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Dialog with a [W]hite Supremacist Part I

I had an interesting exchange with my white Supremacist fan in the comment section of my last post entitled “Ego and Forgiveness.” The following is a summary of the exchange and commentary on the parts I found to be of interest.

It is my contention based upon personal experience that it is useful to think of the ego as a separate entity distinct from the true self. It is useful to do this because the ego is that part of the intellect responsible for pride, shame, lust, envy etc. and if I can gain a separation from the ego then I will not become identified with the ego and act upon its impulses unthinkingly.

My white Supremacist fan responded, “The ego is not ultimately separated from the … self. Every act requires the whole self to be wholly completed. Separating an “ego” from the … self is [how] the dominant side proceeds under the guise of the uncontrollable and unpredictable “ego.”

By “dominant side” I presume he means the main stream culture which oppresses his “side” with its way of thinking about reality through the social structures it creates. I assume he includes me in this grouping and furthermore sees me as some sort of representative mouthpiece of the grouping. As such (again I am making an assumption) he feels duty bound to refute the observations I make in my blog posts. I wonder how many other blogs he follows and comments upon so vigorously. I also find it interesting that he sees the world separated into antagonistic groups and these groups are all labeled and categorized in his mind. This is a trait I recognize because I had it when I was more dominated by shame in my past.

He goes on to say, “If one finds his self at battle with his “ego” [then] he can rest assured it is his dominant self seeking to proceed under the guise of a reckless “ego.” The radically autonomous “ego” is an example of liberationist myth-making.”

Again, notice the labels and the jargon. I assume the term “dominant self” relates back to his other label “dominant side.” I interpret his use of “dominant self” to mean the aspect of the self that buys into or has been brainwashed by the social structures created by the dominant side. He argues this dominant self uses the term “ego” not for the purposes of attaining better self understanding but rather to exonerate the self from any wrongs it has committed. In other words the dominant side uses the concept of ego to avoid taking responsibility.

I understand this argument very well because I lived it for many years. Its basic premise is (this is my ego talking mind you) that I am at fault and deserve to feel ashamed about it. If I am truly at fault and I recognize that fault, it is probably healthy to feel some degree of shame and take action to make right that which I wronged. But the ego tends to take things to an extreme. It has been my experience that my ego does not allow for a healthy resolution of shame but rather insists that I carry the shame around with me forever. This is why I think it is healthy to gain separation from the ego. But to a shame-based morality structure dominated by the ego this of course seems disloyal, immoral and indeed sinful.

To be continued…

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Gatekeepers

In life there are gatekeepers. These are the people or organizations who label you and based on that label will tell you, “yes you can do this” or “no you can’t do that.” For some people a gatekeeper is a boss who tells them they will or will not get a raise or a promotion. For others a gatekeeper might be a book publisher who tells them their book is or is not marketable.

You cannot control how the gatekeepers will label you. But you can control whether you accept that label in your heart.

In the third grade I had a gatekeeper. She was my teacher.

On day she announced she would be directing a theatrical, musical version of Hansel and Gretel. There would be auditions where each student would recite specific lines she selected and based on our performances she would assign all the roles.

At the time I had a best friend named Robbie. We were both class clowns and were excited by this opportunity. I pictured myself moving the crowd through eloquent oration. I pictured myself delivering the punch line causing the audience to erupt in laughter. At the end of my performance I pictured the crowd showering me with thunderous applause.

On the day of the audition Robbie and I waited in line with the other kids to step to center stage and recite the line. Then we waited nervously until the next day for the results. That whole night I could barely sleep.

The next day the teacher announced the roles we all received based on our auditions. She gave Robbie the lead role of Hansel. She continued to read the other roles and who they were assigned to. I waited. Finally she said my name. I would be playing the role of “Background Tree” in scene four.

The background tree had no lines.

The background tree held a cardboard cut-out of a pine tree with a hole cut out for my face.

The background tree stood behind the four other trees.

…with speaking parts.

I was devastated and humiliated. I cried myself to sleep that night. I assumed this meant the teacher thought I had no talent.

Now don’t get me wrong, I suppose the world needs background trees just like it needs ditch diggers…

But that’s not true…

The world needs ditch diggers.

It does not need background trees.

Obviously the role was not necessary to the play. If I did not show up the performance would have continued swimmingly. It’s not like I had an understudy for the role. In fact, there were three other background trees as I recall. I wonder what they’re up to now?

Clearly this role was created for those kids the teacher thought had absolutely zero talent. But inside me I knew I had talent. I certainly had more talent than it took to play the role of Background Tree.

For a long time, however, I accepted this role I had been assigned. I may have had talent in my eyes but I allowed myself to be placed in the background by the gatekeeper. I became afraid of putting myself out there because I did not want to be in the position where a gatekeeper could shut me down again by saying, “You’re not a Hansel. You’re a background tree.”

And by not putting myself out there I limited myself. I became a background tree.

My critical error was that I accepted in my heart this role the gatekeeper, my teacher gave me. I let it define me. I became afraid to put myself out there because I was afraid someone else would label me a background tree again and I did not want to feel that intense humiliation.

Looking back on this experience I realize that in order not to be a background tree in life I must do three things.

  1. I have to put myself out there
  2. I cannot accept in my heart the roles the gatekeepers assign me if I know in my heart they are not true to me, and
  3. I have to put myself out there again.

The only person who can truly make me a background tree is me.

In life there are gatekeepers. And the gatekeepers might not recognize my talent. I cannot let the gatekeepers assign me the role of background tree in my heart because then I actually become a background tree.

As it turns out I did audition for another play in middle school. This time it was a production of Peter Pan. By this time I knew I was not a background tree and was excited to audition again.

Robbie got the role of Peter Pan.

I got the role of “Generic Lost Boy.”

It stung. Just not as much.

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Beliefs Separate

A Facebook friend posted this article entitled 18 Spiritual Teachings That Will Alter Your Mind and Improve Your Life. The fourth item on the list reads:

Beliefs separate.

Since absorbing this fundamental teaching via J. Krishnamurti, I have strived to let go of beliefs and labels. I am not a Catholic Buddhist liberal American yogini. I am a human. You are a human. Now we can relate.

Are beliefs and labels the same thing? They both tend to place limits on the concepts. A belief is something I hold to be true. A label is a name I give to something. Once I fix a label to something it does tend to define it for me so in that respect the label becomes a belief. And a belief tends to become a fixed point of reference. I put it in a box and no longer question it. I can then use these boxes to construct my theories about the nature of reality. In this sense beliefs and labels help me to navigate this unfathomably vast and complex reality that I inhabit. In that way they are useful despite their limitations.

In the religious tradition in which I grew up (Roman Catholicism) beliefs played a central role. As I understand it belief is required for salvation. I always questioned why this was so. In other words, why would God care whether I believed in him or not? It is not as if his existence depends upon my belief. Or does it? I still label myself a Roman Catholic and I recite the Nicean Creed every time I attend mass. I do think about whether I truly believe all the points in the creed. Honestly I do employ a level of doublethink to say the creed and not feel hypocritical. Ultimately I guess I do not believe that beliefs are what is really important when it comes to religion. I am sure Michael Voris and Admiralbill would disagree with that statement but that is their belief and our different beliefs are what separate us.

There is also some crossover here with the idea of creative visualization. If I believe something is true then I can visualize it and perhaps that brings it into being.

To the point of this idea that beliefs separate, if I believe something and someone else believes something else then there is a point tension. I have not read anything by J. Krishnamurti but I am guessing this is the point that he is trying to make. If you and I cast aside the importance of belief then we eliminate a great deal of potential conflict. In the same respect if we both believe the same thing and there also is no conflict. But there is a conflict with others who believe something different. So with beliefs there is always the potential for conflict and separation.

I still come back to the idea that beliefs and labels are probably necessary for me to navigate reality. It is simply too vast and complex to take in as a whole on any meaningful level. However on a one-to-one basis conflicting beliefs can become problematic.

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The Function of Labeling Things

Labeling is a function of the ego’s desire to categorize, define and otherwise put everything in its proper place relative to everything else. At its essence this desire arises out of the ego’s fear of its inability to appreciate reality as a whole. When a thing has been labeled the ego feels like it has  a certain power over the thing. The thing is now confined by its label. However, labels are not the thing that they label even though the ego tends to proceed as if the thing and the label are one.

Despite their inaccuracy, labels can and do serve useful functions. For example, labels can diminish fear. When a fear is labeled it seems to become something less than what it was. The labeler now seems to become (in a sense) more powerful than the fear. The fear thus becomes less scary. Another example is that labels allow for the communication of information from one person to another. The transmission of information is less than one hundred percent accurate but effectively more information is communicated with labels than without them. Labels serve these useful functions by digesting reality into usable chunks. As such, even though they are not perfect they make reality more understandable than it would otherwise be if left unlabeled.

Understanding reality is the chief function of the ego which has taken on the task of making a livable space within reality. Two paths an ego can take to understand reality are science and religion / spirituality. Science seems to rely heavily upon labels. It defines things and in doing so it makes them less than what they actually are. But by doing this it allows scientists to work with the information and arrive at answers.  Theories and equations (for example) are labels. This is the language that science speaks. Religion and spirituality, by contrast, while using labels symbolically also attempts to appreciate at the whole of reality itself. This is its language. As such science and spirituality don’t speak the same language. Because of this they tend to become dismissive of each other.

The ego is an ally in that it seeks to navigate the vast ocean of reality. But unchecked the ego can run amuck. An unchecked ego does not lead to happiness. There is a balancing act between the ego and the truth of reality. The ego desires to make truth understandable. But by doing so through labels the ego makes truth something less than what it actually is. At the same time this function is necessary because without it there would be much less understanding or perhaps no understanding at all.

The self comes to understand that labels are not the truth through observation. Under normal circumstances the self thinks of the label as the thing itself. This is perhaps the best the self can do under the circumstances. Meditation seems to be a way to take in the whole thing or perhaps to take in something more than just the label. But for most people life cannot be lived in a state of meditation. As such labels are useful and necessary but perhaps should be appreciated for what they actually are from time to time.

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