How To Love Everyone – Even Complete Fucking Assholes

2014-01-23 09.45.38 “Love everyone” sounds like bullshit. It sounds like one of those things people say. It sounds like the kind of thing an evangelist says in his mega church but then he also says God Hates Fags. It sounds like something Jesus said in his pussy mode, in the mode that got him crucified, meekly, like the kind of pussy who gets crucified. It sounds like the kind of thing the Buddha said when the Buddha…well, nothing like being crucified happened to the Buddha. He lived into his 80s and died from food poisoning. But, regardless, “Love everyone” sounds like one of those fucking things the Buddha said and you’re like “Yeah, right: that’s just one of those things. You don’t really mean it. How could anyone do that?”

But really, it’s the thing. It’s the main thing.

One obstacle is that some people are major assholes and you don’t want to be nice to them. Even more – some people are awful people, and you loathe and even fear them. And, you know, there’s always Hitler.  Even Hitler? Because it’s all or nothing, am I right? I mean, it’s either “Love Everyone” or I get to pick and choose, and if I get to pick and choose then get off me, who are you to judge?

But it’s all or nothing. It really is. It’s all or nothing. And loving everyone will help you get by. It will help everything.

But yeah – what about assholes? And leave off Hitler for now. What about the meth head who stole my kid’s bike? How, and more importantly, why should I try to love that piece of shit?

Here’s why: It’s because you and the meth head are part of the same thing, you’re part of the same complex, and if you hate him, you hate yourself. Because you aren’t separate from the causes and conditions that resulted in his stealing your kid’s bike.

Um…what?

It’s because you and the meth head are part of the same thing, you’re part of the same complex, and if you hate him, you hate yourself. Because you aren’t separate from the causes and conditions that resulted in his stealing your kid’s bike.

Saying it twice doesn’t necessarily help!

No, but it might. So read it again!

It doesn’t.

No good? All right – let’s dig in.

FlowerWe humans are naturally prone to a fundamental delusion, viz. that we are separate individual entities existing independently from the rest of the universe. This is because what most of us think of as ourselves is actually a small part of our mind-body complex, specifically, a cluster of feelings and memories thrown into consciousness in order to make sense of  the fundamentally senseless avalanche of data gathered by our…shit…I can’t think of another word…gathered by our senses. But “senses” in the different sense of…shit. There it is again…

Well, tough shit – figure it out! “What most of us think of as Ourselves is a cluster of mental events arising in consciousness in order to make sense of the fundamentally senseless avalanche of data gathered by our Six Senses.” (Buddhism holds that there a six senses, not five. The Sixth Sense is Thinking, its object the Mind.)

So, basically, you think you’re separate from everything only because by an accident of evolution you possess self-consciousness. And while the consciousness is indisputable, the self is much more amorphous and hard to pin down. And in fact, while you most certainly do exist, you possess no lasting self, no self at all.

But you can just leave that for now. That’s a pretty deep one!

For now just think about breathing. You take over 20,000 breaths a day, almost all of them unconsciously, and if you tried to stop you’d be dead in 5 minutes, give or take. Air from outside your body is sucked inside your body, and deep inside your lungs, the oxygen passes into your bloodstream, to be distributed throughout. So oxygen in the air, produced from carbon dioxide by plants using light energy from the sun, becomes part of your body and enables you to live.

At what point in this arrangement are you a separate, independently existing entity?

There are innumerable other examples, of course: food, water. Love. Human beings are ill-suited to live in outer space, at the bottom of the ocean, or at the poles. We are massively dependent on our environment in order to survive. And again, it’s not just that we live in it, like we live in a house. We are part of it. We consume it and create it. Our breath leaves our body as carbon dioxide, which is used by plants to create the oxygen we breathe. After we die our bodies will become soil or, more likely nowadays, smoke and ash. Nothing is wasted or destroyed. It’s a closed system.

But that’s not why we feel separate. We feel separate because of self-consciousness, which is demonstrably part of that system, and because of our sense of free will, which is illusory.

What?!

I’m sorry, it is. It just is. You don’t have free will the way you think you do. At best you have the kind of free will Daniel Dennett thinks you do, which is a poor compromise. You want to think you initiate your own actions and could have done otherwise, given precisely the same conditions, but it’s simply untrue. Well, at any rate, it appears to be very unlikely. Just don’t bother with it. You aren’t “free” that way.

So if you’re part of this system, if there’s no separate self, if your choices are determined, and we’re all in that boat, in this sense realm, if we’re tossed on this ocean of being…then who is there to hate?

Who do you hate?

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You can disagree, certainly. I disagree with almost everyone, myself most of all! But what sense is there in hating? And you needn’t approve, you needn’t endorse. The meth head should not have stolen your daughter’s bike. Stealing is wrong, and it hurt your daughter’s feelings. He should give the bike back. If you can take it from him, take it from him. But you can love him while you do it. Because he was born into this place just like you, and no one asked him. And one day he’ll leave it. And if everything that happened to him happened to you – everything,  not just that you’re you addicted to meth, but that you were born to his mother and lived his life up to now – everything – then sure as shit you’d be riding down the sidewalk on a hot pink Huffy with tassels on the handlebars right now.

And Hitler? Fucking Hitler?

Well, it’s silly to bring up Hitler all the time, to reduce everything. It’s a childish argument! And if we all loved each other more there’d be no traction for Hitlers. Hitler didn’t do it all on his own. But he was bad, to be sure, a nightmare, the Devil. So what do you do?  If you’re given the chance to go back in time, to 1932? What do you do, knowing the future?

Feel compassion for the twisted soul, the nightmare. Love the boy, the innocent boy. Love the little boy who once was, and put a bullet in his head, with compassion, with Love.

When You Find Yourself Up Shit Creek

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After I meditate I always bow my forehead to the floor three times, saying, “I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha.” (For a short while last year, just after returning from a Goenka Vipassana retreat, I said Dhamma instead of Dharma, because Goenka’s all about Dhamma and the old-timey ways. But I went back to Dharma because that’s the way I heard it first, and I like the way the “r” sounds – I roll it out, I get all piratical on it: “Dharrrrrr-ma.” Dharma’s clean, too, it’s got a nice sharp line, and I like that.) Then I put my hands together and bow again deeply, saying, “May all beings be happy.” That part feels like praying, and I guess it is, kind of, but I’m not praying to anyone, because there’s no one there.

All of this behavior is a little bit twee, and part of me is ashamed. I’m a little ashamed writing it, because there’s the stink of religion about it, and as much as I want all beings to be happy, I think religion is mostly retarded. I feel I’m on shaky ground with this religious shit, and I know people I respect would probably be disappointed in me if they knew about it. So there’s that part.

But on the other hand, I have a real respect for Buddhist tradition, and I’ve just kind of tacked these things on to the end of my sitting. I wasn’t born a Buddhist, and nobody made me a Buddhist, and yet here I am reciting Buddhist slogans like Mr. King Fuckin’ Buddhist. It seems a bit presumptuous. Maybe a bit poseurish. I wonder, “Am I entitled?”

But let’s not get stupid: I don’t wonder that hard. I’m not all up in my shit about it. These thoughts just drift through my mind sometimes, and not every time, and I don’t give them much weight.

In case you’re wondering, the “refuge” bit is what’s known as “Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem.” I’ve heard it described (just now, actually – I just read this like a second ago) as analogous to Christian baptism or Hindu “taking of the sacred thread.” (Whatever the heck that is!) (I’m not trying to mock Hindus, I just don’t want to make it look like I know what I’m talking about, sacred thread-wise. Though I imagine it’s something analogous to baptism or Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem.)

By taking refuge in the Triple Gem, you’re saying “Life can be a bastard sometimes, and you can easily find yourself up Shit Creek if you’re all alone. But you can always rely on the Buddha (the embodiment of enlightenment and wisdom,) the Dharma (his teachings,) and the Sangha (all the other people who believe all this shit.)” And, you know what? This is of great comfort and support to me.

Now I believe that this Taking of the Triple Gem is often done as a ceremony when one “becomes” a Buddhist as part of an organized community, or is ordained as a monk. (I don’t really know. I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere, but I can’t be fucked to look it up.) And that would make it more like baptism than the way I do it, which is more like, oh, I don’t know…more like communion – except nowhere near that serious (because even though I no longer believe in God, I still have a Catholic in me, and I don’t want to shit on communion, even though I know it’s (mostly) bunk.) I take refuge in the Triple Gem because I’m serious about my practice. I have faith in the Dharrrrrr-ma. I’m not fucking around.

The last bit, “May all beings be happy,” I lifted from Mr. Goenka himself (although it’s a common enough Metta formulation – it’s not like he invented it.) Because on that Vipassana retreat I loved him, then I hated him, then I loved him again. And on the last day he broke open my heart with his gentle kindness, and the reminder that we do this practice, we seek this enlightenment not only for ourselves but for all beings, for everyone. For all beings. For everyone.

May all beings be happy. May all beings be happy. May all beings be happy.

 

Put your motherfuckin’ hands up and follow me.

EminemJames Altucher wrote a post about the climactic rap battle in Eminem’s 8 Mile that moved me to tears. Well, the post didn’t – though it was a good post. But the clip did.

I saw 8 Mile when it first came out, and remember liking it, even though I wasn’t a hip-hop fan and was suspicious of Eminem because he was such a giant mainstream success at the time. (I imagine he still is. I don’t really know about that kind of thing any more.)

James used the clip to illustrate how Eminem won the rap battle by using cognitive biases to isolate his opponent and bring the audience to his side. But what really struck me about the clip was how vulnerable Eminem made himself, how raw. Even though his stance is hostile and aggressive, he uses the stage to reveal a wounded heart. He says he doesn’t give a fuck what people think of him, because they don’t know what he’s been through. But of course he does give a fuck.

He wins the battle by making his suffering completely clear. By opening his heart.

How not to meditate

I haven’t been sitting that much recently. It pains me a bit. I want to sit. I like sitting. But I’m so tired in the morning, I almost always go back to sleep for half an hour or so after the alarm goes off.

I’m consoled a bit by a story Gil Fronsdal tells about Kamala Masters, how her teacher told her she should meditate an hour very day. Masters, single with a bunch of kids, protested there was no way she could find a “free” hour every day to sit. And her teacher, disbelieving, stayed with her for a few days and saw that she truly didn’t have the time. But he noticed that Masters spent a lot if time each day in a small hallway in the middle of her house, walking from room to room. So he told her to make that her meditation hall, even in 30-second snippets throughout the day. Masters took his advice and developed a deep meditation practice in the common domestic duties she performed every day. Later, when her children were older and she was able to attend a longer retreat POW! She got super fuckin’ calm and concentrated right away. And now she’s a famous Dharma teacher. So there you go!

Still, I wish I was sitting more consistently. I’d be into that.

Worst Meditator EVER

I’m generally convinced I’m the worst meditator ever. I rarely follow more than a few breaths at a time, and by a few I mean a few – like two or three. Then, when I realize I’ve become distracted, I’m filled with despair and self-recrimination. I’ll  never get this. It’s hopeless.

Then I notice what’s happening. And then I think “Let go…”

…and I return my attention to my breath…

and I breathe.

Why the New Mind?

My interests are so interesting to me. I think they must be significant. Sometimes they’re helpful. Sometimes I see some light. Sometimes it comes through. There are stars in the night sky. The light comes through them, the light from beyond.  From behind. From underneath and inside. The light from above and the light from within.

Every day, in little ways, in the everyday. Every moment – it’s new. It’s timeless.

New Mind is a song by Swans from their album Children of God. It’s a good song – it’s a good title. I could stretch it and say it’s about enlightenment. And it is! The music of Swans is spiritual in the best sense and has been an enormous influence on me since I was a young man. You should go listen to them!

I’ll wait.

I’ll be here when you get back.