by Michael Goodspeed
All judgment reveals itself to be self-judgment in the end, and when this is understood a larger comprehension of the nature of life takes its place.”In the final sequence of the 1999 Oscar-winning film American Beauty, 40-year old Lester Burnham has just been murdered. After getting shot by his neighbor, Lester is reviewing the events of his life, from birth to death. He serenely narrates, “I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world…I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.”~David R. Hawkins
I’ve seen this movie at least a half-dozen times, and always have a hard time achieving Lester’s Zen-like forgiveness for the nutball who shot him. I feel contempt for the murderer throughout the film, and resent the fact we never see him brought to justice. But I remind myself that Lester has moved beyond the human condition into something vast and infinite, where indignation is laid aside like so much fool’s gold. He concludes his narrative by kindly telling the audience, “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you? Don’t worry...You will someday.”
This lesson resonates deeply, for I’ve spent a great many years raging against life’s “injustices” — both real or imaginary — suffered by me, and all “innocent” people. I’ve looked at the world and seen evil thriving where the powerful rule the meek.
Over the years, I’ve encountered many who see the world as an intrinsically unjust domain where nice guys finish last and bullies receive the spoils. What I’ve observed in these compadres in misery is disturbing. Invariably, these people seem to walk through life in a perpetual state of resentment and annoyance. They don’t appear able to live in the present moment and find joy in any activity. They see cause for indignation in every situation, no matter how innocuous.
Observing such unpleasant characteristics in others has caused me to re-assess my own feelings about “injustice.” At some point, one has to wonder if his chronic complaining about life has less to do with the world than his own state-of-mind.
Many of history’s great spiritual teachers advised against trying to change the external world, but rather focus on changing our PERCEPTION of the world.
Mahatma Ghandi said, “The only devils in this world are those running around inside our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.”
A similar insight was expressed by David R. Hawkins in his book The Eye of the I: “We change the world not by what we say or do, but as a consequence of what we have become.”
I don’t think either Hawkins or Ghandi is suggesting we ignore or condone the mistreatment of others. But remember, even the most well-intentioned “activists” will do more harm than good if they haven’t, as Ghandi said, addressed the devils in their own hearts.
As we look around there seems to be a validation of the widely-held principle that we receive from the world what we project outwards. According to Hawkins, “Everybody is like a magnet. You attract to yourself reflections of that which you are. If you’re friendly then everybody else seems to be friendly too.”
If this principle is true, then logically, there can be no real “victims.” Nothing in life just “happens” to anyone. For instance, what is it that impels a person to remain in an abusive relationship? And, if they leave, why do they seem to repeat the same pattern and fall into a similar scenario?
What about the most blameless “victims,” including children? Are they, at the deepest level, willing participants in their own suffering? What if a child born into abuse, poverty and famine has designed the scenario for the sake of his or her spiritual evolution?
We’ve all heard the cliché “you create your own reality,” yet how many of us ponder the full ramifications of this? And, I ask you to consider that even the most brutal hardships offer enormous opportunities for profound revelations and self-discovery.
Many resist this philosophy of self-responsibility and self-choice; however, when they can see their way to stop blaming exterior circumstances as something “separate” from them and their choices, then victimhood ceases to exist.
We can sit in judgment of what we perceive as evil and unjust or we can endeavor to make the world a better place, to end suffering and be of service to others by taking a higher road.
Remember, assuming our responsibility as creators of everything we see and attract to ourselves will change our world. When this is accomplished, external events no longer have the power to affect us, and the actions of others can be viewed in an objective light.