Monday, September 17, 2007

Priveledge, Development, and the Fall from Arrogance

Hi! Long time since I posted. Latest essay:

Our embarrassment is key to our development. Arrogance, or hiding our vulnerability, is our way of abandoning our self. We abandon our self in this way for a variety of reasons. Throughout our lives we are told that being wrong, being incorrect, making mistakes, are all bad things that will cause us to fail in our lives. We are told that if we are suffering, it is because we have made a mistake, and if we ceased to make mistakes, we would cease to suffer. The truth is, we cannot help but make mistakes. Because, in fact, there are no rules at all in life, things are constantly changing and who we are is always in some way inherently at odds with things in our environment, and ourselves for that matter. This is nature, it is the chaotic element, it is the element that demands of us relaxation, of surrender to what is. But we try to accommodate what we see as the “right” way to be. And ironically, the more privilege we have, the more we have to cover over. Privilege is in essence a covering-over. To have wealth is to cover over the basic anxieties of life. To have health is the same. To be attractive, can also at times offer protection from basic fears of aloneness and security. To be educated, etc, offers us a way to cover over the fact that we are in a precarious situation as humans, subject to illness and death at any time. Arrogance is nothing more than the belief that this privilege is inherent to life. It is, of course, not. Privilege is super-imposed over the basic structure of nature. It is not in itself wrong or bad, but when it is used to avoid reality, it becomes like a prison, hiding our basic human-ness and cutting off the possibility of connecting with the human race in a joyful way.
When we are privileged in one way, and in the presence of someone who is not, we feel the awkwardness, the ingenuineness of our situation. As a person born into privilege, I have experienced this a lot in my life. Being around a person in poverty or in extremely poor health I felt stupid, embarrassed. This is an appropriate reaction, not because I should feel that way, but because I had the wrong belief that my privilege was who I was, it was inherent to my life, to life itself, and so its absence could only be explained by blaming the person for whom it was absent. In the face of suffering, this blame becomes ridiculous, and so there is a natural feeling of embarrassment in recognizing ones own arrogance.
This state of ignorance, or arrogant privilege is an alienation from our true self, our genuine state of being. In this state of arrogance, we do not realize our own helplessness, our own ineptitude in the face of the forces of nature. By becoming intimate with this sense of basic pain, suffering, and helplessness, ironically, we become empowered. We become empowered for the basic fact that we have connected with our ground, with our actual situation. Our arrogance about ourselves and our lives was false, and we knew it. Knowing we are fundamentally stupid, makes us intelligent. In seeing that we are fundamentally not able to control life, we relax. In knowing that we are fundamentally helpless, we become empowered.
Why is this? Because in connecting with the ground of all human beings, we feel in connection with nature itself. We lose our fear of our own falseness. We see that there is nothing left to be embarrassed about, nothing left to hide, and that is freedom, of a type. This freedom actually releases our true human connection, our ability to see other people without guilt, without fear, and without hatred. We feel that at any point we can recognize our own faults, our own mistakes, our own ignorance when it arises, and in this way do not have to fear ourselves or others. We can, in essence, be ourselves.
It this “coming home” interestingly enough, is our connection to the entire human race, our humanity, our love, our selflessness. And so the paradox is born: In stupidity, intelligence; in ignorance, wisdom; in humility, self-love; in self-love, selflessness.