Acceptance—What The World Needs Now

vcxa8286With the senseless killing of Black men by white police officers in the United States, at a rate which has not been seen since the racial unrest of the sixties, to the ISIS bombings in France, Yemen, Turkey, Afghanistan, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, and Brussels, etc., to the endless bloodshed between Palestinians and Israelis, (this war has been going on my entire life, I am 71), to the kidnapping of 200 young women in Nigeria and murder of 45 schoolchildren in Mexico, to the harassment and murder of men and women because of their sexual preferences in Florida and Brazil, to the shooting of white police officers by a crazed Black gunman in Dallas, we are a world in turmoil.

This turmoil has existed since the beginning of civilization because we have failed as citizens of this planet to accept the differences in our fellow human beings and ourselves. We make one way the “right” way, one belief the “true” belief. One government, the only government. Who are we to deny any human on this planet the right to his/her own choice to believe what they choose to believe, to engage life on their own terms, and to express those beliefs however they choose within the framework of doing no harm to others? We all want the same thing – to be free to live our own life. We must learn to accept our differences rather than use them as wedges to divide us.

Acceptance is difficult. Our nature is to pass judgement on our fellow humans, to convert, or to conquer. We see things in the dualities of good/evil, black/white, right/wrong, or love/hate. We pass judgement not only upon philosophical concepts but also with color, people, and religions. Black people are…Italians are…Mexicans are…Jews are…Christians are…Muslims are…. According to the Bible stories I grew up with, no duality existed before Eve bit into the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. She and Adam were unaware of their nakedness, unaware of opposites because no knowledge of duality existed in the garden. Everything was one. Our mythology of Heaven is based upon what we were told about Eden. We want to get back to the one.

I am not blaming Eve for the problems of mankind. I simply use this story as a metaphor to illustrate the nature of duality and why it has created this mountainous barrier to acceptance. An accepting individual sees beyond the duality to the singularity and unity of all things as they are. Eve did not eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, from a philosophical point of view. She and Adam, you and I are the fruit of the tree. Only the tree in this instance is the Earth. Just an an apple tree apples, the Earth peoples, and fishes, and birds. We all come from the same mother but we have never in the history of this planet accepted our kin as brothers and sisters. Instead we see them as Black, white, yellow, red, Catholic, Jewish, Moslems, straight or gay, Russians, Swiss, and or Chinese. However we see them, we see them as different from ourselves and as a threat to my way of life.

Siddhartha in the book of the same name by Herman Hesse uses these words to describe acceptance of the nature of duality to his friend Govinda.

The world is not imperfect or slowly evolving along a long path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment: every sin already carries grace within it, all small children are potential old men, all sucklings have death within them, all dying people — eternal life. It is not possible for one person to see how far another is on the way: the Buddha exists in the robber and dice player; the robber exists in the Brahmin. Therefore, it seems to me that everything that exists is good, death as well as life, sin as well as holiness, wisdom as well as folly. Everything is necessary, everything needs only my agreement, my assent, my loving understanding; then all is well with me and nothing can harm me.

In following the doctrine of acceptance one doesn’t manipulate or interfere with another’s way of life or another’s beliefs even if he believes his motivation is from his own higher spirit (A justification used by the Catholic church to convert many of the worlds indigenous people to Catholicism and by Hitler to conquer most of Europe.) A person who practices acceptance refrains from giving advice unless asked but is not indifferent to providing aid when needed or requested. He eliminates the fanatic in himself. He kills the one in himself who must change others to his beliefs, his way of life. He accepts the differences in the world without judgement and without the need to convert anyone or anything for any reason.

The words attributed to Voltaire,

I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it

are very appropriate for this day and time. I do not agree with many of the words and practices used by most of the various social, political, religious, and economic organizations in the world today. I do not condone the murder, imprisonment, torture, or social rejection and isolation of any group or individual by another individual or organization because of their beliefs, race, culture, religion, or sexual preferences. Yet, I will defend the acceptance of any group or individual having different beliefs as long as I am free to choose and to follow my own beliefs in return. When one’s beliefs, religion, race or culture are attacked it becomes an inhibitor to one’s existence. This in its essence is the doctrine of acceptance.

Maybe this is all a dream in the mind of a philosopher, but I believe it is worth thinking about.

** Note: Within the last decade, the Pope has apologized to the cultures and religions of the world that were destroyed or eliminated because of the acts of Catholic church in the attempted conversion of these cultures to Christianity. The governments of Australia and Germany have apologized for their treatment of the Aborigines and the Jews respectively for their government’s genocide and attempts at cultural cleansing. The United States however has never issued an apology or any acknowledgement of wrongdoing to the Native Americans for the ravage destruction and rape of their lands or to the Negro slaves for their brutal mistreatment, repeated lies of equality, or utter failure to incorporate people of color into mainstream white American society. I still have not received the twenty acres and a mule promised my forefathers after the so called emancipation of slavery. I believe we need more acceptance of differences, but must admit, I am not yet at a place where I can accept America for the daily acts of violence, racism, and lies upon its own people and around the world. This is the difficulty of acceptance.

Being And Nothingness

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24When I left the corporate world over twenty-five years ago, I stopped wearing a watch. I decided then that I no longer wanted to watch my life ticking away on the face of a clock. I no longer wanted to be time’s slave. I also made the decision to do only those things which brought joy into my everyday existence. I did this as much as I could within the social/economic framework of which I was a part. I wanted to have those experiences and explorations which forced my heart to sing because it had no other choice. The joy inside me could not be held there. It had to be released. I found this joy in the everyday, the simple, and the natural flow of life. I find this joy in simply “being.”

On the information page of my memoir I listed my occupation as “being,” but what does this mean? At a recent gathering, a woman asked me, “What do you do?”

I thought of Siddhartha when he was asked a similar question to which my answer would have been, “I read, I write, I think and I dream,” for these are truly the things that I do. Instead, I replied, “Nothing.”

“How does one do nothing?” she inquired.

I wasn’t expecting that answer to come from my mouth so I had to ask myself the same question again. “By not filling my time with things I have to do,” I said. “I put as few requirements on my time as possible so I can do whatever I choose to do at any given moment with the time I have. For a large amount of that time, I choose to do nothing.”

“How does one do nothing?” she asked again.

“One does not ‘do’ nothing. One allows ‘nothing’ to happen by not engaging in any activity which requires action. By not doing but simply being. ”

“Is it like meditation?” she asks.

“For me ‘being’ is what one strives for in meditation. It is the result of meditation but it requires no consciousness of breath, no special pillows, positions, or whatever tools one uses to enter a meditative state. The mind is free of thought, of any requirements, or demands upon it. ‘Being’ is a natural state. It is just that we are so removed from our naturalness that we have to work to get back to it.”

“What about the body?”

“Most often the body is still, sitting or lying, but ‘being’ can be engaged in any physicality. I am ‘being’ when walking on the beach, taking everything in through the senses. Then letting it go just as quickly without thought or judgement but with complete awareness. A similar experience might be the loss of the memory of time. You know you have been walking for over an hour but it seem like only ten minutes. During the other fifty minutes you were in a state of being without consciousness or memory of individual occurrences. There is no recollection of time because in ‘being,’ time literally does not exist and cannot be recalled. ‘Being’ bypasses the filters and prejudices of the brain. ‘Being’ is a total experience with everything that exists in your environment, not a mental one. In today’s language, one might describe ‘being’ as ‘tuning out’ because one looses the conscious sense of self. ‘Being’ is a state of awareness not of consciousness.”

“What’s the difference between the two?” she asks.

“Consciousness requires attention. ‘Being’ is acceptance. There is no conscious attention to anything. It is the peak moment that athletes refer to when running the perfect race taking place in the everyday nature of existence, of being.”

“My husband would tell me I’m wasting my time if I sat around all day just ‘being.'” she says.

“As one becomes accustomed to this state it becomes a natural part of your existence. You don’t roam your home repeating ‘Om’ all day but you are more centered, more even keeled in carrying out and responding to the activities of your life. You no longer react to life as being outside of yourself. You respond to it as all of yourself. Your life is your time. What you do with it, how you live it is your choice but ‘The time you enjoy wasting, is not wasted time,’ according to Bertrand Russell. The state of being is one of total joy causing your heart to sing even when no one is listening.”

Patience

Having decided to leave his castle home to explore the world outside his protected environment, Prince Siddhartha sought a means to support himself in his new life. Upon meeting the merchant Kamaswami, Siddhartha was asked,

“What is it that you’ve learned, what are you able to do?”

To a prince whose needs had been catered too his entire life, this seemed a strange question. He replied truthfully.

“I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”*

In my life as a philosopher, poet, dreamer, and writer, I was proud of the fact that I too had learned these three skills from life. I can think. I can wait. I can fast. However, if I were to be asked the same question today. I would reply truthfully that I no longer wait. I am no longer the patient man I once prided myself as being. I no longer wait in line at the bank or grocery store. (Fortunately in Ecuador, seniors have their own line in those two arenas.) I no longer wait for people who are late for meetings or appointments. When my Spanish language instructor is late for class, I leave. She tells me that Latin people are not concerned with time and I should be patient, but still, I believe waiting or not waiting is my decision. I choose not to wait. The reason for my choice to no longer be patient and wait while others use up moments of my time is in one word, death.

We are each given only so much time in this life to live and because my life grows shorter with each passing day, I no longer permit other people or events to waste it. My time has become more precious to me as I travel closer to death. I will live and enjoy my remaining time on my own terms. Those terms do not permit the time of my life to be wasted by anyone or anything other than me. Yes, I still waste time in many ways, as it is only mine to waste. I spend hours looking at the clouds and the changing colors of the sky. Some may think this is a waste of time. It might be except that I enjoy it, and because I am using my time doing something I enjoy, it is not wasted.

The other thing I noticed about time in my approach to death is that I no longer have time to do the things I no longer want to do. In my youth I would often follow the crowd and do the activities they wanted to do. I often said, “Yes,” when I really wanted to say, “No.” I took the, “Why not,” approach to life. In those days I had plenty of time and wanted to experience more of life. Some things were rewarding and I am grateful for following another’s lead. Other things were disappointing and I am still grateful for following another’s lead. There were lessons learned from even bad experiences. Today I have the gift of not having to follow anyone. I am still considerate of another’s feelings but I no longer place them before my own. If something does not bring joy into my life, I simply do not do it. Joy is a difficult degree of measurement but it becomes easier to recognize with age and experience. We do not fully understand it when we are young. Youth is too momentary and fleeting, as it should be.

Time is the great resource of life. It is not renewable. When it is gone, it is gone. I have sustained my time as much as possible and will continue to sustain it until the moment of my death. But I will let you in on a little secret, there will not be any time left over from my life to add to your own. My time will be all used up living what remains in the best ways possible. Doing the things I love doing (reading, writing, thinking, dreaming) and sharing this precious gift with those I love.

However, like time itself, I wait for no man or woman. I no longer wait, period.

*Source Credit: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse