I've experienced it, participated in it, been sickened by it, and I see it everywhere: attachment to being "right." Just as ice turns to water, concrete comes from sand and stagnation happens when flow ceases, attachment to being "right" can lead to a stance toward life that can actually stifle, rather than enhance it.
To illustrate, I'm reminded of a scene from, "Avatar." Sully is meeting Mo'at, the spiritual leader of the Na'vi, for the first time, and he expresses a desire to learn their ways. She scoffs at him, saying, "It's hard to fill a cup that is already full." The point is that, as a visiting human, he "knows" so much that he is unteachable.
This is a common situation.
The short vignette that follows has been on my mind for a while now. It illustrates my own observations of my behavior and those of groups I've been a part of, on both the far right and far left, in religious and spiritual circles, among flag-wavers as well as anarchists. In fact, this attitude is so pervasive that I think it's safe to say that most of us have observed or participated in it at one time or another.
Here's the story:
"A man approaches another man at a gathering called for the purpose of instruction, praise and joy. People are milling around, speaking in excited, hushed tones. It looks as if a meeting has just ended, and no one is in a rush to leave. The two men know each other’s names but have never spoken. As far as they know, their connection stems from participation in this type of meeting and nowhere else.
This is enough for the conversation to begin.
“Hey,” he says, extending his hand to the other, “are you right? Because, I sure am!”
The other man looks at him with a rapturous smile and shakes his hand vigorously. Dropping it, he gestures to the crowd. “Brother, I sure am! And just look at all these people! I’m right, you’re right and they’re right!”
The rest of the conversation goes like this:
Man One: “It feels so good to be right!”
Man Two: “Being right is the best. I’m so glad I am, and that you are, too!”
One: “Oh, I’m right! To be right is so great. And you’re right too, aren’t you?”
Two: “Pfft. I’m so right I can’t believe it sometimes. The best thing is that being right is its own reward, let alone the rewards you get later from being right now! I couldn’t live any other way than being right. And you’re right, right?”
One: “Oh, man, I’m right. Right as right gets, baby. Being right makes me feel sorry for all the other ones that aren’t right. Oh, they’re going to suffer later, and they suffer now being not right. But I don’t want to concentrate on that. I just want to rejoice in being right!”
Two: “Being right is righteous, man. All those people who aren’t right, just aren’t right. I feel sorry for them. Feeling this way: I can do that, as one who’s right and all. It’s what we do, those of us who are right. We feel sorry for the ones who aren’t right. It’s part of what makes us right, this feeling.”
One: “Feeling is what we do when we’re right. I agree. We are right and seeing those who are not right makes us feel sorry, which makes us even more right. Looking around, I can’t stand the thought of being not right.” Pausing, he leans back his head and laughs with joy, “I love being right, and feeling the feeling of being right! Right?”
Two: “I love feeling right, too! And you’re right, right?”
One: “Brother, I’m right. Are YOU right?”
Two: “Right as right rights, man.”
One: This is a little confusing, but he gets the idea. So, nodding with a triumphant smile, he simply says, “Riiiiight.”
They look at one another with joy, but with nothing else to say. Suddenly, Man Two sees someone across the room. “Hey, I gotta go explore this topic with Bob over there. See you around!”
Man One slaps him on the shoulder as he turns to go. “Righteous, man! I’m going to go talk to Susan over there. She’s right, too!”
It’s unnoticeable to anyone in the room, but for an instant, the space they vacated is a shade darker than the surrounding area. And then, like water running toward a low point, light returns and all as it was before the conversation began.
At the same moment, Truth steps into the doorway, bright, glorious and full of love. This Truth is the salvation of humankind and of all the animals. It is the light that feeds the trees and the birds, that heals the waters and the mountains, and that makes the grasses and flowers smile every spring.
This Being regards the throng and, with a smile of compassion, turns and walks out.
No one saw Truth come, or go."
In this age of information, we see this everywhere. We're so educated, we've become unable to learn. Lost in our "knowledge," we spend our time reinforcing our most sacred cow doctrines and dogmas, while those who oppose our views - or appear to do so - are pushed away. The point is that even people who appear to oppose our views can, if we grant them our attention, add dimension to our worldview.
Many who read this publication want to believe we're choosing Unity over Division. We say and mean, "namaste." We practice meditation and extend compassion to the less fortunate. Still, if we become too identified with either stance, Division or Unity, we run the risk of perpetuating the very conditions that have brought humanity to it's knees. In other words, as Charles Eisenstein fleshes out so masterfully in, "The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible," there have been plenty of atrocities committed by both the far right and far left. In the end, they can become different flavors of the same problem, which is and always has been, division.
So, what can we do?
1. Get close. Be aware of labels. Labels reduce someone or something to an item, one that has less consciousness than ourselves. From this perspective, it's far easier to demean and dismiss not only them or their truth, but their humanity. Instead, don't categorize them - even those they may call themselves. Rather, act under the knowledge that all beings are individuals with stories to tell that are worthy of life, respect and being heard. Even those that are hard to love have a story behind them. Approach them with curiosity and even humor, and learn it. In short, seek understanding well ahead of judgement.
2. Listen up. Most people have made choices and retain their beliefs for many reasons. As we hear the stories behind belief, we may find our own beliefs strengthened or given depth that will help us understand our own reasons for believing them. Occasionally, we may find our own assumptions or conclusions were incorrect. This gives us opportunities to grow, and places us in further alliance with truth.
3. Stay grounded. In the end, if we're all connected, we're all connected. Live this truth; the person with whom you agree or disagree is a reflection of you. Accept them as you want to be accepted. Even if we completely disagree with someone, we have a commonality that is undeniable - like it or not. Work from that space to keep the heart open when challenged. We don't have to agree, but we do have to respect, for operating from a compassionate place is the pinnacle of humanity.
May we proceed through these divisive times in the way of grace. May we concentrate on living in an open way, and cultivate the ability to learn from anyone with something to teach us. And may we choose being open to being "right."