The university of life
It really helps to understand that we have something–that we are something–which is unchangeable, beautiful, completely aware, and continues no matter what. –Ram Dass, in Still Here
It’s my belief–one I feel provides a much-needed perspective on life–that we come here many times. And just as you can’t have all the elements you really love in a single house–you can’t have a tile roof and a thatched roof at the same time–you can’t do everything, be everything, or “have it all” in a single life. Nor should you try.
I believe–though this isn’t something I’d bet the farm on, now that I’m into uncertainty–that we are here as part of our soul’s education. I think of it as analogous to getting a bachelor’s degree. You typically have at least one major and minor, core requirements, and electives. Core requirements would include experiencing all aspects of human existence–male, female, gay, straight, young, old, ability, disability, various races and ethnicities and nationalities, rich, poor (mostly poor, I gather), coupled, single, with children, without. You could think of it as the ultimate in independent study, and you don’t get to keep the handbook and the syllabus in your backpack.
I think we each have preferences, such as a preferred gender, perhaps ethnicity and geographic location, and that’s our major. But a certain percentage of the time, we’re required to live outside our comfort zone. No ifs, ands, or buts. Those are the core requirements.
This yields a balanced education, where we learn that it sucks to be the oppressed, the oppressor, and the one mistaken for the oppressor.
And we learn that life is delicious, no matter who you are.
And we learn that love is all that matters, and war doesn’t work.
And we learn that we are all one.
No doubt many consider this nonsense, and I’m sure there are those who judge it dangerous and pernicious nonsense.
I see it this way … even if I’m completely wrong about this, doesn’t it help to consider that while I may not be in your shoes right now, perhaps I was 50 years ago, or will be 50 years from now? If I’m tempted to generalize about an entire gender, race, profession, or whatever, if I question your right to have any opinion at all given your identity, it’s helpful to recall that I could be talking about myself in another guise. And if it’s true that we are all one–I am.
If I myself have had not only my current perspective, but many others, it becomes immediately obvious that there is no one right perspective. In fact, all perspectives are valid, and make up facets of the truth.
I find it helpful to conclude that there is no comprehensive Truth that I can fully understand here and now. I’m inherently limited by the portion of the curriculum I’m studying. I feel that I can either reconcile myself to that, or to being wrong for sure about whatever dogmatic truth I choose to espouse.
I can catch glimpses of Truth. I can hold on to a simple wisdom–“All you need is love” isn’t a bad one. But being able to explain the Universe A to Z and back again is simply not within human capacity, I believe. So I greet all claims of having all the answers, as well as all denials that any answers exist, with skepticism.
… Nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need
–Mike Leander, John Lennon, Gary Glitter, Paul McCartney