loving-kindness for my enemy


Before diving into the topic, I want to clearly state that I don't support anything that our 45th president has done during his time in the White House. I will avoid political matters because (1) they are not crucial to this discussion, and (2) I am not a political pundit. I am not sure how social justice became political. Still, I do feel an urge to state I support the modern social justice movement's demands—equality of law for everyone. The crimes against humanity from the 45th president are not worth defending in any way, and I want to make that clear. This post is an active meditation for myself, so I am not writing this to convince anyone to stop being angry at this person. I enjoyed writing about this because this topic is not borrowed from someone else; rather, it is mostly an independent idea that came from my meditation practice during October. (I will save the topic of is there anything as independent thought for another post)

The visceral reaction that the 45th president's name brings up in my mind is the equivalent to Jay-Z's contempt for Christopher Columbus: I'm anti-Santa Maria / Only Christopher we acknowledge Wallace ('Oceans' from Magna Carta... Holy Grail). I will try my best to be objective in this discussion, but you can probably already tell how I feel about this person.

I want first to explain why I feel sorry for this person and, more importantly, why I want to practice compassion to a person that does not deserve our compassion. 

Why I feel sorry for my enemy?

To start, I have absolute trust in the eternal law of the universe: 'you reap what you sow.' Reading that back, I see how hipster that sounds, so let me elaborate further.

This trust in the universe is not wishful thinking. Still, it is from my personal experience in life: engaging in wholesome thoughts, speech, and actions will lead to wholesome results, and engaging in unwholesome leads to unwholesome results. The key here seems to be we don't know when the metaphorical seed (thought/speech/action) will be ready to reap (result on the mental condition of humanity). Thankfully we don't need to wait for the universe to reward the 45th president for his conduct in life, the rewards of his unconscious actions can be seen several times over each day as he tweets his feelings for the entire world. His destitute mental health might not offset the physical suffering he has caused humanity and the world, but it is a start. Although the inner child in me wants to relish in schadenfreude as this person self-destructs into oblivion, the rational side of me is telling me to chose the higher moral ground and show empathy.

To state briefly, I feel sorry for him because he has been unable to understand the enteral law of the universe even after being born into the highest levels of material wealth. While most of his current mental state is his fault, I can't avoid mentioning all he did in life was chase the American dream (which has somehow morphed into simplifying human experience into just a money optimization calculation).

The 45th president's lack of inner self-awareness, much less self-reflection, put him in a mental plane of existence below modern humanity. His thoughts are the flowering of our species' worst tendencies: greed, hate, and ignorance. I have realized that no one can force growth in another individual; it is up to each individual to put in the effort to grow as a human being. 

To give a better metaphor, I want to turn to a recent novel I just read called Flatland (Abbott).

The novel explores geometric figures that think and speak and have all too human emotions, across four different levels of reality—based on the physical dimensions of space. The plot consists of a sphere entering into Flatland and trying to convince a square that is there is a third dimension (that can only be seen in Spaceland). The Sphere philosophizes about the concept first, but after seeing the Square's confusion, he physically takes the Square to Spaceland to convince him, and it works. The plot thickens as the Square tries to convince the Sphere of a world that is higher than three dimensions, which the Sphere immediately declares as ludicrous.

There is an interesting conversation that captured the utter futility of trying to help out of the mental poverty of the 45th president in the story. The Sphere takes the Square to Pointland (which is made up of no dimensions) to show a Point's life.

"Look yonder," said my Guide, "in Flatland thou hast lived; of Lineland thou hast received a vision; thou hast soared with me to the heights of Spaceland; now, in order to complete the range of thy experience, I conduct thee downward to the lowest depth of existence, even to the realm of Pointland, the Abyss of No dimensions.

"Behold yon miserable creature. That Point is a Being like ourselves, but confined to the non-dimensional Gulf. He is himself his own World, his own Universe; of an other than himself he can form no conception; he knows not Length, nor Breadth, nor Height, for he has had no experience of them; he has no cognizance even of the number Two; nor has he a thought of Plurality; for he is himself his One and All, being really Nothing. Yet mark his perfect self-contentment, and hence learn this lesson, that to be self-contended is to be vile and ignorant., and that to aspire is better than to be blindly and impotently happy. Now listen."

He ceased; and there arose from the little buzzing creature a tiny, low, monotonous, but distinct tinkling, as from one of your Spaceland phonographs, from which I caught these words, "Infinite beatitude of existence! It is; and there is none else beside It."

"What," said I, "does the puny creature mean by 'it'? "He means himself," said the Sphere: "have you not noticed before now, that babies and babyish people who cannot distinguish themselves from the world, speak of themselves in the Third Person? But hush!'

"It fills all Space," continued the little soliloquizing Creature, "and what It fills, It is. What It thinks, that It utters; and what It utters, that It hears, and It itself is Thinker, Utterer, Hearer, Thought, Word, Audition; it is the One, and yet the All in All. Ah, the happiness, ah, the happiness of Being!"

"Can you not startle the little thing out of its complacency?" said I. "Tell it what it really is, as you told me; reveal to it the narrow limitations of Pointland, and lead it up to something higher." "That is no easy task," said my Master; "try you."

Hereon, raising my voice to the uttermost, I addressed the Point as follows:

"Silence, silence, contemptible Creature. You call yourself the All in All, but you are the Nothing; your so-called Universe is a mere speck in a Line, and a Line is a mere shadow as compared with—" "Hush, hush, you have said enough," interrupted the Sphere, "now listen, and mark the effect of your harangue on the King of Pointland."

The lustre of the Monarch, who beamed more brightly than ever upon hearing my words, shewed clearly that he retained his complacency; and I had hardly ceased when he took up his strain again. "Ah the joy, ah, the joy of Thought! What can It not achieve by thinking! Its own Thought coming to Itself, suggestive of Its disparagement, thereby to enhance Its happiness! Sweet rebellion stirred up to the result in triumph! Ah, the divine creative power of the All in One! Ah, the joy, the joy of Being!

"You see," said my Teacher, "how little your words have done. So far as the Monarch understands them at all, he accepts them as his own—for he cannot conceive of any other except himself—and plumes himself upon the variety of 'Its Thought' as an instance of creative Power. Let us leave this God of Pointland to the ignorant fruition of his omnipresence and omniscience; nothing that you or I do can rescue him from his self-satisfaction."

Compassion through Loving-Kindness (Metta) Meditation

I think the rest of this article will be me trying not to sound like Michael Scott. I won't lie; I tried my best not to speak unwholesome speech in this post, and while my blunt analysis above comes across as harsh, it is much better than the words that I deleted from my draft. It is time to try to answer the second and more complicated point of this post:

Why and how we can show compassion to our enemy, especially when it is clear the enemy does not deserve our sympathy.

I have thought about this question a lot while thinking about this post in recent weeks. This question started a few weeks ago when I began to deliberately practice loving-kindness meditation developed by Gautama, the Buddha. I mentally check out when people try to sell me spirituality, so I won't bore you with that garbage, but I need to provide a brief explanation of loving-kindness meditation for me to go further. Thankfully, the Buddha was not a god; instead, he was a human being, a logician, and a  physician who found the answer to our mental woes using simple internal investigation tools and nothing more.

Why and how we can show compassion to our enemy, especially when it is clear the enemy does not deserve our sympathy.

I have thought about this question a lot while thinking about this post in recent weeks. This question started a few weeks ago when I began to deliberately practice loving-kindness meditation developed by Gautama, the Buddha. I mentally check out when people try to sell me spirituality, so I won't bore you with that garbage, but I need to provide a brief explanation of loving-kindness meditation for me to go further. Thankfully, the Buddha was not a god; instead, he was a human being, a logician, and a  physician who found the answer to our mental woes using simple internal investigation tools and nothing more.

Loving-kindness (metta) mediation is a practice that involves intentional wishing the following four qualities of being:

(1) May I be happy
(2) May I be safe
(3) May I be healthy
(4) may I be at peace

The context starts at yourself (which is assumed to be the most accessible starting point) and slowly expands to encompass all of humanity (here is a standard order: yourself, family/close friends, strangers, strangers you disagree with, the enemy).The quality of love required by the practice is the love a mom has for her only child.

While practicing this mediation for a few weeks, I noticed something exciting, showing compassion to people who I like or who agree with me is not real compassion. My genuine compassion comes out in front of people that create intense negative emotions in me. Nipsey Hussle conveyed this concept much more eloquently, so I will give him his flowers, "When it hit(s) the fan, you get to find out who you are." When you are face to face with people you don't like; your true self comes out. I find this fascinating because it provides an easy way to check-in with how compassionate you really are.

In sum, the only way I know my compassion is growing is the mental strain needed to stretch myself past the edge of my current level of compassion. 

Regarding my experience with loving-kindness meditation to our 45th president, as expected, it has been challenging. While I have never had any physical injures like broken bones, I think those would be easier to cope with mentally than this task I am pursuing—which essentially requires me to override the biological urge of 'us vs. them' tribalism that has been used by our species for thousands of years. I have started taking pride in following through to what I aspire, so I know I will get to the point where I can show compassion to this person; whether it takes me a year or three decades is not crucial. In the words of the great modern philosopher from Philadelphia, Will Smith, "Make a choice, you just decide, what's it's gonna be, who you're going to be, how you're going to do it, just decide, and then from that point, the universe is gon' get out your way."

Although the challenge is tough,  I am enjoying it because (1) I like completing difficult things, and (2) actively trying to expand my compassion to strangers is pretty foundational to fulfilling my legacy. Wrapping this up, the point of this post was not to somehow help our 45th president; this post was really to help myself. I can't think of a better way to combat this country's political polarization (I know I said I would not go political, but I need to wrap this post up, so please bear with me for these last few sentences).

A few moments ago, one of the major news channels called the 2020 presidential election showed scenes of elated crowds forming in Philly's streets. Watching those videos, I was happy for them, but I realized I couldn't bring myself to share their joy; I want to feel their enthusiasm, but all I can think about is the 70 million fanatics that voted for the 45th president. How can I enjoy this moment, when I know the mental suffering that consumed an entire political group—for four long and painful years—will move to the other political ideology?

As the commander-in-tweets fades from the public limelight, my loving-kindness meditation will need pivot to his 70 million disciples. As Nipsey would say "The Marathon Continues".

Thanks for reading!

May you be happy,
May you be safe,
May you be healthy,
May you be at peace.