Knowing my place

The Dalai Lama’s Facebook post for today sparked some thought I take for granted, so I thought I’d flesh it out for #myDailyShare (not that I will improve upon what has already been said).

We are all the same.

I’ve spent a lifetime “learning my place” in the world. The world I have lived in has classified my as this or that, has taught me who my betters are (basically, everyone), and given me all the tools I need to compare my insides to the outsides of those I encounter. Because of this, I learned also to internalize and protect myself, allowing only acceptable parts of myself to show… depending on who I was around. This can become very complicated, but what is important is that this belief of separation has created within me an automatic “othering” process that keeps the distance between me and others exactly as it should be. My distance from you is directly proportional to how much better than me I think you are — and of course, how much better I think I am than you.

The problem with this — and it’s a major problem in our culture — is that there are vast distances between everyone. It’s rare to find one person in a lifetime that can bridge that gap. And I am responsible for my part in building that bridge.

But the truth is, the gap is illusory. Beyond my perceptions of other people, they are just like me.

Celebrities are our royalty. We listen to them. We believe them and trust them. If we meet them we behave erratically. But they are no different than those of us who are not famous. Beneath the external qualities that surround who I think I am and who I think others are, there is a very simple concept: We only want happiness.

We might not know what happiness is, but we know we want it. The drive to have it is what fuels us to get up in the morning. It comes in so very many different forms — sometimes helpful, sometimes harmful; it permeates every experience we encounter throughout the day.

We guard our right to it with the ferocity of fight-or-flight reactions in the shape of our middle finger when someone cuts us off in traffic. That dude wants happiness too. Maybe his happiness is threatened by being late for work. Maybe that’s why you flipped the sonofabitch off in the first place.

When we have it, we want to share it. We freely give it in the form of kind apologies delivered with a smile when our grocery carts are in the way of another’s in the bread aisle.

This is what drives us. This is why there is no actual distance between me and you. Our beliefs, values, talents, weaknesses… these are incidental. They might shape how I am delivered to the the world, but they are not who I am. Who I am, is the exact same as who you are… who anyone is. We can’t get to who we are completely, but in trying, we come to see that those distances that keep us apart from each other are nothing more than fictions we create within ourselves so that we know our place within our society.

Those distances are a poison in our culture. The antidote? Compassion (the guy who cut you off wants the same thing you do).

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