Friday, June 11, 2010

Taking it personally.

All right. This is one of those all-around Truths that the wisdom traditions agree on: DON'T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY. Life is a pendulum, the emotions are a roller coaster. The less you identify with the triumphs and tribulations of your ego, the better off you are.

I've always had a hard time with this one. I delight in the life of the mind, the rapture of the senses, the sheer individuality of each Being's witness to life. Shouldn't we aspire to soaring heights, and pull the rest of the world along with us? And aren't some of the most beautiful songs, the most heartrending poems, products of someone's "overidentification" with the ravages of the ego?

Still, as I get older, it gets harder to ignore the truth of the pendulum effect. The ruthlessness of celebrity is a good example: all I need to say here, for those of my generation, is New Kids on the Block. What goes up always, always comes down with an almost gleeful vindictiveness.

And it is true that the lives of true visionaries, the ones whose words and works still resonate (Lao Tzu, Rumi, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Dickens, Keats, etc.) all bore a certain humility and simplicity; these were not folk that rose to soaring heights of success and acclaim in their lifetimes. (Well, Jesus did, but we all know what happened to him. ) These were the people who did not make a mark, about whom Thoreau wrote when he said "Many are concerned about the monuments of the West and the East,--who built them. For my part, I should like to know who in those days did not build them, — who were above such trifling. " They aligned themselves with wider patterns and inherited a broader, truer understanding-- at the cost of being understood.

So, in some ways, I suppose when people deride us and do not understand us, we can take it as a compliment. We are in the very best of company.

But it DOESN'T FEEL GOOD. And I DON'T LIKE IT. Especially when it is happening not to me (I have enough Quaker puritanism left in me to know, deep down, that whatever happens to me I more than likely deserve) but to a dear friend whose hard work and vision is being undercut by smallminded, vindictive people.

So do I care what smallminded, vindictive people think? Theoretically, no. But there is a large gap between theory and reality on this one. There is something very beautiful and very tender in us that just really wants to be loved by EVERYONE. And why shouldn't we be?

Actually, come to think of it, the doctrine of Don't Take it Personally addresses this sweet, human part of us. It is not admonishing us to be unfeeling. It is warning us not to listen to the temporary, small, wounded voices of hate but rather to attune ourselves to the larger, underlying motifs of love and acceptance. It is not there to make us feel guilty for the times we DO overidentify with our egos. It is there to cradle us when we are hurt by life, to remind us that those who would diminish us don't know what the f*ck they are talking about.

I can live with that.

No comments:

Post a Comment