In the building where I live I often find advertisement posters from internet providers glued to the walls. When I try to get them out, as I am not at all interested in displaying their business announcements on the walls of my house, they are glued so hard that a big mess is left on the wall, which is very difficult to clean.
When I find these papers glued it makes my blood boil and I often have the thought in my head of how much I would like to catch these people in the act so I can tell them what I think: How can they do this without permission? They should not be doing it. What they do is wrong. etc, etc.
Well, the other day as I was coming out of a shop I saw two people gluing posters on a wall. All my old thoughts resurfaced. I found them, I said to myself. Now I am going to tell them!
When I came closer I saw, like in a flash, what I always know, but often forget: that there was not bad intention in their action. It was like, for a moment, I could look past their skin into their psychology and what I saw was blindness and emptiness. I saw that there was not awareness behind their act; there was not presence. I saw that they were just doing their job. I saw what I call ignorance, the ignorance of not realizing, of not seeing, that there is more to life than our own little and immediate needs.
And in that moment all the irritation, all the anger had no space to be. It simply evaporated into thin air.
I was thinking about this because recently I received two very similar letters about difficulties people have communicating with other people, including their own family.
We seem to be close to others because we believe we share a very similar living space with them, a very similar world. And this is true, but it also isn’t. There is a world of ‘things’ which we share with every creature. A tree is a tree and we all see a tree. We definitely share that world. But we don’t live our lives at that level. We never see just a tree. What we see is a nice tree, or a useful tree, or an ugly tree, or a big tree, or a weak tree. We don’t live our lives at the level of what is actually out there, but on the level of what we like or dislike, what is good or bad, what is attractive or repulsive, what is helpful to us or what is unhelpful. The world that we see is the one we create in our own heads, that has to do with our past, our conditioning, our first experiences, our culture, our DNA, our knowledge and, even more importantly, with our possibility to experience presence. With our possibility to see and experience love.
Presence is synonymous to love. We think about love as one person loving another person, but that is just one small aspect of what love actually is. The way I understand love is the experience (although it is not really an experience) of connectedness, the sense of oneness, of unity with each other and the world. It is the sense that life, this moment, what is happening now is not about me, but that it’s about all and everything. That we are all part of the same whole.
In most people, this sensation, this experience of oneness is covered out by one’s personal needs.
And so, when we have problems with other people, how do we deal with them, how do we deal with situations when there seems to be no communication? We do it by understanding that they don’t know… just as we don’t know. We do it by seeing and understanding that they don’t see… just like we don’t see.
If a person is walking in the woods and a bear attacks her, we will not be upset with the bear. But we will be very upset with a human being just because it may be walking too slowly in front of us and won’t let us pass, or whatever.
The reason why we get upset with a person, but we don’t get upset with a bear is because we know that the bear doesn’t have free will, doesn’t have a choice in the way it acts, but that the person does. And because it has a choice, and the person is doing something that we consider bad, then we allow ourselves to get upset.
Now, do we really have a choice? Yes, we do, but no, we don’t. ‘IF’ we are more aware of the moment, ‘IF’ our knowledge of life and of the world and people and ourselves is very high and developed, and ‘IF’ in that moment we are clearly aware of that knowledge, then we may have some kind of choice. But most people most of the time are clearly not very aware of the moment but are just lost in their own world of thoughts, and beliefs, and past, and worries, and suffering. Together with that, for most people, the level of knowledge of themselves, other people and the world is very low and basic. Most people never spend any time studying themselves or the world but spend most of their time lost in their needs to survive and enjoy. So, most people may know how to sell something or convince other people about their products, but they will know very little or nothing at all about their own psychology – the reason why they do or don’t do things – and even less about other people’s psychology or the psychology of the world. And so, without the knowledge and the presence to use that knowledge, when something happens we react the only way we intuitively know how: putting our needs first, our survival, no different than a bear.
It may not seem like that, but free will and choice is a feature of a human being with a very high level of maturity and knowledge and growth. Most human beings don’t have free will and choice. They respond according to their own survival need and learned ways of behavior; ways that are most often very disconnected from the needs of the moment. (To understand what I mean by the need of a moment please see this note.)
And so, when somebody does something ‘bad’ to us, or when we do something ‘bad’ to somebody else (because we do to other people what other people do to us) all we can do is forgive. To forgive because they/we don’t know; they/we don’t realize what they/we are doing, like those people gluing the advertisement on the walls don’t realize that it is not good for the whole to mess up the city. If one were more aware, one could have the option to say: no, I don’t want to do this work; I will look for another job because I don’t want to hurt or bother other people. But that is very difficult to say, there would have to be a very high level of discrimination in the mind. That is what it means to have choice, to have an option between two things. Do we really have that choice? Most of the time we don’t.
Probably one of the most beautiful sayings that I have ever found in the whole history of human knowledge is: ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do’.
What does this means? It means people aren’t doing wrong or bad things because they are bad but because they are ignorant. The only reason we are upset when other people behave differently than we expect is because we believe they are doing it on purpose, that they have a choice. That is just a wrong vision.
Weather I am dealing with people putting signs on the walls or a family member telling me something that I don’t like, if there is rage, if there is negativity, if there is anger and indignation in my response it’s because I am blind to their blindness; it is because I don’t see that they don’t see. I don’t see that they are not aware of a higher reality, that they are not aware of the reality of love.
The world is not out there telling us how to react. I create the world with the way I see and perceive it. If I see other people doing what I think they shouldn’t do, and I see them acting with choice and freedom, I will very probably get upset. But the anger is not because of other people’s actions, but because of my vision and expectations. But if I am able to see their blindness to love, I will not get upset, just like I would not get upset or angry with a bear attacking me.
So if somebody is hurting me with their actions or words, my response – to leave or to react –will not be tainted by rage and anger, but will be bathed with clarity and understanding of the situation, which will lead to an act more in accordance to the actual needs of that moment.
When I am blind to blindness I experience suffering. But when I am able to see that the actions of other people don’t come out of their choice but out of their ignorance of love, suffering disappears.
Love is synonymous to presence. ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ That is love. That is presence. That is my choice.