Making Peace with the Pain
Distance is not the enemy. On the contrary, rejection of distance is the problem. That bad habit denies our basic nature and runs counter to our innermost qualities. Separations are critical to us on every level. They help us define who we are – and are not. They help us figure out who others are (or are not) and how to interact with them. We cannot dismiss our differences or discount them, but we do need to learn to navigate them better. When we treat them as opportunities for links to bring us closer to others, rather than divides to set us apart (or at each others’ proverbial throats), it puts them in a whole new light.
When we refuse to admit that we are separate, we miss the opportunity to overcome it. You don’t work to change what’s fine, what’s fundamentally okay – you don’t build a bridge, if there’s no gap. So, if we never perceive the gaps – or we decide those gaps are something to be judged and avoided – we never give ourselves the chance to really extend ourselves across the distance between ourselves and others.
If we lose touch with our sense of separation, and we cannot see ourselves as distinct and distant from others, it makes it all the easier to jump to conclusions. We think we know what’s going on. We never stop to question ourselves and our biases. We may not even know our biases exist. After all, we’ve got it all figured out. Right? We freely make assumptions and impose rules upon others which may make sense for us, but don’t for people who are nothing like us – but we assume are. After all, we’re all brothers and sisters, right?
But when we recognize the pervasive nature of separation, the intrinsic Other-ness of our lives, we realize how vital – and how tricky – it is. Only then can we figure out how best to negotiate it. We need separation – even depend on it – to clearly define ourselves and our place in the world. And in understanding ourselves as Other, it also becomes pretty clear that we can’t just take things for granted, like community and connection and the veracity of the ideas we have rolling ’round in our heads.
We need to keenly feel the sting of separation, in order to more fully appreciate what connection we do find with others. We need a sense of distance from our world, to really value the ways we’re joined. A sense of deprivation can drive us to pursue truly meaningful goals, and a deep sense of lack can impel us to build something better in our lives. We need to realize just how much we do not – and cannot – know. And we need to suffer a bit from that. Unless we know how much we have to learn and how important it is that we learn it, we’re never going to ask the kinds of questions that actually produce answers.