No One is Special (Everyone is Fine)
The drive for recognition, for specialness, is a denial of our true nature. We cannot make ourselves more special than our birthright as spiritual beings, gifted with the precious capacities to create, change, and enjoy our lives and fulfill all the dreams we can dream. We cannot top the the power that carries us into, and eventually out of and once more beyond, this world.
So the use of our gifts to try to be more than the best we can each be moment-to-moment as we fulfill our life looks, to me, like a misunderstanding what life really is, and what we really can do. The best we can be is secure and at peace: grateful, loving, happy, optimistic, forgiving, open, neutral to the myriad feelings that come and go, and most of all untroubled by the past, unconcerned about the future, unfazed by external events, immersed fully in the present moment.
When that whole notion first arrived in my mind, it scared me. Any one of us can think of a thousand reasons why we should be disappointed, or angry, or unforgiving, or judgmental, or sad, or worried, or … so many mind-wrenching states. Isn’t that only responsible? (The mind-blowing realization that the definition of “responsible” was a thought I had made up had not yet occurred to me.) To be honest, shedding most of those ideas was incremental, over years, even after it was obvious to me that peace of mind can only fully grace a person who doesn’t take any of their personal thinking seriously. I had to reach the point of being really sick and tired of the boring Muzak of my own same-old thinking to stop tuning it down and just turn it off. But what a moment! The internal quietude was both thrilling and soothing.
The wake-up call, oddly enough, came when I was straightening out a bookshelf and came upon an old favorite of my daughter’s when she was little: Dr. Seuss’ The Sneetches. If you’ve forgotten, the story tells of how the snooty Star-Bellied Sneetches excluded ordinary Plain-Bellied Sneetches from all their fun, and how the sad Plain-Bellies got taken by salesman Sylvester McMonkey McBean and his star-making machine. Then McBean turned around and charged the original Star-Bellies more money to remove their stars, and, as the day wore on, he got all the money from all the Sneetches adding and removing stars. When all their money was spent, and no one had any stars, McBean drove away with a truck full of money, laughing, “They never will learn. No. You can’t teach a Sneetch!” The story ends this way:
“But Mr. McBean was quite wrong. I’m quite happy to say
That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day,,
The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.
That day all the Sneetches forgot about stars
And whether they had one, or not, upon thars.”
As I re-read that little story, I realized how we waste our mental, physical and emotional resources trying do things to distinguish ourselves from others, or gain approval and recognition, or satisfy demands we make upon ourselves or others, until, depleted, we are faced with our own ordinary human being-ness. A humbling moment, but, like the Sneetches, a moment that allows us to forget all that and simply enjoy ourselves and each other.
I remembered that my father used to love reading that story to my daughter when she was little, and he would always ask her, at the end, “What do you suppose the Sneetches did after all of that?” And she would always answer, “They all played with each other and just had fun.”
I thought to myself what a shame it is we analyze our way out of our childhood insights. What if that really is it? The idea of a joyful life is that we can all play with each other and just have fun. If we’re not consumed with defining ourselves a certain way, or judging others for certain things, everyone is another interesting being, another soul to join in our dance through life. We could invent together; we could compete in games together without fear of loss; we could share resources and work together to nurture our planet; we could enjoy each other’s stories and art forms and traditions and ideas. All regular Sneetches together.
Despite all the striving and preening and judging and fuming going on in the world today, it is truly comforting to know that everyone is always just one insight away from a Sneetch moment. For those of us who work with people living in the prisons of their own thoughts about themselves, it is reassuring to know that people who are suffering still want peace of mind, even if they’ve almost given up on it, and they will “go for it” at the first glimpse of light. For those who are tempted to judge ourselves as better-than or smarter-than or less-than or dumber-than, it is humbling to know that those ideas are just made-up, with an unintended misuse of the very gifts we were given to just make up life.