Every day I think about the people in Ukraine and the people in Russia, because I know that all of them are at the mercy of their governments’ decisions. As an American, who is very often appalled at what my own government has done over the years and continues to do, I am certain that many (if not the majority) of the citizens of Russia are not in support of what’s happening. It saddens me. The destruction of people and earth saddens me deeply.
All of it stems from the delusion of separateness. We create imaginary borders for imaginary countries, to perpetuate a false “Us versus Them” narrative that is meaningless.
For temporary wealth that we can never take with us? (Psalm 49: 16-20)
For the illusion of control that breeds nothing but anxiety, worry about a tomorrow that may never come, and further perpetuates the delusion of separateness.
We are not separate, though oceans may ebb and flow between us. We are one human family.
Recent brain scans show that we have a very “binary understanding of self and other and that our empathy circuits do not activate unless we see the other person as part of our own group.” (The Book of Joy) Apparently we hold very tightly to the idea that we are separate individuals to the point that we must mentally size-up everyone and judge them based on how they measure up to us.
What I find interesting about this is that as humans, we apparently don’t consider “being human” as being part of the same group. It’s not enough to say, “we disagree on this idea, but that’s okay. We’re still human brothers and sisters.” No, we have to find other similarities or differences to justify our acceptance or rejection of the other person. Maybe the other person also has children, or is of the same religion as we are, or we like the same sports team, or books, or food…and that makes them acceptable. Or perhaps they don’t have or like these things and so that justifies our rejection of them.
In affect, we are basically looking for someone like us. We seem to need to see us in everyone we meet or they are not good enough to be in our group. It seems we connect better to people we perceive as being like us - perhaps meaning we are not looking to connect with others at all, but rather with ourselves. Otherwise, why would “finding something in common” be a major goal when meeting someone new?
We are all one human family. Distant cousins. Brothers and sisters. Each of us wishes to be seen, loved, valued, and happy. Why is this not enough common ground for peace, love, and understanding?
It’s easy to look at a terrible situation like what’s happening with Russia and Ukraine and cry out for peace and understanding, but it is just as easy to overlook our own daily battles with the same ”Us vs Them” mentality.
We may see someone who drinks a lot or uses drugs and separate ourselves from them.
We may see someone who attends (or doesn’t) church, mosque, or synagogue and separate ourselves from them.
We may see someone dressed a certain way and separate ourselves from them.
We may judge someone based on their income, job, status, interests, etc and separate ourselves from them accordingly.
We do this every day without even realizing it, thus creating little wars within our own hearts, minds, and spirit and this spreads throughout the world and culminates in wars between countries.
Just for today, I invite you to search yourself. Aim at yourself today and notice where you create this illusion of separateness in your life. How do you judge others today? Why do you need “common ground” in order to accept another human being?
For with which whatever measure you judge, you shall be judged.” Matthew 7:2