You Are Always Becoming What You Think the World Is

The Symmetry of the Self

If you really want to understand yourself, life, and the world, there is one simple principle that you can always remember. Let’s call it the principle of existential symmetry.

We are always becoming what we think the world is.

Just go deep into it with me for a moment. Really hear yourself, even if it is in objection, as you read this.

— We think the world is indifferent. So we discount even the most heartfelt actions. Whatever gifts we receive, we treat with suspicion. We grow detached, numb, distant. In the end, we are indifferent.

— We think the world is hostile. Why then would we treat anyone with kindness? Every action contains a threat, no matter how gentle or encouraging. Now we become hostile.

— We think the world is meaningless. We throw ourselves with abandon into whatever pleases us the most at the moment. We never really attach ourselves to anything, pursue it, develop it, cultivate, whether relationship or career. Now we have become meaningless, too, have we not?

— We think the world is beautiful. We see the heartstopping beauty in every sunset, rainfall, autumn. We are willing to look beneath people’s anger and fear, and find the beauty in them. We can be gentle, kind, creative, loving, defiantly grateful, wise. Now we are beautiful, too.

We are always becoming what we think the world is. It is as true for you as it is for me. It is a great and abiding principle of human existence, when you really stop and reflect on it.

And yet. We often try to run away from it, do we not? We think that we can change the world, and thereby be a little happier, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Even in some small way. But it doesn’t really work that way. Because we don’t. We can change the world as much as we like. But if we are always becoming what we think the world is, then we are already becoming what we will always be. Changing it is besides the point, if we cannot understand ourselves. Because the greatest obstacle to fulfillment lies inside us, not outside us.

Why are we always becoming what we think the world is? The reason is so simple that it we often cannot even see it. We are not any different from the world, are we? We are in the world. Therefore, whatever we believe it is so we must become, too. This is just the cognitive logic of the mind. “It” is not really out there at all. It is just a thought in us. A thought about what it is to be. So there is a kind of perfect symmetry between the world, and “us”, the self. They are just two sides of the same thought, are they not?

We are just reflections of the worlds that we see. Or, if you like, “we”, our selves, are just reflections of the awareness they have. We will always react, like for like, to what we believe the world is. Hostility for hostility, indifference for indifference, beauty for beauty. And so we are always becoming what we believe the world is.

What is the world, in reality, not just as we see it? It is all those things, and none of them, is it not? It is indifferent, hostile, meaningless, beautiful. But in a truer sense than that, it is nothing at all. There is no world, is there? There is just being, in every moment, ever-changing. Who can say where the sky ends, and the cloud begins, or where the drop ends, and the ocean begins? In the same way, who can say where the world ends, and you begin?

There is no world, and there is no you. There is just what we see, and what we don’t see. And so the moment that we stop seeing ourselves creating the worlds in which the little things we call ourselves dwell, we are blind.

May 2016