We are often pulled between trusting either the advocates or the critics of something. By ‘we’, perhaps I mean the small ‘t’ ‘taoist in us all. The partisan ‘we’ seldom bats and eye before favoring one side or the other.
Advocacy and praise is mostly a projection of one’s own beliefs. Either that or just a cynical attempt to sell us something. That aside, sincere belief is really, and quite naturally, blind. (Nature needs to have it just that way.)
We simply believe what we desire; And we desire what we believe will make us happy. Criticism, on the other hand, is usually (if not always) a projection of ignorance. Ignorance being a kind of negative blindness. In either case, the blind-spot rules. Obviously, it is problematic trusting either advocate or critic, so again, who or what can we trust?
As Buddha said, we must experience ‘it’ (what ever ‘it’ may be) to truly know(1). Alas, we can’t test out everything, so what shall we do? I find it is helpful to be as impartial as possible, like a judge, and examine why I am being drawn to either the positive or negative story I hear. If I haven’t actually experienced the circumstance, then I’m being swayed by some underlying bias, which is influenced by deeper needs and fears. That said, experience alone is no panacea by any means.
To truly experience something external, I must become ‘it’. I must internalize ‘it’ to the point where I cease to exist… only ‘it’ remains. Well, no, it is more like a merging of I and other, until there is neither an ‘I’ nor other ‘it’. Yes, it is a tall order, and one not really necessary to execute. Indeed, to do that would be unnatural!
In summary, my approach to this question, “who do you trust”, precipitates (settles out) like this:
(1) passionately taking the issue at face value, and with choose sides;
(2) calmly withholding judgment until gaining some personal first hand experience with the issue;
(3) sincerely leaving the ‘I’ behind and becoming that issue. This parallels the Hindu, “You are that” (Tat Tvam Asi).
(4) realizing that is just another ideal that gets in the way of being natural.
(5) smile (or frown depending on the mood at the moment)
(1) That is my interpretation. Buddha was apparently very diplomatic! Here are some other interpretations…
[From Wikipedia:] According to the scriptures, during his lifetime the Buddha remained silent when asked several metaphysical questions. These regarded issues such as whether the universe is eternal or non-eternal (or whether it is finite or infinite), the unity or separation of the body and the self, the complete inexistence of a person after nirvana and death, and others. One explanation for this silence is that such questions distract from activity that is practical to realizing enlightenment and bring about the danger of substituting the experience of liberation by conceptual understanding of the doctrine or by religious faith. Another explanation is that both affirmative and negative positions regarding these questions are based on attachment to and misunderstanding of the aggregates and senses. That is, when one sees these things for what they are, the idea of forming positions on such metaphysical questions simply does not occur to one. Another closely related explanation is that reality is devoid of designations, or empty, and therefore language itself is a priori inadequate.
The last ‘explanation’ is right in line with the Taoist point of view. When one ‘becomes that’, designation becomes impossible. Objective reality vanishes, as does any ability be either a critic or an advocate. This is one reason Taoist points of view are not very popular. People like to get excited about something and choose sides. Taoist impartiality, even in small measures, impedes that trill. Fittingly, during the 80’s and 90’s when we were having weekly Taoist meeting someone came up with the motto for the group: “be bored again”. To be sure, “be born again” sounds a lot more fun and exciting.