Finding an Alternative to “Better, Special and Right”

I spent much of my life trying to be better, special, and right. The only alternative I could imagine was to be worse, ordinary and wrong and no one wants to be that.
Now I’m trying to teach myself (and my kids) that it is possible to be unique, valuable and connected instead. It is difficult to overcome years of conditioning. I still want to be best. I still want to be right. I still long to be special. But all of those adjectives create barriers between me and others.  They keep me in a state of comparison instead of a state of compassion.

Unique is not special.  We are all unique.  Paradoxically, it is one of the many qualities we have in common with every human on earth.  Our ability to recognize our own and other’s uniqueness helps us to connect with others as sovereign identities.  Being unique is one of the things that gives us value.  Even if every link in a chain appears identical, it is unique, and it plays its unique role in life.  No other person – no other link in the chain of life – can take another’s place.

But for that uniqueness to have an effect, it must be connected.  Without a connection to the rest of humanity, a person’s unique contribution to the world will be lost.  It doesn’t have to be the best contribution, a “special” contribution, or even the right contribution.  It just has to be that person’s contribution.

I came to understand that participation is more important than being right when I realized that Aristotle was wrong about almost everything he said. Seriously.  He had some crazy ideas. But the fact that he was willing to share his ideas and explore them with others made him a valuable contributor to the world of ideas.

Like Aristotle, I can offer unique and valuable insights – even if they turn out to be completely wrong.  I can offer unique and valuable service – even if it is not perfect; even if it’s not better than the guy’s beside me.  It is my desire to be of service, my willingness to contribute and my whole-hearted participation that defines who I am, not whether I am better, special or right.

Even if the only thing I can do is to be the person that someone else practices their patience and compassion on, that is still a link in the chain and it serves a valuable purpose.

This is a real challenge to smart, talented and/or beautiful people – to truly be able to believe that they would still have value if they were slow, untalented and ugly.  Humility is not about seeing yourself as low, but about understanding that EVERY person on earth is just as valuable as you are, no matter how un-special and wrong they may be.

I tell myself this.  I try to believe it, but it goes against 57 years of conditioning. I pray to God that – as I grow old and weak and forgetful and needy – I can hold onto this belief and begin to internalize it enough that I can be at peace when even the dream of being better, special and right is beyond me.

This is what it means to pray for humility.

A Simple and Comprehensive Overview of Life

It has been a while since I posted anything here, so to make up for my absence, I’m going to tell you everything I know in one short post.  The rest is just details.

The purpose of life is to become our true selves, to reflect the qualities of God in the world of creation and to acquire virtues – which are three ways of saying the same thing.

In order to acquire virtues, we need to be able to recognize them, become attracted to them and practice them.

We learn to recognize virtues by using our hearts to perceive their presence or absence, and our minds to analyze, compare, contrast and correlate our experiences with our emotional responses to them.

We become attracted to virtues by opening our hearts to the positive sensations we feel when we experience or express a virtue.

Virtues are a form of energy.  They motivate us to act.  They are like food for the soul.  They give us the energy we need to exercise our will.

Happiness comes from surrounding ourselves with God’s virtues.  Joy comes from acquiring God’s virtues.

The physical world is not just a vague metaphor for spiritual reality; it is an active reflection of the spiritual world.  Virtually every spiritual phenomenon has one or more forms of expression in the material world.  Human souls and human bodies exhibit many “parallel systems.”  We can learn more than we think about the soul by studying our bodies – and vice versa.

Our “higher nature” is that part of us that is attracted to the attributes of God themselves.

Our “lower nature” is that part of us that is attracted to the symbols (or reflections) of God’s attributes.  Both are good.  One is better.  We can learn to turn an attraction to the symbol into an attraction to the virtue.

The inner life of the human soul is reflected in the social organization which it has collectively developed.  We are composed of an inner community which must be unified, coherent, consistent and well-organized in order for us to live spiritually healthy lives.

The only way to achieve this is to practice internal consultation – that is, to meditate and learn how to listen, not just to our loud conscious thoughts, but to our quiet subconscious thoughts and feelings as well.  They don’t always point in the same direction.  Helping each voice be heard and resolving any differences between them brings us peace and inner unity.   The technique called “focusing” is an excellent first step in acquiring this skill.

All of these skills – the ability to love and acquire virtues, and to create a harmonious inner and outer life – exist potentially in every person, and can be developed through education, prayer, meditation (internal consultation) and practice.

The religions of the world offer us inspiration, guidance and examples to follow.  They are how we come to know what virtues really are.

That’s it.  Once you know why you are here and how to get pointed in the right direction, the rest of life is in the traveling – or in the making music if you prefer.  Enjoy.