Inequality and Evil

I mention in my book, To Find the Way of Love, that although the concepts of inequality and evil are absent from each of the dual theories of the Universe’s creation—the physical and the spiritual—the concepts of freedom and equality do appear in both. Freedom and equality are conceived in these theories as characteristics possessed by all of the fundamental particles that comprise all matter. The particles are equal in that no particle is better than any other or controls any other; and yet, particles can be different from one another, as iron differs from oxygen and protons differ from electrons. They are different but equal.

Only in recent millennia did this natural paradox become important, and problematic, as humans began to attach value judgments to differences. The reasoning arose that if two things were different, one had to be better than the other. This reasoning was extended, incorrectly, to people; if two people were different, one was superior to the other. Thus, inequality and evil appeared together—long after the Universe came to be.

Evil is not some mysterious thing: it is any act or belief that interferes with freedom and equality, or with the formation of free and equal relationships. It’s only a matter of belief, for example, that because men and women are different, one must therefore be better than the other. Such assumptions of inequality are the root of evil.

Perhaps ironically, this human propensity to make comparisons and turn them into negative judgments evolved from a crucial survival mechanism that first appeared eons ago in the mammalian brain. With a new brain structure, the limbic system, came mammals’ drive and ability to nurture and protect their offspring; and unlike their reptilian forebears, mammalian brains carried an innate prohibition against eating their brethren. This meant they also had to evolve a capability to rapidly identify others of their own kind, thereby solving the “eat or greet” dilemma posed when meeting a stranger.

Unfortunately, what was once a positive survival mechanism has since become a destructive, self-limiting means for discriminating against anyone or anything that’s different from the self or what the self is accustomed to. It would be a better world if each of us took responsibility for our biases and their consequences. It would be a safer world for all of us if differences were not so often, automatically, imbued with value judgments. It would be an impressive step forward for humanity and its future if we could move beyond those ancient, instinctive discriminatory impulses to a more conscious recognition of the potential value in our differences, and to an awareness of the necessity for treating all humans, despite differences, with respect as equals. Perhaps becoming mindful of the way of love can be a key to making that transition.

Oliver & Barbara

Why Are Relationships So Important

My wife, Barbara and I have talked about how we think it is a good sign when the teacher or other observer of the scene says your kid “plays well with others.”

It’s comforting to think that child will grow surrounded by friends, over the years, to laugh with and share with and cry with.

In my book, “To Find The Way Of Love” I say that relationships define us more then our achievements. I was struck by Steve Jobs’ response to his biographer Walter Isaacson as reported in Time, October 17. When asked why he, such a private man, was willing to open up about himself through numerous hours of interviews he is reported to have said to Isaacson; “I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t always there for them and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”

Steve Jobs was an acknowledged visionary and genius who had a profound relationship with his work and through that all of us. The vast outpouring of grief that followed his death speaks to that. Barbara and I were at an Apple store the next day and felt deeply moved by the growing tributes, flowers, apples, pictures, messages left outside the door in tribute. But as the end of his life approached it was his family that mattered. That was his priority. It’s a valuable exercise to imagine how we would spend the last week of our life, if we had advance knowledge.

I like to think that the test of a man or woman is how they play with others. Not the number of relationships, but the quality of one’s ability to relate and care and feel. It’s interesting that what has been said about psychopaths is that they lack empathy, the capacity to put themselves in another’s shoes. Given the environment today, some might say that because our elected officials are largely out of touch with the people who elected them, their fellow citizens, the disconnect gets larger daily as does the anger. Now we have groups protesting in Wall Street and many other locations across the nation, and growing.

Our relationships express our humanity. Our relationships can express our equality, person to person. Despite differences in ability, power, money, luck, and we are all born live and die. That is our common human experience. The rest is what happens in between. I would wish for a world in which “plays well with others” remains important and can make a person proud.

Oliver & Barbara