As I write this, we’ve experienced maybe the craziest year in our national sports and politics with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Chicago Cubs, Leicester City, Donald Trump, and now the New England Patriots coming back from extremely long odds to pull off improbable upsets.
As a nation that came into being by defying a global empire, we love to root for the scrappy underdog (ok, so the Pats weren’t an underdog going in, but down 19, a comeback seemed improbable). We value extreme competitors and achievers, whether in academics, business, politics, or sports. We value those hard-won victories.
But at some point in life, maybe after the death of a parent, maybe in marriage, maybe the birth of a child, we experience some kind of inward turn and recognize a new arena beyond external achievement, however hard won or dramatic.
That new arena is our very selves. And we have to learn how to even understand the dynamics involved, from the conscious to the unconscious to the extremely subtle. We learn to observe our own thought patterns and cravings.
As we grow in this process and acquire an ever subtler awareness, we understand where that craving comes from and how to drop it. Most people assume without their attachments and cravings life would become drab and colorless. There’d be no fulfillment left.
Instead, when we drop the need for just that one thing, we free up our mental-emotional energy. We’re free to appreciate and enjoy a huge range of experiences. We’re capable of a whole new way of seeing and being.
Jesuit writer Anthony De Mello once said the three most difficult things to do in life aren’t intellectual accomplishments or physical feats, but instead to first include the excluded, second, to admit when we are wrong, and third, to exchange love for hate.
To become capable of these things we have to continue to watch ourselves, to loosen the reins on that self we’ve constructed to get what we want, to fulfill those cravings. We have to loosen up on the whole ego project altogether. Most of the time we’re caught in egocentric mode, or maybe if we’ve grown up a little bit we’re caught in sociocentric mode – when we identify the victory of my church, my team, my family, my belief system, as my victory.
That’s the same ego energy, just one degree removed. We’re still too busy excluding to actually include the excluded. And we couldn’t admit our perspective is one among many, and really a way to fulfill our ego need for security or for feeling superior.
But to say after being beaten, spat on, mocked, and hung up naked on a cross in front of friends, family, followers, and strangers, and to say – forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.
To exchange love for hate – and not via social media or in line at the store or in the car when you see a bumper sticker, not when we feel offended, but in the midst of genuine violence – that takes undergoing this shifted perspective that comes from allowing the ego to dissolve. It takes disidentifying from the ego that someone else is attacking. We begin to see the bigger picture, the other person in their pain and distortion and confusion. We become that greater awareness beyond our small selves, and it all starts with just watching it, by observing it, with an attentive alertness.