I gotta have some of your attention, give it to me!!!
(Brass in Pocket, The Pretenders)
I didn't listen to the "You're not special" speech, but I have heard about it. I was listening to a dharmatalk on my iPod today, and it was mentioned in the course of discussing the difficulties we traditionally face in achieving enlightenment, or at least a happier life.
Some years ago, I picked up a booked called "Nothing Special, Living Zen" by Charlotte Joko Beck. I admit, it was hard for me to get all of it, and I am sure that I should go back and read through, there will always be more to sink in. Being No one, Going Nowhere. Nothing Special. Who are these crazy Zen people? Why are they trying to burst my frigging bubble?
I would like to believe that I don't think anyone else's life is more valuable than my own. Of course, I believe that no one else should think my life is less valuable than their's. Or more. Each of us is in this position, it is only unique to ourselves. What is my responsibility? Is it entirely selfish, since we are all equal? Or should it be entirely selfless, since I should care for everyone as if they were as important as me?
It's hard going these days, and I am certainly extending the boundaries of my compassion. At least, when I make sure I am. I have a little more sympathy, I have a little more empathy. I also feel the need to draw a tighter border around myself. Protect my free time from the onslaughts of humanity. I don't feel like an endless fountain of ever giving energy. I think of the work of the Mother Teresa's and the Thich nhat hanh's of the world. Well, there have been so few of them, I guess I can just think of them. No boundaries, no borders, no limits. No differentiation between self, others, and need. Serve endlessly to reduce suffering, even if all you have is a hand and heart.
I am not special, although some people will insist I am. I accept this, in that I am special to them, and I must respect their need to believe I am. I have something they don't have, but desire. It is not always a mutually beneficial relationship, and in learning I am not special I have to also learn that few relationships are truly reciprocal. When you are perceived as special, people seek you out, want things from you. Is this an honor, or a burden? If you have the capacity to be a doctor or an inventor of life saving things, do you owe it to everyone to share that?
After my accident some years ago, I didn't feel any real anger to the man who caused it. I had the right to, after all. He had committed several felonies- illegal drug use, grand theft auto, armed robbery, evading arrest, criminal assault with a vehicle during the course of committing a felony. I suppose I would have felt differently if I had really, really lost something. I wasn't paralyzed, my scars were visible but livable, I had insurance, I had a family to help me. Maybe that makes me special, that I had all those things in place. Or that I was fortunate enough to not go to the special hell of victimhood. I had legal rights, police support, protection for those victims of violent crime... mostly, I was really really sad for those who also went through this, and didn't have what I had. On the outside, or on the inside. I never sought vengeance, and wouldn't speak of it when my family would get enraged at my situation. "Why are you so fucking special?" they would ask, that I refused to get angry. "It must be the medication".
I had long before learned that getting angry is my choice, mine alone. It is up to me how much I will or won't respond in rage. I didn't know it before, and it was hurting me, physically, and hurting those around me. Now, I will get ticked off, but I first must think to myself "Why is my belief about this situation any better, any more right, than the person with whom I am conflicted? Are they acting in fear, grief, ignorance? Am I?" I am not more special, they are not more special. I learned that there are some people who can get my goat, push my buttons, flip my switch. I am a little scared of them, I admit, and I do seek to stay away. I try to send them telepathic compassion, because I won't do it in person. Other times I wish they'd fall off the face of the earth. I have also learned that no one really owes me anything. Not respect, not time, not care. I can try to earn it, or I can live without it.
I wonder, really, who are all the gurus I didn't know I had met in my life? Is my father a guru for dying young, sending me into a downward spiral of despair that ultimately led to my own self realization? Had he lived, would I have ever learned to not be a reactive, angry daughter of an alcoholic who placed myself into victim situations again and again? Is my mother a guru, for showing me repeatedly, how the misery of an alcoholic mind takes everyone down- including the alcoholic? Or that one has to ultimately be responsible for their own health and self care? Was the man driving the stolen car my guru for teaching me that life is fleeting, at best, and all the plans in the world can change in a millisecond? I hope he is doing well in prison, I hope he has found a modicum of peace. I hope his mother feels some respite, for having such a troublesome son.
I am not a guru, but I am a teacher. I accept this status within certain boundaries, so that I can allow myself the freedom to not be the teacher. So that I can also be the student. Naturally, we can be both, all the time. Sometimes I just want to sleep in, enjoy some tv, and play with the cat.
I thought about this post, this idea of being special, that has somehow poisoned the mind of so many of us today. The need to be special, to somehow be more than someone else. The pervasive perversion of self entitlement, over others. The need for a constant reward, a word of praise, a pat on the back, a rich dessert, in order to feel whole. Because we deserve it.
I was born whole, and it can't be given to me, other than by myself. So can you. Really, anyone can do it. It's nothing special, after all.