We Are One

As a result of this culture of competition to which our society has adhered, we may tend to find ourselves at odds with others in our society. In spite of my refusal to accept the notion that I should be in competition with others, I do still find my self at odds with others on occasion. I attempt to love every person I meet, but may feel a distance build when another’s actions cause me pain. It is not that I hold any ill will toward these people. It is only that their actions have caused me to feel guarded when the potential for future interaction occurs.

I know from experience that the ability to see another’s motivation as a result of empathy will inspire a tendency to behave in an accommodating way. This accommodation dismisses any fear as a result of my embracing of their actions. It becomes my understanding that we two hold vastly different perspectives and my efforts toward peace can only work toward a greater good. I have, on more than one occasion, attempted to apply this peace-seeking behavior to interactions with those close to me. Although dismissing another’s actions as justifiable to him or her would seem to work toward the greater good when it comes to interactions with those with whom intimate relationships are not maintained, the action of dismissing a significant other’s actions as simply justifiable to the person, in spite of the hurt they cause, does nothing to cause the hurtful behavior to cease.

The other day, I was walking to work when I felt this complete connection with everyone in my world. This was not my first experience of this feeling of connection. I felt that we were all one. I’ll take a moment here to diverge from the main line of focus in this post to discuss, for a moment, the meaning of the word “feel”. We tend to define feelings as somehow less concrete than knowledge. While knowledge is absolute, feelings are anything but. Now let me clarify – I felt with perfect understanding, clearer than any other knowledge I’ve held, that we are all one. I felt this connection with every person I know, but more importantly, with every person who has tended to engage in actions that cause me pain. In this instant there was no need for forgiveness because we were all driven by this same light.

Christianity speaks of the soul. Buddhism speaks of the Buda Nature. Whatever we call it, there is a divine part of all of us. When we see from that level, there is no need for competition. When we see from that level, there is no need for fear. If I fear the pain you may cause me, I am rejecting this very simple truth to which I’ve only been witness a few times in my life. I try to constantly be aware of this connection in spite of the fact that I know I will fail at times to do so. This truth is more powerful than anything that could ever cause distance and division. We are one. It is time we wake up and realize this. When we all see the world from this level, our desires to help others will rule our actions. We will do unto others as we would have others do unto us, because we will understand that we are one in the same.

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“I’m sorry”

While listening to a radio broadcast today, I witnessed an interviewee express the opinion that forgiveness requires the offending party to be “sorry”. If we look at what was actually said here, we could conclude that regret is means to the foundation for forgiveness. As children we are often taught that forgiveness follows when we say we are sorry. This has become so engrained in us that saying we are sorry is often equated with asking for forgiveness. But does my regret merit your forgiveness? Does my intent change how my actions affect you? If I intend to hurt you, does it hurt more than if I hurt you as the result of an accident? If I then regret hurting you, do you hurt less?

Perhaps it is empathy, my willingness to share in your pain, that enables you to feel more inclined to forgive me. My admitted pain as a result of your experience validates your feelings of pain. But why then is this validation required? Are you not confident that your pain is valid? Perhaps it is the product of a desired revenge. The Latin proverb says, “Revenge is a confession of pain” (http://thinkexist.com/quotation/revenge_is_a_confession_of/170302.html). But does another’s pain really make us feel better? If you are willing to empathize with me, expressing regret for the pain you’ve caused me, and I take solace in this, is it not hypocritical to wish pain upon you?

If saying we are sorry is not an expression of regret, but rather a request for forgiveness, then the requirement of the phrase “I am sorry” is not so much about the offending party’s pain, but more about his or her desire to make amends. Is my request for forgiveness required for me to be forgiven?

Let’s say you have hurt me. My anger or sorrow over you actions causes me pain. It would be beneficial for me to forgive you as means of relieving this pain. So would I need you to apologize for smashing my thumb with a hammer before I could seek medical help? Then why would I require any action on your part to relieve the pain I experience as a result of my interpretation of your actions? This latter pain isn’t even a direct result of your actions, but rather a result of my interpretation of your actions. Would I need you to apologize for my smashing my thumb before I could seek medical help?

It would seem the issue at the heart of this debate is one’s desire to protect oneself from future pain. If I know you feel regret for your actions, I can feel somewhat secure in the belief that you will be less likely to engage in similar actions in the future. This causes the actions that surround my forgiveness, the social interaction and familiarity, to feel safer. We can be ruled by one of two forces. Do we want to act in accordance with our fear of hurt or act out of love in spite of the potential for hurt? One path will cripple us. The other will empower us. But of course, you already know the path I’ve chosen.

EUD Heterosexual Male

I don’t take pain medication for a few reasons. First, I fell out of the habit of taking pain meds for headaches when I was experiencing symptoms of the brain tumor. Second, I dislike the idea of putting chemicals in my body. It is difficult enough to avoid foods that have ingredients I can’t pronounce. As doctors could not tell me what caused the growth a cancerous tumor in the third ventricle of my brain, I try to avoid putting unfamiliar substances in my body. This is harder than it sounds. Lastly, I dislike the idea of treating a symptom. If there is a problem, pain is often the way my body tells me there is a problem. I don’t want to ignore the pain or mask it. I want to cause it to stop by causing the source of the pain to cease. With the double-vision I often experience as a result of the tumor’s affect on my brain, the ceasing of the cause of my pain may be an unreasonable expectation. still, I try. I’ve developed methods to dealing with my pain – mind over matter, ect. My vision problems cause far less pain now than they did when they first began. Never the less, pain works as a motivator to bring about change.

I am a heterosexual male of European descent, living in the United States of America. I am, as I understand it, a member of the most privileged social class here in the United States. there has been talk of a change in the population, a shift from majority to minority in the near future. Either way, as of today, there are no legitimate organizations of which I am aware that exist to promote my advancement. there are certainly organizations built around the idea that people who fall into my same socially defined groups are superior to those who belong to other groups. But these groups would seem to promote messages of hate and fear, not love. It is this hate, this fear that legitimizes groups that support the advancement of other socially defined groups. If such a hate exists, especially from the perspective of the most privileged social classes, certainly, in pursuit of justice, those with the power to do so must attempt to level the playing field, give everyone an equal chance.

This is why we have groups like the NAACP, the Human Rights Campaign, and the FORD Foundation. This is why we have things like Affirmative action. Things like Affirmative action are designed to level the playing field, to create equality in a society largely run by heterosexual males of European descent. In a system where achievement is our main unit tool for measuring merit, things like Affirmative action say “unless you are a minority”. What message does this send? What does this say about merit? To me, a socially privileged citizen of the United States, it says we don’t care as much about ability, but rather about to what socially defined class you belong.

Isn’t this the kind of ideology programs like Affirmative action are trying to counteract? If bigotry is the problem, as we suspect it is, then we need to work to end bigotry. Bigoted perspectives would seem to follow ignorance. It would seem rather easy to say one is better when we have no experience with any other. I have family members who have expressed to me perspectives that would seem unflattering of people with unfamiliar sexual identities or continents of descent. that is not to say my family is not aware of people to whom different social classes have been assigned, only that they lack experience with these people. So how do we fight ignorance?

I’ve joked that I would enjoy bringing home a homosexual AFD male. I envision my family’s discomfort and outrage. but anger won’t solve this problem. Understanding and patience will. I believe strongly that love can win out over hate or fear. We must continue to love those who hate us. We must show them we are capable of a greater humanity than they are willing to show us. again, it is hard for me, as heterosexual male of European descent to speak for those who experience racial or sexual biases in our society. Likewise, it would seem rather easy for those of us who experience hurt over these matters to take a stance of anger over love. But surely we can agree that anger often leads to more anger.

We must stop dividing ourselves over our differences. The only way to end ignorance is to expose those who hold bias perspectives to members of the social classes about which they hold negative biases. When these people understand we have much more in common than would seem to be perceived, fear and hate can be replaced with love. There are two major forms of desensitization – flooding and systematic desensitization. The first involves exposing one who has fears to representations of the object of their fears in large doses until the fear ceases. For example, if a subject is afraid of spiders, we sit him or her in a room full of spiders until he or she is no longer afraid. Although effective, the subject may become violent and will likely do what he or she can to escape the apparent threat. The second method of desensitization involves slowly exposing the subject to small doses of the object of his or her fear. For example, a person suffering from arachnophobia may just be asked to sit in a room with a picture of spider. Once he or she is comfortable doing this, he or she may be asked to sit in a room with a live spider in an aquarium. the objective may be to desensitize the subject through stages until he or she may be comfortable holding a spider.

My bringing a homosexual male of African descent home might be more like the first form of desensitization, flooding. Although it may be effective if we can stop the likely avoidance behaviors and/or angry behavior long enough to have a conversation, the insult such an act would create would likely dismiss any room for growth. So the second desensitization method would seem the only plausible route. We tend to empathize more easily with people with whom we can identify. When it becomes clear that our problems are the same, that we have similar goals and struggles, that our race is human, it will not matter the “race” or gender of those who have the ability to make decisions that affect our lives.

We must put away our fears when it comes to helping others understand this truth that we are not so very different. Fear leads to more fear. If we love these people who show fear or hate toward us, we are given the opportunity to lead by example. So love them when they hate us. Forget the idea that “us” is anymore than we want it to be. Socially defined classes are just that. The difference these classes paint are untrue to the reality that is our world. We are much more alike than we are different.

Although the motivation behind things like different organizations that promote the advancement of certain socially defined groups would seem to be noble, the idea that providing one group of people more opportunities as a result of their gender, sexuality, or continent of descent would seem to only create further division. Now I know, heterosexual males of European descent already are granted more opportunities than members of these other socially defined groups. But does a contrary double standard really level the playing field? It may be easy for a person like myself, one who would seem to belong to the major privileged social classes, to say we should stop taking the pain meds that mask the problem and start treating the problem. Programs and laws that treat the symptoms of biases and bigotry don’t often affect me personally. But treating symptoms does not cure diseases.

Programs that attempt to produce equality by providing opportunity to members of specific socially defined groups as a result of their socially defined groups not only promote a double standard, they instill in us the belief that we are so different. The truth is, we are as different as we make ourselves. So, do we want to continue to promote the idea that our arbitrary differences define who we are and of what we are capable as a result of societal inequalities or do we want to work to end the societal inequalities?

To put it simply, I’m not against anything that can provide equality, a “level playing field”, as the saying goes. I am against anything that creates a double-standard, even in an effort to right social injustices.

The “R” Word

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6BjyOEkYyY

Analysis: I’m not sure the subject’s reaction had anything to do with race. The male of apparent European descent asked for a small favor first, asking about the bus schedule. Once the subject accommodated his request for information, she was more likely to agree to the larger request of $0.50 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot-in-the-door_technique). Making conversation before the request was just good sales. He sold her on the idea she should give him money by making conversation with her and building a rapport first. It would seem more difficult for us to turn down the request from someone with whom we have a good rapport as such a denial may end a string of enjoyable interactions. We are often naturally rewarded by social interactions (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pleasure_center).

Further, we tend to empathize more with people like ourselves, especially when our personal histories provide limited interaction with others to whom a different social category has been assigned. We are told all our lives that we are different as a result of the way we look. Can we blame someone for believing it? Taking care of “our own” will only work to further divide us. Just as saying someone is wrong for doing what he or she believes is right will do. I may be quicker to help someone of a different continental descent, gender, and sexual orientation than one who is spewing all kinds of “racist” speech. but that would be because I would be more likely to empathize more with the former. Would it make me “racist” to help the person with whom I am more likely to empathize over the one with whom I am less likely to empathize? If we are taught our skin tone makes us different, how is the case in the video any different?

A term like “racist” is often used as a label to represent a person’s inferiority, be it moral or intellectual. “Racist” can be defined as “a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that one’s own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racist?s=t). The term “racist” is in quotes in that sentence at the beginning of this paragraph because I consider it to be fairly inaccurate. Our race is human. Ideas that we are so very different are flawed. Each of us has the choice to continue feeding these ideas or become the change we hope to see in our world. Stop judging those who don’t get it and start trying to help them get it. Unification, not division, is the key to enlightenment and will be the only means to ending the kind of ignorance we associate with “racism”.