If there is one thing I’d like to have completely out of my head before I die, it’s that sense of any particular human (myself included) being more or less worthy and valid to exist on this planet. The subtleties of this sense are profound and many. It comes on without me having to half think about it. A story appears in the news of someone dying, and I immediately express the amount of concern or lack thereof based on the newly deceased’s class, race, age, nationality, and what they did with their life. This isn’t a conscious thing, and it’s often so immediate and instinctual, that it is hardly thought about twice.
It isn’t like I have a well-defined linear progression in my head for how important a person is, and how valuable their life is. But, at the same time, I think I instinctively do possess something of the sort. A great composer or scientist sits above me on this unholy food chain, and people living in impoverished countries who die mostly in anonymity sit some place below me.
In any given situation, when I meet someone face-to-face, I am quick to promote them to a pedestal or demote them to a subterranean area. It is the way in which the cult of celebrity perpetuates itself. If Lady Gaga dies tomorrow, the world will find this to be more of a loss than if I die tomorrow.
This has been the source of so many of my problems and conflicts in life, that it is absolutely a must-go in order for me to evolve spiritually. My two worst faults of childhood and adolescence, making fun of others and being an excessive people-pleaser, brought me all kinds of misery as I grew into adulthood. You should go through life making fun of nobody, ever. Perhaps you can take mild jabs at yourself now and then to put people at ease, but that’s about it. Even extensive making fun of yourself is cause for concern. You should go through life with a zero tolerance for the uprising of the people-pleasing mentality. Perhaps when you are still under the age of four, it makes sense to have this kind of mentality, but any persistence of it means that people will take advantage of you, and that you will resent them in your moments of clarity about who you are and how they are using you.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with following directions when it makes sense to play by the rules, and it certainly is a virtue to love your parents and let them guide you into adulthood, but it is quite another thing to be caught up in a will to seek immediate fanfare in everything you do, and fall into deep depression when your every action is not recognized by the people you want to please. It sows the seeds of rebellion and hatred of elders, because you aren’t genuinely considered about their happiness and welfare–you are trying to gratify yourself through immediate praise and recognition.
And, of course, we all know that if you take your people-pleasing mentality with you everywhere you go, you will begin to do things that run counter to each other, and do many things that go against your conscience of what’s right and wrong. Trying to please everyone is a well-known path to failure, but even a mild case of the “sycophants” can be disastrous.
You would never make fun of anyone, ever, and you would never have a day of the people-pleaser mentality wreaking havoc on your life if you simply saw all human beings as equal creations in God’s eyes. No man is more legitimately here on earth than another man. Your boss doesn’t deserve a longer life than you do. Lady Gaga or President Obama are not better people than you are. Just because they happen to have character traits and wills toward power over others doesn’t mean they are more legitimately human. What they leave behind on earth will be taken and measured in proportion against the true outcomes they left behind, as well as the true talents they were given.
I think that this is to some degree a fault in all of us. We hold up certain people with such high regard that we almost deify them, if we don’t completely go there. When these people fail to live up to our expectations, we are quick to almost demonize them, even if we don’t quite go that far.
I also believe that at some level, each of us has a soul that is about as equal in terms of power and potential to be great, both spiritual and intellectual, as every other soul. The most severe mentally handicapped person is operating under a weight of challenges caused by their unique genetic makeup, but on a deeper level, they are (and will be in the eternal scheme of things) seen as being just as valuable a soul as you are. The same goes with the most elite athletes and highest paid actors. Those folks are operating under a wealth of genetic blessings, but if their souls were picked up and plopped into a different womb in a different time and place, they might be the ones who are considered to be inferior human beings by everyone else.
This is a thing that I’ve been slow to accept and admit–the fact that I can so immediately put any other human being on a scale in relation to me, and have made up in my mind before I think twice about it whether they rest above or below me on this scale of sub to super human. You don’t want to admit it, because it means that you might find yourself admitting to latent racism, classicism, ageism, xenophobia, and having an all-around overly egotistical self.
But, this is the first step. To admit it, and meditate on it frequently when I’m in the company of others. To seek ways to expel it from me altogether. To ask the hard questions, like, does a serial killer in prison ultimately deserve to be treated as an equal soul to me? Perhaps in a past life I was the serial killer in prison, and someone believed in me enough to advocate on my behalf in front of the angels that manage the bardo passages. Or, perhaps in a future life (or this one) I will be wrongly accused and innocent, but nobody will believe me. Wouldn’t I want to offer the same benefit of the doubt to the man whose fate is not mine to decide?
Those are hard questions indeed, because I can’t say as I would be able to ever reach a point in this life where I honestly believed that Hitler, Jeffery Dahmer, Mozart, MLK and me are all souls cut from the same cloth and worth equal consideration in a grander scheme of things beyond this narrow timeline and tiny, 3D universe.
But, putting those harder questions aside for the moment, I think I can certainly feel that most people I meet, aside from these extreme examples, are people worthy of treating as complete equals–equals in the eyes of God.