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From Separation to Connection

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We are one. There is no separation.

We want people around us who accept us as we are. We choose to not spend time with people who point out our frailties, inconsistencies, sins, bigotry, unfairness, insensitivities, and prejudice, or who push our buttons in real-time.

So we unfriend and avoid those who do not feed our worldview, beliefs, biases, and bigotry. We end up creating a wall of friends to reinforce and support our prejudice.

By now you might be thinking, “Oh, Paul, this article is not for me! I like everyone. Actually, I love everyone.” And you might also be thinking, “Well I will read this essay, because my brother-in-law certainly needs to read this. He is so smug, unhappy, and full of his own beliefs that there is no room for happi- ness, love, or acceptance in his life.”

Sadly, the truth is that if you have a brain and are over age three you have biases. Don’t blame parents, culture, or organized religion. Blame our predisposition, due to evolution, to have a brain that likes to oversimplify the complexity of our world. We are wired to not waste time or our precious physical or mental energy. Throughout our evolution we created shortcuts, habits of the mind so to speak, to help us sort through the complexity of the big, often scary world around us.

We use this natural labeling of the world to help us make sense of it so we can be safe. Today, just like when we were developing humanoids, we need to decide quickly if a person is bad, if a situation is safe. Whether it’s healthy or not, we create shortcuts and put stuff in buckets labeled good-bad-neutral.

So yes, if you have a brain, you are hardwired for bigotry. But just like the Buddha said: “Suffering exists” (in this case, ignorance); “you can do something about this suffering!” (suffering comes from ignorance); “you can live a spiritual life” to help transcend the bigotry.

First, however, you must admit you have a brain and that your brain is constantly labeling everything and everybody good-bad-neutral.

The way out of this unhealthy brain dance, according to Magatte Wade of skinisskin, is to “Transcend the bigotry. What the neurons need is to separate [reorganize] from each other by love, curiosity and empathy.”

We must shun our implicit habit of bias and take personal responsibility to do inward work to help get away from blaming other people for how they were born.

We must shun our implicit habit of

bias and take personal responsibility to do inward work to help get away from blaming other people for how they were born. As Wade explains, “How can you blame someone for being born black, white, woman, man?”

How can we be truly happy if we are running around our complex, ever- changing world ignorantly placing people, events, books, speeches, animals, and everything else we experience in boxes?

According to Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We can use the spiritual tools of meditation, prayer, and effort to guide our self-talk and pre-programmed biases so each day we can be bit more kind, compas- sionate, loving, free (from judgment/ attachment), and happy.

Meher Baba said that you and I are not “WE” but “ONE.” We must set the intention to move from separation to connection. We must admit that we have bias and act as if we are one, loving and accepting this oneness. This means not allowing our anger to get us riled up. We start with ourselves. Knowing “suffering (ignorance) exists.” Guided by the wise man Jesus, whose skin was like burnished bronze, who said, “The truth will set you free.”

The truth is we have bias, and we can do something about it. Bias is not just about color, race, sexual orientation, or political party: Are we creating categories of people based on where they were born, their weight, smell, hair style, if they do yoga or go to temple, went to college, talk with an impediment or strong accent, smile all the time, or are just plain grumpy?

Wade suggests that after we accept the fact of our biases, we start reprogramming ourselves. “Fake it till we make it,” so to speak, by expressing three character attributes: curiosity, empathy, and love.

A humble and inquisitive curiosity lets us understand where biases come from and not judge the process.

My children believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and the Easter Bunny. One day they will accept the fact that these fictions were based on false assumptions. We must always be will- ing to admit we were misguided. We must admit we were wrong, and silly for believing such a notion, be it think- ing Santa Clause delivers presents or that someone with a PhD is wiser than someone who fixes cars. We must move on without blaming, shaming, judging, or allowing ourselves to place people in a caste system, elevating some people as more important, better, more worthy of respect than others. Sadly our three-year-old brain likes to divide people into gradients of worthiness.

Empathy for each individual guides us to wish to walk in their shoes. It is, after all, hard to hate someone once you get to know them. The problem is that we just don’t have a lot of time,
so we are constantly defaulting to our programming. And looking for the jerk in someone else or ourselves just does not set us up for a happy life.

Love, which is seeing the good in others, is the magic elixir that unlocks the desire to move away from the fear, indifference, or mental habits that separate us. Love motivates us to live a happy life built around curiosity, empathy, and love. Love is about connection. Truth is, we are in this together. We are connected. Love, curiosity, and empathy can guide us
to connection. We are one. We are connected. There is no separation.