Eye of the Beholder

If you’ve been roaming social media, you have probably seen this posted somewhere — an image of the universe with a “You are here” arrow and the words “whenever you get too worked up about politics, religion, money or life overall…just remember…”

I came across a blog post today from Collin Garbarino saying that, while the universe is beautiful, the stuff written on the image makes it “the stupidest picture of the universe.” His point is that we shouldn’t think of ourselves as so small and insignificant that our beliefs don’t matter. Although he doesn’t say this exactly, I’ll infer that he thinks some values, some struggles for justice, are worth getting “too worked up about.”

WheneverI like and respect what I’ve seen of Collin on his blog and in comments we’ve exchanged, so (with no place on his blog for comments) I sent him an email that included these words:

I see that photo as being about what Buddhists call “attachment.” Many old-school Theravadan Buddhists didn’t care much about doing good works on earth, but some did, and then the Mahayana wave started. What I’m getting at is that of course we want to change things in the world, and of course we may have different opinions on how to do that. When we become so attached to our own views that the struggle for a better world becomes part of our identity, we lose the ability to hear each other and to actually do anything good.

I don’t know if you feel that God is on your side in that sort of struggle, but I’d respectfully suggest that, if you do, you’re too attached to your views to do the world any good. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I believe our biggest problem is in not listening compassionately to each other. So I see “too worked up” as the key words in the picture, and I don’t see it as pointing to only one side of the big political/social debates going on. It applies to Unitarian Universalists as well as Southern Baptists, to Bernie Sanders as well as Ted Cruz, and so on.

I have a friend who described attachment this way:

It’s OK to want a Mazeati. It’s not OK to think that your happiness depends on getting a Mazerati.

So I’d say that it’s OK — more than OK — to work for a politician or a cause that you feel will make the world better. What’s not OK is getting so wrapped up in your politician or your cause that you know yours is the one and only answer. That’s when you’ve lost touch with your compassion. That’s when you begin to demonize the “other.”

And, yes, I’m talking to you, my liberal/progressive friends, as well as those “other” folks. When you feel yourself getting “too worked up” about a cause, it’s time for the big three: 1) stop, 2)smile, 3) breathe. Sit and focus on your breathing, observe your thoughts and let them go. You will soon realize that the universe is indeed a very big and beautiful place just the way it is. You need to make it better, but you are not its center.

I’ve held off until now on saying anything that would place Collin on the political or religious spectrum. If you didn’t click on either of the links above, have you put him into one box or another? If so, please let me know in the comments below.

In fact, Collin’s blog is where he posts his “unpopular opinions on popular culture.” The assistant professor of history at Houston Baptist University describes himself as a “republican monarchist,” a “bookish Louisianan,” and an Augustinian Baptist. He saw the “too worked up” picture as a “shorthand diatribe against those of us so benighted as to believe there is a God.”

In other words, while I may be far more liberal/progressive and somewhat less strident than Collin, he’s my kind of guy.

— Mel Pine (Fearless Lotus)

Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Good advice as the caucus and primary results start to roll in.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. amiezor says:

    Yes, attachment – or aversions! – tend to draw lines in the sand and force us to choose sides. (Thereby furthering along this lovely illusion of separation we love to cling to.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. melhpine says:

      You are a Buddhist, or a Buddha

      Liked by 1 person

      1. amiezor says:

        I would not disagree 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      2. amiezor says:

        Thank you Mel, that is a nice complement!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. kaptonok says:

    This comparison game has no end but it seems always to be played to make us humans insignificant.
    Firstly by size , secondly by time.
    The human brain is probably the most complex thing in the universe.
    We can’t be sure but it looks as if we are alone in the galaxy.
    The big – bang theorists mutter about what happened in the first billionth of a second and how important it was. We live far longer.
    ‘ The Brain is wider than the sky ,
    For, put them side by side ,
    The one the other will include
    With ease , and you beside.’


  4. I think a little perspective comes in handy now and then. I don’t see that meme as being against believers per se, but just advocating some perspective. And yes, against the backdrop of the entire universe, maybe we should seem a little – just a little – insignificant, while on the other hand remembering that we are made of “starstuff,” to quote Carl Sagan.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As far as politics goes, I have heard of Democrats who insist they won’t vote in the general election if their favored candidate doesn’t win the nomination. I hope there are not very many of these people, and I see this blog post in general as addressing them (in one of its layers, at least).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. melhpine says:

      Yes, all of the above

      Liked by 2 people

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