My self-esteem has taken a beating this week and it’s all been self-inflicted. I’m comparing myself to other people and coming up short. And look, I know someone out there envies me (and you too), that comparison is the thief of joy, etc., but that doesn’t help me in the moment when my chest burns and my cheeks get hot with envy. It doesn’t help when I’m looking over at so-and-so, marveling at their achievements and wishing I had the same but don’t. My rational brain might as well not exist for all the good it does me when I’m emotionally activated.
The emotional self needs soothing and one way I’m doing that is coming back again, and again, and again to a quote from Richard Tarnas‘ book Cosmos and Psyche. He says there are two ways of grappling with the universe and uses the analogy of two suitors to explain them. In the first approach, the suitor treats the universe as if it has no intelligence and is something to be exploited for his own gain. In the second, the suitor seeks to know you (the universe):
“[N]ot that he might better exploit you, but rather to unite with you and thereby bring forth something new, a creative synthesis emerging from both of your depths. He desires to liberate that which has been hidden by the separation between knower and known. His ultimate goal of knowledge is not increased mastery, prediction, and control, but rather a more richly responsive and empowered participation in a co-creative unfolding of new realities.”
In other words, we are all bringing forth something new and unique as we co-create with the universe. Yes, there are billions of people on the planet and many of them might be doing similar things to me but no person has my unique set of circumstances, experiences, beliefs, and talents. And I’m here to give form to something that would otherwise not exist in the 3D world.
Posted on my bathroom mirror is the question, “What does my higher power want to work through me? And what part of self needs to step aside in order for that to happen?” It’s a good question. When I’m looking over at so-and-so doing such-and-such, I’m not asking that question. Instead, I’m asking why I can’t be like that person. Doing so robs me and the universe of a gift that could otherwise come into being.
I know it’s cliché to say everyone is unique and special but … everyone is unique and special. There is something only you can birth as you’re participating in a co-creative process with the universe. A quick story for you from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Liz had an idea to write a novel about Brazil in the 1960s that she summarized as such: “It’s about this middle-aged spinster from Minnesota who’s been quietly in love with her married boss for many years. He gets involved in a harebrained business scheme down in the Amazon jungle. A bunch of money and a person go missing, and my character gets sent down there to solve things, at which point her quiet life is completely turned into chaos. Also, it’s a love story.”
Liz researched this story, even sold the idea to a publisher, but got sidetracked by life things. When she came back to the idea two years later, it didn’t have any juice anymore. She couldn’t write it. During this time, she met Ann Patchett and they developed a friendship. They exchanged long, handwritten letters and Ann casually mentioned she was writing a story about the Amazon jungle which could be summarized in exactly the same way as Liz’s.
The finer details of the novel were different but the idea was essentially the same. There’s a lot I could say about this story but the relevant part for this post is that coming from Ann, the story was slightly different — it was a contemporary story, not set in the 1960s. Ann’s was about the pharmaceutical industry and not the highway construction business. She put her spin on it in a way that Liz could not. She made it special because it came from her, not Liz.
There are a ton of similar ideas floating around in the ether but the way I make them concrete, the way you make them concrete, matters. Focusing on what someone else is doing misses the point. All of us are special and all of us have something of value to bring forth into the world. The more we recognize that, the better.
I dream of a world where we realize we’re in a co-creative dance with the universe. A world where we understand every person is bringing forth something that couldn’t have existed without them. A world where we realize there may be a million similar ideas that people are working on but the way we work on them matters. A world where we remember that all of us are special.
Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.