Sometime in the spring of 2008, I had one of several "aha" moments like the one I am about to describe. That moment would completely change the way I view the world, how I view others, and most importantly perhaps- how I view myself. I actually laugh a lot more because of the foolishness of it all.
Eckhardt Tolle's masterpiece, "A New Earth" can be a tough read. It isn't particularly challenging or complex- but I think for many people it is hard to comprehend and digest. I did it in 20 page increments because it was simply too difficult for me to read larger chunks and then try to assimilate the information.
I think there is a giant chasm or disconnect between people who say they've read something and people who actually comprehend what they've read. It is something I have noted in dramatic fashion over the course of my life.
A New Earth did several things for me. It allowed me to identify my false sense of self and recognize that I had one. It allowed me to finally accept the fact that Jesus really did exist and that most likely he wasn't simply an enlightened man as so many of my atheist friends believed. I also began to study and examine the crazy egos of the people around me. The people in my life at that moment- kind of served as the proving ground for Tolle's work.
Are people completely self centered and held hostage by a false sense of themselves, an ego? Do people always have to be right? Where does this false sense of ourselves, this facade and act that we present individually to others, where does it come from? For the purposes of today's rant, I'd like to focus on the effects of ego and give you a window into an ego at work.
In Boise, each day at 3 p.m. on FM 94.1, I listen to the Matt Slick show. Matt Slick is a sort of christian crusader. He takes a very strict view of the Bible and tends to interpret the Bible as literally as possible. His views on Christianity are completely confined to the world as he sees it. Matt practices the concept of exclusion- which is to say- unless you see things his way, you are excluded from the Kingdom of God or more simplistically- just wrong. Matt is very black and white. He tends to pretend that he is open minded about a few subjects but I don't really think that he is. During the show, he invites callers to call in. Many do. Some are atheists, some are believers, some are there to take a cheap shot. Some have genuine questions.
You have to listen to Matt to really get the flavor of who he is.
What I like about Matt is that he has the courage to take a stand. He says, "Here I am, take your best shot."
What happens next is great comedy. On Fridays, he reads hate mail harvested I suppose, from his website at carm.org.
I actually enjoy it when the Mormons call in and Slick tells them they are just a cult founded by a false prophet. The LDS are another tribe of folks who adamantly think they are the chosen ones.
Matt often gets frustrated and ridicules others. This tendency really damages his credibility I think.
There are very few opportunities in any of our lives where we can make a positive and lasting change in anyone else. My experience has been mostly, that people and particularly adults, have made up their minds on a whole range of issues and rarely do those thought processes change. In fact, many folks practice "contempt prior to investigation." In other words, the jury is in. I decided I would be a democrat at age 18 and I don't care who runs, who distorts the issues, how badly the party platform changes- I will always be a democrat." The same is true of people who practice "cognitive dissonance." Here is a definition from wiki- In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.
So people I think- strive to seek consistency in their lives while trying desperately to convince others that they are right.
This is the human ego at work. We argue, we fight, and when it's all over- absolutely nothing changes. It is a giant waste of time mostly- just cheap entertainment. A way to pass the time while pretending we are doing something useful. If we know in advance that we aren't going to change anyone's mind, why do we insist on attempting it? Don't people find their own solutions, or not, on their own time? Of course they do. They will do so with or without your "incredibly insightful" arguments. The very best that any of us can do, is plant a seed.
So what happened to me in the spring of '08?
I realized that all that I have ever been, is just a human being with an opinion. A crazy, ego driven human being that desperately wanted to think that I was better, smarter, faster, more intelligent than you. I came to believe that unfortunately- that was who I had been for 46 years. I also realized how incorrect and insane all of that behavior was. The resulting level of self awareness has allowed me to observe the same traits in others while not taking their inventory. It's a journey we are all taking and it's not my job to be anyone's tour guide. This is a self guided tour.
Here's where I am today.
I let the world be. I just try to keep my own voracious ego in check. I try to remain vigilant, grateful, humble and aware- without hurting or ridiculing others too much. I let Matt Slick, the atheists, and the Mormons entertain me a little while I drive around the Treasure Valley.
If you get a chance, you should tune into this show once. You'll get a kick out of it- not because you'll agree with everything Slick has to say- but you'll just sort of celebrate his right to say it. You can tune it in via your computer from anywhere (94.1) I think with a Wifi connection. I just use the old fashioned radio.
Here's the show's link- thanks to a savvy reader. http://www.christiannetcast.com/listen/player.asp?station=kbxl-fm 3pm - 4pm http://carm.org/radio
I'd like to leave you with my favorite quote of all time. From an enlightened man, a couple hundred years ago. Chief Tecumseh.
"Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about his religion.
Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.
When your time comes to die,
be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death,
so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time
to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home."