The other part of the story is reality. We’re taught that truth and reality are the same thing, but in human perception, they rarely are. Two people can perceive the same car at the same time of day as two different colors; whether or not this is due to the way their brains are wired to process color is irrelevant—The one person’s reality involves a green car, and the other person’s reality involves a brown car. If we know for a fact that they saw the same car, arguing the point that the car is actually blue isn’t likely to get us anywhere.
This analogy applies to people’s outlook on life as well. We all know people who seem unshakable, as though nothing can get them down. These are the people who see the world for all its possibilities: Seeing the best in people, and all the opportunities to contribute good to the world, and deriving joy and strength from their spiritual practice. Since this is their reality, their environment reinforces this reality, and they attract more of what they focus on.
On the other hand, we probably know just as many people who, no matter how great things may look to us and how fortunate we all are to have what we have, will always focus on the negative and come up with a list of reasons to not allow themselves to be satisfied or happy. Since this is their reality, their environment reinforces this reality, and they attract more of what they focus on.
Two of my dearest friends once told me an ironic story that perfectly illustrates this point. They grew up in villages where people didn’t lock their doors, so when they moved to a new urban area, they didn’t think to be overly concerned about someone breaking into their house and stealing their possessions. Their neighbors, who constantly worried about the crime rate in the area and went above and beyond in securing their house against thieves, were astonished that the newcomers would be so careless.
When my friends left their unsecured house for the day to enjoy their work and make new friends, and their neighbors left their locked-down house hoping that the crime wave wouldn’t hit their street, guess whose house actually got broken into?
Another example of this is the idea of devils and evil spirits that are out to tempt us or hurt us or possess us. Some people actually base their spiritual practice on these negative forces instead of on whatever positive message their faith is meant to convey. They put way more energy into worrying about and teaching about hell and damnation and temptation than they do into practicing what their religion actually preaches—Do good, love people, and pay the proper respect to the spiritual force of the universe.
As a result of this backward perversion of their religions, they are hateful, suspicious, frightened people whose belief systems have become so corrupt that they are incapable of seeing good in the people around them—Christians, Jews, Muslims, pagans, Buddhists, non-believers, and so on. They are constantly suspicious even of their own, because the pull to “sin” is so strong that none of them can trust themselves or anyone else not to get sucked in. Since they are motivated by their fears and their prejudices, their lives are constantly bombarded with more reasons to be afraid and to distrust people whose ways are unfamiliar to them, or who simply look like they are having too good of a time.
Looking at how sharply this contrasts with spiritual traditions that teach us to use love and devotion as our motivation, it’s amazing to think that we are all actually living on and seeing the same planet, occupying the same space in the same dimension.
Meditating on this, seeing reality as a crystal came to mind. When we look at a multi-faceted crystal, we see lots of different colors, plus light areas and dark areas. Depending on how the light is hitting it, and the angle its viewed from, part of the crystal may look opaque while part of it may be translucent. Sometimes the whole thing may look opaque, and other times we can see straight through it.
Some people always seem to be in the dark. The people in the dark part of the crystal can’t see the rest of the crystal around them. Those who are in the light are not blinded to the dark—they can see it too; they just don’t fixate on it though because they can see all the possibilities, not just the negative ones.
With this idea in mind, my prayer for humanity is for the light to hit the part of the crystal that’s in the dark, so the people living in that dark spot can actually see what’s around them beyond the narrow unlit facet they’ve restricted their lives to. In a dark room, just because we can’t see the light switch doesn’t mean it’s not there.
Image: Detail from “Nothing Without Love” by Karla Joy Huber, 2016; Prismacolor marker, Sharpie marker, gold gel pen, white gel pen