Regarding The Other.
Reflecting on the strangeness felt at the sight of ourselves.
We live in a world of diversity. With an estimated 297,326 different types of plants, 950,000 species of insects, and not to mention the some 10,000 species of animals discovered each year, with over one and a half million species already documented, by the time we get to humans our amount of differences seem to pale in comparison to the other inhabitants of this earth. Yet instead of meeting the Other, that which is unlike our-self, with impartial curiosity the standard reaction tends to be fear and resentment. You’ve felt it, that skin-crawling feeling you get when you see a spider inching across your shower ceiling one toothpick-leg-step at a time. This innate distancing of the strange and alien has always been a factor that’s interested me in navigating the world.
I suppose a percentage of this reaction is instinctively helpful in protecting us from danger, for example if a sheep leisurely strolled into the lions den, though it would be met with open arms the claws would be extended. But I’m not talking about the survival factor, I’m speaking more to being “weirded out”. Growing up I was never able to watch television shows taking place in hospitals because the detailed depictions of internal organs are almost enough to make me pass out. I mean think about all the slippery tubes circulating liquid inside you, that’s not something we commonly find identity in because its slightly unnerving. Instead we tend to identify with our long blond hair, our big muscles, painted fingernails, so on and so forth, because these are more comforting qualities to conceive as being constructed of.
I think we tend to get goosebumps when startled by the creepy and crawly because we resent the idea that that could be us. It doesn’t fit into the framework of what is defined as “normal”. So then by expanding that definition it should follow that the foreign becomes familiar. Normality and Identity are very closely related concepts, so in asking “what is normal?” we should also ask “who am I?”.
Now, going through the whole Buddhist song and dance of self discovery, one comes to realize that You are not separate or isolated from the rest of the cosmos, because quite simply you did not come into this world, you came out of it, as the Zen philosopher Alan Watts said “You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.”
The introspection into “Self” is an exciting topic for another posting, but for now I would just like to add that one of my conclusions from said journey in relating to the Other is to regard every living person as You living a different life. Most of us have contemplated the fact that had we been born in another country our political, religious, and social views would be vastly different. But take this one step further and in fact regard every-thing, all the bugs and plants and so on, as You experiencing a different manifestation of life relative to the capabilities of its sensory instruments. “Normal” is simply what an agreeing majority is capable of experiencing, but beneath all of our senses and even behind our own thinking is that which listens to our thoughts and is aware of what we sense.
Who is it that hears and therefore knows that you are thinking?
That is the ancestral awareness, the “void” as it has been referred to, a pure, primary consciousness which all things are endowed with. In identifying with this perspective, all variety becomes a theater of forms for the purpose of play.