Oneness versus Me-ness

disrupting oneness, because it’s usually not Oneness

Religions, philosophies and ‘ways’ of life evolve. Our opinions and paradigms eventually shift. Sometimes these shifts occur as massive changes sweep across society, but more often the shifts occur in limited, more personal ways. These more incremental tweaks are often experienced as disruptive life events, or simply through the mere act of aging.

Generally shifts are external. We are not deliberately, consciously instigating changes. Instead, we find ourselves victims of change, habitually lifting our palms in surrender because well, you know, “shit happens.”

To suggest that we can have a more deliberative role in shape-shifting our species in a positive direction is viewed by most of us as an utterly futile gesture. Frankly, I don’t blame anyone for feeling that way.

Ever a cup half-full guy, I nearly always yearn to press forward. For me, the question becomes what would we want to shift toward? Ever more group-think? Where neither man nor woman questions for themselves? Where we fail to insist on solutions that address fundamental human conditions?

Oneness is a gradual maturing process. When children are in kindergarten, they tend to think about themselves, and not the needs of others. They clutch or grab at toys with a possessiveness that can be embarrassingly apparent. The hope is, of course, that children stop being children and outgrow overtly self-serving behaviors.

Similarly, our concepts of what Oneness actually means, when we view these things as adults, can remain distorted. For example, it’s probably a very good idea to support disrupting our habits of “all being in this together” when we can barely even define what ‘this’ is.

It seems that whenever we speak of unity, it’s nearly always within the context of taking sides. It happens even when we chant “being one with nature” or “one with the universe”. Once we drill down to discover what’s behind our chant it often turns out that being one with the universe ends up being defined as a nation, or as some kind of power or as some ‘way of being’ that corrupts and dilutes our ability to trust our own inner discernment. Our very definitions of nature and the universe can be highly suspect.

We don’t really understand how to unify, and when we finally do actually unify it’s against something. We remain divided and call it unified. The point here is that we have a ways to go.

Oneness in the dojo

The Jiu Jitsu training mat teaches egalitarianism. Actually, it insists on it. The dojo is blind to age, gender, social status, beliefs or politics. So when you’re with your training partner, differences are put aside. Everyone is there for a common reason. It’s a practical microcosm of being unified.

And it’s part of the reason why we bow into and bow off of the mat: because we are symbolically and practically acknowledging a force that’s higher than any of us, a force that we bow to show respect for, a force that gives us permission to let go and to unify.

It’s really quite startling when you think about it: that people from diverse backgrounds and interests are able to unify around an art founded on the premise of learning to stay calm in the face of death. It’s as though when nothing more than even the merest hint of death is in the air, differences have a way of melting away. Death, it seems, in even its most subtle of manifestations, equalizes. In the face of death, unification comes quickly.

It’s important to get a sense of what a higher, more elevated definition of Oneness might include:

“There is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand. Who hath access to this universal mind is a party to all that is or can be done, for this is the only and sovereign agent.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson


  • Level 1, Very Low Oneness is represented by rabid loyalty to causes which divide or isolate people and groups. Examples can include small groups, dictators or political parties that promote fear, anger, resentment, hate and division. This is deliberate selfishness, but it’s a form of selfishness that will never admit to selfishness unless the admission is in the individual’s or group’s self-interest to confess. “Yes, of course we want to get rid of all the people who are [blank] because they are [blank].”
  • Level 2, Low Oneness can be found in self-serving groups and movements. Certain religious movements might fall into this level, including heated religious and interdenominational infighting. But perhaps a better example is the so-called 1% who continue to hoard and collect more and more wealth, or even the upper 10% middle class who are complicit in their privileges that perpetuate unhealthy and unbalanced economic disparity. In this case, it’s less about Oneness and still a great deal about it’s-all-about-me ness.
  • Level 3, Middle Oneness can be exhibited by standing up for family or for advocating productive causes. Some religious movements would be represented here. This is also the world of the labor union and environmental conscientiousness. It’s the world of Occupy Wall Street that exemplified unification, but nevertheless represented a self-limiting call to unification because it was based on excluding a certain class or group of people. It’s call-to-arms embodied a certain nobility, but also embodied blame and anger. (Note: I participated... feeling simultaneously noble and angry.)
  • Level 4, Higher Oneness represents a wide enough net of inclusiveness that pretty much anyone could say, “Yes, I agree with that.” This is a far higher level of difficulty because it’s most fundamental operating premise is one that insists on a far higher purity of inclusiveness.
  • Level 5, Highest Oneness is something that’s way beyond my pay grade to even attempt to describe. It cannot be defined because our humanity is too limited in its perspective to even know where to begin. It’s unimaginable. We can barely imagine Level 4 without despairing and saying that even Higher Oneness is not even possible… much less the Highest Oneness.

“Music should probably provide answers in terms of lyrical content, and giving people a sense of togetherness and oneness, as opposed to being alone in their thoughts and dilemmas or regrets or happiness or whatever.” — Peabo Byrson

“Quantum physics thus reveals a basic oneness of the universe”.- Erwin Schrodinger

“Technology is destructive only in the hands of people who do not realize that they are one and the same process as the universe. ” — Alan Watts



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Mark Walter

Construction worker and philosopher: “When I forget my ways, I am in The Way”