“Patriotism is when the love of your people comes first; nationalism is when the hatred of other people comes first.” — Charles de Gaulle
Two older gentlemen are having breakfast in a small cafe where they meet frequently to enjoy each other’s company and share life’s little insights.
“As my understanding of who I am grows, I find sometimes, something unexpected happens,” says Frank taking another sip of his coffee.
“Whatever it is, it will pass,” replies Joe, playing with the remaining hash browns on his plate.
“No, this time it’s different. It’s something that has always been there, but that I just recently noticed.”
“What do you mean, Frank?”
“It’s hard to describe but once you know who you are there’s a shift in how you see others.”
“Because you relate to them better?”
“Not only do you relate to them better, you…How do you say it? You like…? …love? Ok, you hate them less!”
“I never thought of you as a hater, Frank.”
“I’m not, but that doesn’t stop this mind from trying.” After taking another sip of coffee, he continues, “But hey, try this—next time you walk into a room full of strangers ask yourself if what you feel is love or hate.”
“That sounds extreme. I think most people would say they feel some kind of fear,” Joe says, “especially if you’re the kind that’s not comfortable in social settings.”
“Exactly,” replies Frank, “and isn’t fear really just aversion; a sort of pushing away?”
“On a scale of 1 - 10 with 1 being hate and 10 being love, I’d say then, that my hatred of social gatherings is about a 3,” Joe concludes. “But what are you getting at? How do you get to 10, or even a neutral 5?”
“What if you knew everyone was you? Let’s say you walk into a room full of strangers and instead of seeing ‘the others’ you see them all as yourself, only with different attributes and conditioning. You see yourself in the withdrawn, unsocial man pretending to be busy on his phone. You see yourself in the bored, petulant child swinging from her mother’s hand. You see yourself in the young, attractive woman trying to call attention to herself. And at this moment of seeing yourself in all those present around you, you totally lose your identity and there is no fear or judgement, just appreciation and, well…love.”
“Love for the obnoxious business guy trying to yuck it up, too? Or for the older, wealthy lady in pearls who looks at you with contempt?” asks Joe.
“Yes! Because they’re all acting out of ignorance.”
“The ignorance that they are separate, that they are not you!”
“Sounds like a freak show to me, Frank,” throwing down his crumpled napkin.
“Well, let’s just say God has an unusual way of expressing himself. It’s like we’re in this funny play where everyone on stage believes they are the actors they are portraying. But beyond all the masks and costumes that conceal us, we are all essentially the same. The same light that makes your body function and thoughts zip through your head is the same light that courses through my body and mind to make it function. And what’s a body anyway but a collection of inert parts? Once you understand this, the fear you had of ‘the others’ dissipates. You realize there is only one principal working here and that any differences are just an illusion. Instead of hatred of others, it becomes love of the Self—the light at the center of it all.”
“Well, ya. You know, consciousness, awareness. The essence of who you are.” Frank says as if it were common knowledge. “Unlike that sweatshirt you’re wearing, consciousness is a one-size-fits-all. There is no fat consciousness, skinny consciousness, black consciousness or white consciousness. It’s just the one, attributeless, ordinary, unchanging, infinite consciousness.”
“What about all the despots and sociopaths, Frank? Should we love them too?”
“Yes, Joe. By looking at the sinner, rather than the sin. We all fall under maya’s spell from time to time. Some more so to their detriment than others.”
“And what spell would that be?”
“The spell that keeps us in the dark, unaware of our conditioning and true nature. It’s only due to our ignorance that certain impersonal forces take over and wreak havoc. The Self has no hand in any of the stupid things people do or fall into. If you only focus on all the crazy stuff people do, you’ll never find a friend anywhere because you’ll always see human beings at different degrees of imperfection.” Frank takes another sip of his coffee. “Let me ask you this, have you ever wondered how the Dalai Lama can be so cheerful and kind with everyone he meets? I mean, the guy just seems to radiate kindness and love for everyone. And everyone seems to love him back!”
“I suppose,” says Joe. “Do you think he’s tuned into what you’re calling the Self?”
“Unless it’s just a good performance, what else? Here’s the cool thing about this—once you’re able to see everyone as the Self, all the conflict that drives people apart just disappears.”
“How so, Frank?”
“First, you’re no longer so insecure because let’s face it, being different doesn’t feel good. If what I really am is the Self and not the body-mind I appear to be, then I’m perfectly okay. I needn’t be uptight about my appearance and worry whether or not I’m cool enough. I can just relax. Second, once you’re able to see the Self in others there is an instant connection, and with this instant connection, friendship becomes almost effortless. You have no choice, really because love, kindness, whatever you want to call it, feels good.”
“Interesting. So, what you’re saying is if you love the world, the world will love you back.”
“Look, this stuff really works,” says Frank.
“Okay, but why love? Why is it always love that we’re told we must embrace?”
“Because it’s our nature! Love—not the romantic kind, but the Dalai Lama kind—is the Self, and when we let it shine through we feel good and apparently so do ‘the others.’ Even the most brazen criminals, even if it’s only just love for themselves, show it by making sure they don’t get hurt or lose their loot. Everyone is looking for love. We’re all just wanting to connect because there’s only just one of us here. It’s all just ‘me’ under layers of countless bodies, thoughts and conditioned behavior.”
“And the reason we don’t always feel love for everyone is because, like you said, ignorance?”
“We don’t feel love because we’re too busy feeling like the limited, incomplete little dust motes we believe ourselves to be,” says Frank. “We’re too occupied identifying with our physical appearance, thoughts, emotions and likes and dislikes. We’re too absorbed trying to perfect something that is impossible to perfect! We seek out things, money and power because we have a hole inside us the size of Texas. It’s quite sad, really.”
“And so instead of love, we feel hate,” Joe concludes.
“Right, we feel unhappy and disappointed with ourselves because we aren’t able to meet the standards set by society. Even if we were able to meet the standards, it can only ever be temporary. You see this happening with the rich and famous all the time, except that when you’re rich and famous it’s not just you and the strangers you’re in line with at Starbucks judging you, it’s the whole world. When the public decides that such-and-such is now below standards and no longer trending on social media, it’s time for Mr. or Ms. Such-and-Such to meet with their shrink and probably check into a rehab.”
“And ‘the others’”? asks Joe.
“We may act friendly, but don’t really feel friendly when we enter a room full of strangers because we see them as different. This is why at cocktail parties, we’re always looking for people who we have something in common with. We want to connect in some way—any way—we can. Not only do we see the others as different, but we walk into the room with all kinds of pre-judgements. We might avoid certain people because of their appearance, race or group affinity. It’s like when you were in high school and categorized everyone as either a jock, nerd, stoner, or goth. In many ways, high school never ends.”
“Sorry, but I just don’t see myself loving complete strangers. Even with knowledge that I’m the Self.
“And I’m not saying you have to, Joe. No one walks into a room full of strangers with the intention of loving them. That would be nice, but probably not very realistic. Love can’t be a mantra you tell yourself over and over again, either. Instead, love is a byproduct of seeing the truth. When my life is founded on the truth of who I am, love comes naturally for me—effortlessly. Sometimes it even surprises, like when the best connection you felt the entire day was with the Uber driver who drove you to the airport. This byproduct is a funny thing. Not only do you feel more love for people and find that love being reciprocated, but you find people are more honest with you. Whether you wish to know them or not, people begin to reveal themselves to you. They just open up and take off their mask. In the end, people just want someone to listen to them.”
“And that’s a good thing?”
“Well, let’s just say the world could use a lot more therapists. The point is, Joe, your interactions with people become much more interesting when you know who you are. People are naturally drawn to those who are Self-realized because the Self-realized don’t have an agenda. In other words, they aren’t trying to get something from you. And with all interactions, if love of the Self comes first, you’re setting up the encounter to be a lot more rewarding than if the usual judgement and fear come first. Judgement and fear can be useful in certain circumstances, but mostly they sabotage what would otherwise be a friendly and mutually rewarding encounter with a complete stranger.”
“My father used to say that you should always try to see the best in people.”
“Better yet—you should always try to see the Self in people. No need to look hard for any redeeming qualities. Just knowing they are the Self, and that you are too, is enough.”