The other day Michael Herman and were talking about compassion and mutuality. The idea is that mutuality is making someone appear as real to you as you appear to yourself.
Naturally this means understanding that the person sitting across the room from you at this moment is full of an inner life that is as rich as yours. Confidence, self-esteem, confusion, love, pain, grief, celebration – all of these things are known to them too.
It sounds so trite on one hand, but it is incredibly powerful the more I dig into this thought. So often we see others as “punching bags” able to absorb hurt that we project without any internal effect. And yet, we know damn well how it feels to be cursed at (or smiled at for that matter).
To say that someone appears as real to you as you appear to yourself is to understand that when we think of ourselves we rarely think about our bodies. As Douglas and Catherine Harding would say, we donï¿½t even know we have a head. We donï¿½t see our back…we only see a small percentage of the body that other’s see. What makes us real to ourselves in our inner lives of thoughts emotions and sensations. With practice it is possible to sense that every other person in the world also has this inner life, despite that fact that we usually only perceive them as bodies.
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In a related move, Euan Semple at The Obvious? points me to The Global Rich List, which tells me that in an average year I am about the 50,000,000th richest person in the world, which puts me in the top 0.836 percentile.
I have a lot of work to do to understand compassionate relations when 5,949,632,435 are poorer than me. Five billion is a number I can’t even conceive of, but it does put minor aches and pains in context.