This past weekend was the 4th of July, Independence Day holiday in the U.S. It is meant to be a celebration of liberty, equality, and opportunity. But instead of celebration I feel deep mourning and pain.
The American mythology is that liberty, equality, and opportunity are for everyone. Yet from the formation of this country and to this day it seems, these needs have been for some at the expense of others. Our country began with the brutal robbery and genocide of Native Americans and slave labor of Africans. This theme has continued on through the generations in various forms, including how we have related to other peoples, countries, and the natural world and environment.
I struggle with finding empathy for the magnitude of all this, for those who want to maintain this way of relating, and for those who cling to the mythology. I also struggle for empathy with how the objectification, implicit biases, and seduction of privilege live inside of me. I at times cycle between intense anger and despairing disillusionment with all of humanity. And then, as I struggle to find the words to write to you, a Shakespeare love sonnet fills my mind and heart:
“… Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.” (sonnet 29)
Shakespeare’s “thee” for me is the spirit of empathic connection. I see this spirit awakening and arising in so many people around the world now. But what are we awakening from?
The concept of the human Ego has for a long time been unclear and unhelpful to me, but suddenly now it opens me to greater understanding and compassion. For now I see the Ego as the part of all of us that believes we are completely separate and therefore cut off from the love, security, and wellbeing of connection with shared humanity and the wholeness and sacredness of Nature, Life, Reality. Ego sees the world as a continual life-or-death struggle for survival and battle over scarcity.
Fearful and insecure, carrying personal and ancestral trauma, I see the Ego at the root of any beliefs or behavior that are not loving, caring, and cooperative. It helps me tremendously to see and remember this. I am moved to want to connect empathically with this frightened and isolated aspect of me and others, and then refuse to cooperate with it from a compassionate place.
This is how I see that we bring liberty, justice, and opportunity to All – all humans and all life of the ecosphere. Will you join the great work of our time of supporting one another to remember this empathic response and act with compassionate noncooperation?