Photo by Hannah Jacobson-Hardy
There is no such thing as superiority.
It simply doesn’t exist.
The fact that we imagine superiority to be a thing does not, in fact, make it a thing,
does not bring it into being.
Claiming that it’s possible to be superior in any way is as ludicrous as
defending the existence of lime green elephants because you saw lime green elephants in your mind.
Lime green elephants just aren’t true.
The Buddha was onto this,
not lime green elephants, but the unreality of the versus and the vis à vis.
The conceit of comparison, he called it. Māna, in the Pali language.
Oh, māna, my friend! Hello again.
You are “better than,” you are “less than,” you are “equal to,”
all different manifestations of the same proclivity to compare myself against everything else,
which is an addiction to orientation,
which is the habit of needing to know something and to hold on for dear life to that so-called knowing,
which is the terror and hatred of death, disguised.
You do not exist, māna! And yet, you are here, when I imagine you to be.
Who would I be without imagining you? What would I become if I was not orienting myself?
Wherewould I end up if I didn’t orient at all?
Here, with you,
rather than against you in any way,
comparing—Am I above? Below? Close? Far off?
Beliefs of comparison are less real than the most foul-smelling flatulence.
In fact, your farts are actually more real than any thought that separates you from the object of your admiration or scorn.
Just a bunch of farts, these thoughts of comparison, this objectification. Less than farts.
“But what about the petty people?” a voice shouts out.
“The arrogant ones. The violent ones. What about the blantantly hateful?
Surely I’m at least a little bit better than they are.”
In fact, this inclination to consider yourself better than them makes you worse than you think you are,
or it would make you worse if “worse” existed,
which it doesn’t.
If you think the human journey is one in which some travelers are “ahead”
of others who are “behind,”
if this idea has tinctured your perceptual paradigm,
the way you see the world,
then hear these words that speak from and of your paradigm
about another paradigm altogether:
your idea of “ahead” and “behind” is behind.
Suffering from delusion does not make the deluded one less worthy,
Speaking truth does not make the truth speaker more worthy,
There is no one who is more or less worthy of life,
of deep recognition and unconditional, non-transactional celebration.
No better. No worse.
No wizards. No Muggles.
No angels. No demons.
No me and no you, although you and I are very much here.
“But how could it be that some people aren’t behind others?
Sure, maybe it doesn’t make them less worthy of life and all that,
but there are certainly, obviously some people who are behind—
less enlightened, less awake, less…something…”
Say no to your urge to measure,
as if any of us could ever be measured.
Are you bothered by someone who is petty? Is that it?
Then think of pettiness the same way you’d think of a cold.
You wouldn’t think less of someone who came down with a cold, would you?
You wouldn’t take their illness as evidence of their inadequacy, their less-ness.
You’d recognize, without even thinking about it, that
for some unknowable reason,
having to do with the weather,
their environment, which is everything,
andtheir ancestral lineage, which is also everything,
their immune system was down and a virus took hold.
They are not inferior for having come down with a cold,
in the vulnerable state of illness.
It would be madness to judge them, and anything less than love is madness.
Someone showing signs of pettiness is like this.
They’ve got a cold. They are vulnerable.
Someone showing signs of hatred, they’ve got a cancer.
Are they worse because of this? Behind you? Below you?
Of course not.
If you answered yes,
then, my friend, I can only ask you this:
What is like to believe that?
How does it shape the course of your days, believing in
behind and ahead, below and above?
What is it like, to believe that you are in some spiritual race
that you mistake to be real,
or to believe you gotta get to the top of a totem pole
that doesn’t exist?
Is yours the totem pole of spirituality, or finance, or Brazilian jiujitsu? Of women? Of men?
There are as many ways to compare yourself as there is belief in the legitimacy and usefulness of comparison as a way of navigating and inhabiting reality.
What is it like, constantly trying to prove yourself,
find out where you belong, if you belong,
how you compare,
prove yourself once and for all, at last and finally,
again and again?
What is it like, forgetting who you are?
You are incomparable!
You are inexplicable and unprovable!
You are unimprovable! Undiminishable and untouchable!
So be touched, and touch.
Compulsions of comparison prevent you from touching and being touched,
receiving what is being offered you now,
asked of you now,
it has nothing to do with behind or ahead, above or below.
To see this, you gotta see everyone,
the way the thumb ought to see the pinkie,
the skin the heart,
the heart the skin and the pinkie the thumb,