Arjuna Ardagh asks, “What have we come to accept as the default state of being human?” then answers, “Most agree that human consciousness is characterized by an unnatural sense of separateness, a sense of a ‘me’ and a ‘not me.’ We act as though we are separate from the source itself, from the divine. On the basis of this feeling of separation stands everything else that feels abhorrent to the heart—child abuse, domestic violence, people lying to and cheating each other, environmental degradation, war. All of these things arise from this feeling of ‘me’ and ‘them’ as separate, or ‘me’ and ‘the planet’ as separate” (Ardagh, 2007, p. 215).
It hasn’t been easy to decide where to start writing this blog—there are so many topics that I want to write about, from this shift in consciousness that is occurring to the need to catch language up to it—but I seem to come back to this quote over and over in the scribbling I’ve done for the past few months, so this is where I shall start. It echoes a favorite passage from Alan Watts written 30 years earlier:
“We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms. Most of us have the sensation that ‘I myself’ is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body—a center which ‘confronts’ an ‘external’ world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange” (Watts, The Book: On the taboo against knowing who you are. New York: Vintage, 1972, p. 8).
You mean, after having spent years crafting a quirkily unique personality that distinguishes me from my mother, father, and brother (of course, they’d say I’m just plain weird), I’m not actually the pillar of individuality I have tried so hard to become? Damn.
Don’t be so hard on yourself, Lisa. It’s not what you think.
Who are you?
That little voice in your head.
Yeah, I know. But who are you?
Oh, you need me to be a “separate center of feeling and action” too? Well, I’m not. I’m that part of you that is not deluded about being separate; I’m the part that is still fully connected and has no sense of separation.
Am I hallucinating you?
Or are you hallucinating yourself?
Point taken. But let me get back to my original point. Both Watts and Ardagh seem to suggest that we wouldn’t do the awful stuff we do to each other if we just realized that we aren’t separate egos, that we are instead like different fingers on the same hand. Who ever heard of the thumb fighting with the pinkie, trying to gain dominance over the whole hand, because after all, having an opposeable thumb is what gives humans an edge over, say, dogs? If I look at you and see a slightly murky reflection of me (rather than an “other”)—and I say slightly murky because, after all, the DNA differences between us are minimal compared to the similarities—then I would be less likely, for one, to be afraid of you. I think that’s what they’re trying to get at: the feeling of separation leads to (or perhaps comes from) feelings of fear, and we definitely do bad s*&@# out of fear.
Ok, so if you didn’t feel so separate, what would your experience be like?
That’s a tough one to answer because I have felt very separate most of my life.
And you think you’re the only one who has felt this way?
No, when you don’t have good boundaries, when you don’t realize that you’re not distinct from another, isn’t that a type of personality disorder? A friend of mine used to have a joke about that. He’d say “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine too.” That can’t be the type of non-separation that they’re talking about.
The notions of “yours” and “mine” are what Watts and Ardagh are saying don’t exist, as there isn’t really a “you” and “me”; that’s the fallacy we have all bought into, the hallucination, the unnatural sense of separateness. There’s another joke you might have heard: Why is there so much suffering? Because 99% of what we do is for our self, and there isn’t one.
Well, what is there, then, if there isn’t a “me” and a “you”?
There is only Love.