How A Famous Dance Show Reminds Us That Judgment Is Simply An Illusion

When we judge someone or even ourselves, we make the mistake in believing that this evaluation is the truth, and that this person (or our self) is truly the judgment we have made; not realizing that at its core, this is an illusion.

Is a judgment the truth, or an irrelevant label?

Here’s an example that will explain this much better than logic. You know those dancing and singing TV shows, where there are usually a few judges that determine who’s better, what score they got out of ten and so on? Well it turns out these shows are really about the judges and not the dancers/singers/artists.

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So, a dancer does a routine and then a judge (or five) decides on whether it was good, bad, 9 out of 10, sloppy, excellent, whatever. But replace these three judges with three of their peers, and the results could be totally different. Notice how there’s no such thing as an arbitrary label like a good or bad dancer? One judges amazing dancer could be another’s mediocre dancer. A judge versed in psychedelic-folk-jazz isn’t going to fall in love with someone dancing the waltz. Everyone has different tastes and preferences.

Any label applied to one of the dancers is really the judge telling us how he/she thinks. “I think you are fantastic,” “I thought that was too slow,” “I rate you 9 out of 10.” They’re telling us all about themselves, and usually we try and apply these labels to the person being judged. So the winners and losers on these shows are merely a reflection of the judges.

Who or what is judging?

dyerquoteWhere do these judgments come from? Why would one judge pay more attention to maybe the rhythm of the dancer, and another the flexibility, or grace? Why are there so many varied opinions of the one dance? Because of people’s past –the experiences that they have been privy to prior to the dance. A person exposed more to the cha-cha during the past, will think differently than someone versed in contemporary.

Not only are these overlays/judgments a reflection of the judge rather than the dancer, but they are also a reflection of the judge’s past! They are saying “my past experiences have amalgamated into all these preferences, and here’s where you fit into that.”

Just as the judge is only telling us about themselves, so too do we when we judge or evaluate someone/thing. When we say or think something like “that person is just a fool,” we are merely telling somebody how we think, nothing more. The illusion is that our judgment is true, when it is not. A concept or label will never replace a person or an experience.

Here is a short clip of Sogyal Rinpoche (author of Tibetan book of the living and dying) on meditation and non-judgemental awareness.

“There are no good thoughts and no bad thoughts in reality, ultimately they are our interpretation.”

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13 comments
  1. I absolutely agree. When someone is passing judgment what they are revealing is their own fears, self doubt, etc. Thus it is up to us that see this to show the judger compassion and understanding so that they can move past judging others to feel better about themselves.

    1. one can only re-cognize that which one has literally embodied or personally come to know and understand 🙂

    2. So true! It’s easy to judge a judger, not realising that we’re doing the very thing that we’re seeing in another. Compassion, awareness and love will help dissolve these patterns.

  2. considering the times we are living in and things that few of us know, judgement day is not the day God will come down and judge us… it’s the other way around.

  3. So what you’re saying is that it’s useless to judge someone or a situation as being good or bad – no absolutes – and that truth is subjective and illusory? Or my truth is different than your truth? Your premise, if my assumption is correct, seems a bit rudderless.

    As well, you mention that this perspective can only be seen from an emotional point of view rather than a logical one? If this is true, then throwing out 5,000 years of western civilization based on logic rather than irrational emotion, seems a bit of a stretch and quite frankly dangerous. Why not use both?

    Logically you build a strawman argument about judging dancers on TV. Then you knock it down as a shining example of how judging people or things is relative and subjective and only reflects the shortcomings of the person judging. So are we not to judge others for their actions and deeds just because it’s only a reflection of ourselves or that a Buddhist religionist says so?

    If you want absolutes in life to judge properly, you need to use emotion and logic not throwing the latter out with the bathwater. A moral compass is important and most people don’t have one believing new age doctrine as an end all and be all. Most people today suffer from cognitive dissonance to such a high degree, they are lost without rudder on a sea of putrefied muck. If the reader would like something to help navigate life being able to discern and judge properly and not forgo judging what is good and what is bad, then here it is:

    “Don’t steal!”

    There it is. It’s simple. It’s the Law of Nature or Universe in all its forms and is what western jurisprudence is based on. This is also the basis of property rights in all its forms. However today most laws are not laws at all but arbitrary rules, regulations, statutes, promulgations, policies and procedures. Ironically people follow them blindly out of fear not knowing that in by doing so they break real Law.

    Judging a dancer and laughing at his or her attempt while ridiculing with mean spirited words, is an illusion and does show a reflection of the one who judges. The one who judges is stealing the opportunity of the other for self expression shutting them down in the process. The one who judges is hiding and thus robbing the truth from oneself losing the ability to dance themselves with self expression in all its forms. This is why when one judges others too harshly, one is also judging oneself too harshly. At first one may enjoy laughing at another’s expense but in time the same will be visited on the one who judges and be laughed at causing the same pain one dished out. It’s Law and ignorance of it is no excuse seeing that it’s so simple to understand for those with half a brain still functioning.

    If someone kills another, as in a war of aggression or on a street corner, they steal the other’s life and will have to pay back in some way for their actions. Killing is bad. Judge it to be so. The Law of cause and effect states that with every action there is an opposite reaction. What goes around comes back around. To tell your children not to fight at school but be happy when they pick up arms and kill strangers overseas is hypocritical and breaks Law in thought and action.

    If a robber steals money from you, it’s bad and immoral. Certainly I can judge that to be bad can’t I? If an agent or officer demands a fee or money from you for not having a license, late payment or whatever, it’s still stealing because you are being coerced with threats or violence into handing over your property. That’s stealing! You cannot have it both ways and judge one as being theft and the other just a simple fee. Most people cannot tell the difference and agree with certain kinds of theft while thinking at the same time other kinds are bad or evil – theft in any form is bad and immoral yet people are conflicted thinking that stealing property from one group of people to give it to another is righteous and just.

    Most people follow man’s laws and at the same time are breaking Nature’s Law in thought and action everyday. If we say there is no truth, no absolutes and nothing can be logically judged properly, we give up our right to use a combination of tempered emotion and logic to empower ourselves. When we all start respecting and judging correctly what is right and wrong without threats of violence, there will be peace on earth. Until then, expect more theft in all its forms.

    1. You do make some valid points with which I myself agree, but what the author is drawing attention to is that each of us have lived for the most part unique lives, and therefore all of us–generally speaking–are at different points of development; and that the judgments we make, and the nature thereof, are informed by our unique journeys. Lastly, the video draws attention to the truth that there is nothing inherently bad or good–of course something might be bad or good in relation to an aim or ambition, desire or dream, et cetera–and that badness or goodness is not a matter of reality but a matter of mind.

    2. Hi Fred,

      The premise of this post is one aspect of a person freeing themselves from the grip of ego; of placing themselves in the position of a separate entity that judges others and oneself. “Rudderless” is your judgement, and is a word, a symbol that replaces what i have said and my intention. Don’t make too many assumptions Fred, this is also the crux of my post.

      Why not throw out 5,000 years of the western way of doing thing? Look around you, is it working? It’s not such a big step in throwing out this mode of being either. This civilisation is based upon the notion of separate people, separated from nature, and the notion that we are individuals who are either a meat bag and bones or a mind locked up in a head. Surely it’s time to analyse this idea that life is based upon, and see whether there is truth in it.

      This really has nothing to do with buddhism or any religion. It comes about through open minded inquiry.

      If we were to take the very large step of ceasing to apply a label to a person, i.e. calling someone a christian, a muslim, american, african, accountant, father, good person, bad person, then imagine how united we could possibly be… Imagine if it was possible for someone to HAVE christian ideals, and someone who HAS muslim ideals, but for them to both identify each other as fellow human beings. Imagine if someone who lives in a country called america, saw that someone who lives in iraq are simply both people of the Earth, imagine how many barriers would be broken down.

      As for someone stealing from you. You say it’s bad right? What do they say it is? What are the possibly starving kids who they are providing for say it is? We fragment out reality so much, and say “oh yes that, that action was bad, that person was in the wrong.” When really, these “problems” are symptoms of something much, much deeper. By labelling someone/thing as bad, where does that get us? Nowhere. What if we could look on each person, each action as a representation of the whole, and act from that place with compassion? If everybody did this, then stealing would not exist. But this scenario won’t occur until each of us individually make this change, from a judging, labelling ego, to our true nature.

      Thank you for your query Fred 🙂

      1. I like how you’ve de-capitalized (notice the pun; similar to how capital runs capitals; of the irony) the names of countries. A lovely touch. A practice that I think I will adopt 🙂 I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I shall. Did you get that idea from (if I remember his name correctly) Martin’s book?

      2. I had to make assumptions on the premise you offered; judging something and believing it to be true is an illusion. Now that you’ve stated your premise more clearly, it’s easier to see what you’re trying to convey. Your thesis of non judgment and freeing yourself of judging with the ego what is good or bad and right or wrong is a good place to start. However, not judging anything is a mistake and is where I think your premise could be expanded to cover correct judgment. One can judge a person or thing without the use of the ego. Some red berries are good to eat and some colorful mushrooms are not – in fact they’ll kill you. You should not hang out with some people because they’ll get everyone into trouble. Not all judgment comes from the ego. Just my opinion so take it for what it’s worth as it was free.

        This oneness principle you speak of goes back to the Law of Nature that if you give to another, you too will receive. Or if you steal, you will be stolen from as you are really just taking from yourself anyway. Do unto others and all that good stuff. If there were true separation, this law would not work. Yet this Law seems not apply to you because as you state and believe that it’s bad to judge starving kids stealing as being bad because it’s good for them however bad for me. Or as in the example above, is it somehow good for the mushroom or poisoned berry?

        When you say that I should look around at modern western civilization to see that it’s not working is again a strawman argument and illogical. Just because the western world is in turmoil doesn’t mean you can blame is on logic that was founded in Greece thousands of years ago. What if logic isn’t being used much today like it was meant to be? What if it is no longer taught in schools like it was over a 100 years ago and known as a Liberal Education? This would be a great place to open one’s mind and inquire about liberal education vs. modern schooling to see where western civilization has taken a wrong turn for the worse.

        Certainly I can judge modern schooling to be bad and not good. It’s a horrible system and I would not allow my kid to go there and be dumbed down and come out after 12 years not being able to think logically. This is not an ego judgment but one founded on existential evidence and logic. I can also judge the teachers being nothing more than authoritarians and school administrators as wardens socializing my child without much of my input from 9am to 4pm. Should I put blame where it may lay at the feet of the modern schooling system and its rotten fruit of the modern illogical civilization around me? Or is it Aristotle and Socrates fault? Or better yet, should I not judge it to be good or bad and dutifully send my kid off everyday?

        I agree that labels limit a thing. Is not labeling a person or people going to bring world peace? Doubt it. It’s not a label problem but a respect for other people’s property problem. Most humans are so dumbed down by an illogical schooling system that they can easily be sold a lie about labels and then pick up a gun and go off to murder others in far off lands stealing their resources and lives. Was it the label or lack of logical thinking that was the problem?

        Again, you use another logical fallacy in stating that if I am against thieving kids, then I don’t care that it helped them or that I’m heartless or something to that effect. Never does it cross most people’s minds to ask a simple question of why the kids are starving and forced to steal. If you looked a little deeper you would most likely see that someone has stolen from them and so on and so forth. So your solution is to now say it’s okay for them to steal from me and I should not label or judge it to be bad as it gets us nowhere because it’s good for them. Well, it’s not good for them because they are breaking Law and using threats and violence to get what they want. If you think stealing from other people is okay until the day we can all see each other as One, then ‘you’ are the source of the problem in the world you rail against.

        I usually make it a point to tithe beggars in the street. Suggest everyone else do the same even if they are a fraud. I know that by helping them, I will be helped one day when I need it. Selfish right?

        If you want to make a difference in the world, try practicing the non-aggression principal and start respecting other people’s property. You are free to do whatever you want as long as you don’t harm another or his/her property. It’s so bloody simple that it’s over most people’s heads. Logic is not the problem, stupidity is.

        1. Anthony, yeah mate, i like to steer clear of these psychological labels to bits of land. I didn’t get it from anywhere, I just don’t see any separation between this ocean and that one, this land on earth and that bit of land.

          Fred, you didn’t have to make any assumptions at all, that was your choice 🙂

          Do we need to judge mushrooms to know that they’re dangerous for us? I find these examples that people create to try and justify ego existing as just the mind creating situations for itself to keep on doing its thing.
          It seems we’re not going to see eye to eye on this, and that’s fine.

          These words bad and good. What do they mean? You’re still applying judgement to things, replacing the described with a description. Do you think that objectively schools are bad, or do you think that in your eyes they are bad? Things just are as they are. Any label you apply to it, is getting caught up in the words and their meaning.

          Just remember, every person, every action is an expression of the whole. Nothing can ever be fragmented out. We can’t look at someone stealing and think that this is an evil person, born evil, just doing evil things. This is missing out on the whole picture. We can, however, see that many people are acting from the way they have been conditioned, and we can put a stop to this madness by instead of reinforcing the conditioning, we act from love and compassion. Now i know that you’re going to refute this and say the opposite, and that’s fine. I’m speaking for myself, and i see the good in everybody, i see myself in everybody, and therefore i love all of it.

        2. I gave it all to a lot of people until I had nothing and nobody gave me back… your LAW its a shitty law and you are full of it… because of the `property` concept people are aggressive so, you twist it in words and make it a law. and you think you are right… so, this is judgemental and aggressive. Maybe because there is fear. Be in contact with people and nature, make peace and feel it. Where is LAW there`s FEAR, but where is ORDER there is LOVE. So, order not laws. Nature`s order… PEACE!

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