So my identity is a series of repetitive actions — and I need to abandon those and go beyond them, go beyond everything I am (even though I must be what I am at the same time) and be willing to completely throw out all the nonsense that I bring to every moment. To see it in the instant it comes and say, “well, yes. There you are, but I'm in a relationship with other humans right now and that requires something other than you.”
I need to be willing not only to throw out this nonsense, but to do whatever seems to be necessary that is compassionate, loving, and caring — all of which are properties I habitually claim to have but which are actually only acquired through constant struggle against the ego and which are never mine as a permanent property, but must be earned again and again through honest spiritual effort.
It takes energy to support that effort; and every time I refuse to struggle and work or bring something real in myself (something, in other words that doesn’t belong to my “identity”) to the moment I am sacrificing and squandering that energy, which is only built up through my effort to go against my habit and my identity.
This brings us around to the question of desires and non-desires. Everything that I desire is attached to my identity, that is, the habits I have acquired which limit my repertoire. I think if you look at the way we live — the way we all live, not just you and me, but everyone — you'll quickly see how disconnected our identity and our desires are from the realities which confront us at every moment of life. Each identity is like a freight train which keeps crashing into other freight trains; and no one knows how to stop the trains from crashing into one another. Soon enough, the swords (or the nuclear weapons), come out and are waved —
and we suddenly realize that very nearly everyone is insane.
My desires are attached to things that keep repeating themselves in the belief that that makes them real. My non-desires, the things I don’t want — and which, in fact, like completely outside the sphere of my wanting — have the potential to see reality, because they are attached to my identity. They exist in that place which says “I am in a relationship with other humans right now and that require something other than you.”
An organic sensation of this situation came to me yesterday at work as I was walking to and from the men’s room. It’s quite interesting how a physical impression, when it is accompanied by proper sensation, can indelibly elucidate something that is otherwise obscure. In that moment, I quite clearly saw that all of the associative, habitual, and automatic things that I think, say, and do, all of which fall under this wonderful “identity” which I have, need to be discarded if I want to have an honest relationship with people. If I discard them, what will turn out happening is that I may sit around all day long — and all of us have parts that do that, you know — but then when I meet my enemy, I abandon that part and I discover myself and relationship and I try to act in a loving way because it is right, and in spite of my intentions and what the ego commands. That is to say, by abandoning all of the nonsense I make up constantly, and by abandoning the habit which I am generally so committed to, I gain the capacity to treat people decently.
And if I do not gain that capacity, is life really worth living?
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.