Look but DON’T Touch
February 27, 2020
Two Sides
March 12, 2020

Will it Help?

Photo by Ivan Obolensky

One of the definitions of judgement is the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. Judgment is formed from experience. Mistakes are regrettable, but by noting the actions we perform and observing the results, we develop a sense of what works and what doesn’t. The judgement of youth is often less. Ignorance makes it so.

Even those with experience can misjudge, but there is a way to ‘hack’ judgment that is remarkably effective. Ask the question: will it (your action, inaction, thought, emotion, fill-in-the-blank) help?

I came across this concept in the movie, Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks. A KGB operative is arrested and defended by Hanks. On numerous occasions the accused asks his attorney that question. The more I considered it myself, the more I realized the wonderful equanimity displayed by the defendant was the result of contemplating the answer.

Sometimes, we are sad, angry at ourselves, frustrated with others, or scared. Other times, we experience a situation but don’t know what to do, yet the circumstances demand action. What now? Consider if the action will help.

We don’t know at the time whether it will. The future will determine that, but by asking the question we can pause to consider the future effects of what we do.

Feel blue?  Ask yourself, will it help? Feel angry? The question is the same. As the Tao Te Ching points out in verse 26:

“The heavy is the root of the light.
The unmoved is the source of all movement.

“Thus the Master travels all day
without leaving home.
However splendid the views,
she stays serenely in herself.

“Why should the lord of the country
flit about like a fool?
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with who you are.”

Lastly from the end of verse 29:

“The master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
And resides at the center of the circle.”1

Does that help?

  1. Taken from Stephen Mitchell’s translation.

1 Comment

  1. Alicia says:

    Yes, that does help. Thank you, Ivan. Anxiously awaiting the sequel.

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