes a lot of wisdom not to get sucked in. I have been in exactly those waters. The way out was to look at what I really needed. Good fortune.

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