Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.
Attributed to Philo
In 1882, Oscar Wilde, on a lecture tour, spoke at the Tabor Opera house in Leadville, Colorado, at the time a major center of silver mining.
Wilde later recounted a visit to a local saloon, “where I saw the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across. Over the piano was printed a notice – ‘Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.'”
Leadville, Colorado. (2013, December 2). In
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
So many of us these days tend to live in our thoughts about the world, rather than in the world itself. We find ourselves in reaction to our thoughts and judgments about our fellows, rather than living in response to them and the situation at hand. This is what we call being ‘self-centered.’ Not in the judgmental sense of ‘it’s all about me,’ but rather that everything is being processed through my sense of self as this mind and its opinions, its beliefs, and its beliefs about the opinions of others, rather than through my inner connectedness to the whole of life. If I’m having a conversation with you and listening to the running commentary in my mind, rather than simply listening to you, you will feel unheard and indeed, I won’t be hearing you. I’ll be hearing my mind, saying the same things it’s been saying to me since I was old enough to hear it. There will be no true connection. There will be only loneliness.
Also, in any self-centered communication, I will be identified as the ego self. From this ego place, if any part of me feels threatened to even the slightest degree, I will have a fight/flight/freeze reaction. My mind will pass some judgment on you, or make a comparison of you and me, or of you to someone else who I think is doing it better than you are, or of you to some perfected version of yourself I think you’re not living up to. And I will become angry or defensive or hurt or scared. Whether I show it or not, you will feel this in me and then you, too, may start down the same road.
We are not meant to live like this, to be ‘against’ each other. Communication means ‘to share.’ Sharing with each other leaves us feeling enlivened. ‘Opinionating’ with each other leaves us feeling drained.
It is a given that everyone always is doing the best they can in every moment, given the circumstances of their life at that moment and their level of consciousness (or how many piano lessons they’ve had). Most people are not trying to be rude; and the times they are, it’s a given that they have some reason in their own speculating mind about why they’re doing it. Ask yourself. If ever you find yourself being rude or uncaring with another, is it because you’re an ass, or is it because they somehow ‘deserve it?’
Everyone is doing the best they can.
When we insist on not listening to the speculations of the mind, we are free of our judgments of each other, and we can maybe give someone a pass for having a human moment. We can let someone off the hook for a momentary lapse into bad behavior. And when we let a potential problem moment with another pass without engaging, we may find the other is able to set aside his shield and weapons as well. We may find ourselves able to share. And from sharing comes the opportunity for love, the opportunity for life. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to find?
Today I will listen to my friend, rather than to my thoughts about her. I will pay attention to the world, rather than to my thoughts about the world. I will bring myself to the moment, knowing that the past and the future by and large will take care of themselves.
Bathing, Kumbh Mela 2013, Triveni Sangam, Prayag, Uttar Pradesh, India