Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spiritual Challenges (aka "Other People")

Wow, You Guys.

It's so amazing to write stuff, put it out there, and then have people WRITE BACK.

So, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Got some great questions/comments coming in from you folks. I will do my best to reply.

Jen from Colorado writes:

"Dear Ellen,

I believe it's important to love everyone, and I'm working hard on approaching people and interacting with them with love (rather than judgment, or sarcasm, say, like I usually do). But what about when the person is a dick? Or a soul-sucker? Or passive-aggressive? Or just boring? What is my spiritual and moral obligation there?"

Dear Jen,

Ohhhhh, good question. I am dying to find out what I'm going to come up with, cause frankly, my initial answer is "Jen, hell if I know."

This is one that trips me up quite a bit. When I'm by myself, I can often get into a pretty good Ninja Zen Master Zone. . . an emotional energy field of love, acceptance, and curious, pleasure appreciation and anticipation.

Left alone to stew in my own meditational juices, I occasionally hit a plateau where it feels like nothing anybody says or does will ever bother me again.

I can feel how funny it is that I ever thought it mattered.

And this blissful state will last forever, because it is the truth, and I am ringing with it, gently, like a deep and happy bell. It will last into all realms of eternity, all reaches of time and space. . .

Except for the convergence of time and space where my boyfriend calls me up to tell me about the latest computer software he's coveting at Best Buy. . . but he really can't afford it. But he really wants it. But he can't really afford it. But what if he were to budget for it? Do I know how amazing this new technology is? Do I realize what he could do if he just went ahead and bought it anyway? Should he buy it anyway? Maybe he'll buy it and try it and then maybe take it back later.

I love him, but I am also longing to kick him to death.

What is my moral/spiritual obligation here?

What is the appropriate spiritual response to my neighbor, Carl, who's always coming over to chat in the middle of the day? He's a nice man, actually, basically a good guy.

But he also drinks with admirable dedication. He's got a beer in his hand pretty much every second he's conscious. And he's got a gift for long, surprisingly detailed (yet curiously vague) stories that take a lot of plot and character exposition. About things that happened thirty years ago, back when he was a hell-raisin' high-school youth. These kids today, it seems, don't know shit from shine-ola. I haven't told him yet that I would be hard-pressed to identify shine-ola myself. But, in any event, the important point is that things were different back then, back when people knew their ass from their elbow.

I get in this weird cycle of listening because I feel tuned in to his essential goodness, and also to his profound loneliness, but underneath my apparent empathy I'm starting to become quietly, deeply insane with boredom.
I would rather be doing something else.

I wish I could say that that "something else" is my work, or meditating on the Divine, or actively engaging my creativity, but honestly, listening to Carl talk makes me long violently to be reading Us Weekly, or to be experimenting with parting my hair on the left side instead of the right.

I mean, spiritually speaking, how does this scenario fit in with offering love at all times?

And these are people I basically like.

What about people I don't like at all?

Reading Emmet Fox's The Sermon on the Mount, and came across this bit:

"People. . . have been under the erroneous impression that to forgive a person means you have to compel yourself to like him. Happily, this is by no means the case--we are not called to like anyone whom we do not find ourselves liking spontaneously, and, indeed it is quite impossible to like people to order. You can more like to order than you can hold the winds in your fist, and if you endeavor to coerce yourself into doing so, you will finish by disliking or hating the offender more than ever."

Thus speaketh Emmet, and I think he has a good point here. But is it truly possible to "love" someone that you don't really like? What does that feel like?

If anyone out there has direct experience of this phenomenon, please, please post a comment or email me at

Jen, I gotta think about this one some more. I'll check back with you guys next week.

Namaste. Or, as my friend Toby says, "Narcisste." Which means, "The narcissist in me judges and rejects the narcissist in you." Give it a try!

No comments:

Post a Comment