Dying Daily #82: Other People

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We are born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.

Marcus Aurelius

Other people.

There is a reason Zen masters retreat to the mountains and Sadhus retreat to caves and monks retreat to monasteries where no one is allowed to talk.

Other. People.

Of all the things we have to learn to be at peace with in life, other people pose the most serious difficulty.

They don’t listen, they complain, they get in the way of what we are working on. They are selfish and stupid and arrogant and just have to live their lives near us living ours.

There is a good chance they would even have the nerve to say these exact same things about us.

Other people.

Look, there is no way around the fact that not everyone has the same degree of self-awareness and insight and mindfulness in how they go about their lives.

There is no way around the fact that many people out there don’t really pay attention to the things they do, don’t take the time to be introspective and see where they might improve and honestly do not care how their actions might affect others.

There are three things to consider with this though.

One: Am I really as mindful and considerate and enlightened as I think I am? While I like to think I am a little more self-aware than most, even if this is true there is no way it is perfectly consistent. Maybe I should clean up my own yard before bitching about my neighbors.

Two: People are not selfish and difficult without cause, and their selfishness and difficulty harms them more than it does anyone else. It is an opportunity to offer compassion if we can step outside our own wants and desires and sheer annoyance for a second.

Three: If your emotional wellbeing is in the hands of someone else, you are screwed. I don’t care who it is. You cannot outsource the regulation of your internal state without creating severe unhappiness.

So, accept that you are going to encounter all sorts of difficult people today, and every day.

Some will be strangers, some will be family, some will be the people closest to you. Try to stay in your own business and offer compassion instead of judgment. Don’t let someone else’s selfishness or unhappiness push you into your own selfishness or unhappiness. They are the way they are for a reason.

Same as you, same as me.