To understand that I have not chosen is quite revolutionary, or at least quite provocative, as my friend Danny would say. In any case, this comprehension has the magical and unequivocal ability to liberate me internally. Which is always positive and comforting.
As the eleventh Principle of valid action advises, “It does not matter in which faction events have placed you. What matters is that you comprehend that you have not chosen any faction.”
This is a complicated theme because of the enormous effort that has been dedicated to convincing humanity that our existence requires some kind of “identification” – with a cause, a religion, an ethnicity, one’s education, etc. etc. etc. The list is endless, as are the reproaches if you decide not to do it. And in this process of identification we simply get chained to beliefs that awaken in us a blind impulse to defend them at all costs whenever they are questioned. This is where the enemies and the allies come in, together with all the superstructures of justification for such beliefs.
In reality, the problem lies not with the factions but with the fact that we have not chosen any faction. No one is born belonging to a faction. But of course without giving us any time to reflect, the environment starts working on us and our “identity” gets configured according to the geographic location we were born in and everything else that goes along with that: language, ethnicity, education, social and economic strata, etc. It’s very difficult to avoid having our identity configured in all those ways; in fact, it’s impossible…. But what IS possible is to reflect more deeply, which lets me see that none of this has been my choice.
So I ask myself: What’s the problem with having received all this that I have no control over at all? And I answer: There’s nothing either good or bad about all these aspects of my identity, because what I’m proposing is simply the lack of choice, without speaking in terms of good or bad. I don’t need to question what I’ve received… unless it causes problems for me. Unless it makes me violent inside or makes me violent to others.
If I feel like a prisoner of my beliefs, if I feel like my faith is being attacked, then I need to reflect on this weakness that is mine and no one else’s. But if my faith is in what is beyond the circumstantial, beyond what I have acquired, beyond the “natural,” then it’s not so hard to understand that these divisions, these factions, are not as solid as they might seem. Otherwise they would not need so much defense and violence to maintain them.
All this is complicated because the mere idea of not being part of any faction in particular gives us a sensation of abandonment, of being set intellectually and emotionally adrift. Of being alone and unprotected. The tendency to be attached in general is so strong that the idea of liberation is a little intimidating. It’s like being left with nothing, like being a weathervane turning in the wind, like being without commitment, being unable to “define” oneself, etc. etc. etc…
This essay already has too many etceteras, but that is testimony to the interminable litanies connected to this theme of understanding that one has not chosen any faction, which is why understanding it is not easy. What’s more, this is not a call to abandon any faction, and that’s even more difficult to integrate. This is a call for mental liberation, which has little to do with the external. If I am able to understand, if only for instants and not as deeply as I might wish, that it is the “mental” that enchains me, that it is what I “believe” that generates suffering, that it is what I “defend” that gets me into messes, that it is what I “attack” that produces problems for me and others, then I will direct my “re-flections” toward those beliefs in order to understand them. With no need to abandon anything at all… because my effort is directed toward freeing myself of the suffering caused by this “identification” that is nothing more than reveries and beliefs.
This inner capacity to see and understand my internal mechanisms and my responses is what I am interested in developing. Sometimes I manage to see that I have no need to defend or attack anybody or anything. Those are the best moments in this process because then I am at peace with myself and I can see that I have truly chosen very little, and this is the understanding I need if my actions are going to be truly valid.
Something important to clarify about this attitude is that it implies absolutely no need to explain the incoherent actions of others. I do not need to explain that the other person had a difficult childhood or give any of the fashionable psychological explanations. No, there is no need to explain anything. The point of comprehension is with myself, and that is where my reflection begins and ends.
November 9, 2020