Important – one
Of great significance or value
Important in effect or meaning
What is important to you?
I’ll rephrase the question. What is the most important thing in your life right now? I am going to take a guess that you are not going to say your sports car, going out for a meal at the weekend, going down to the pub to relax after work, your career, your lovely house, or going on holiday this year. I am going to take a huge gamble and come out and say it.
I think the most important thing to you in life is (a) your family (parents/children/partner), their health and their happiness and (b) your own health and happiness. Am I right, or even close to being right?
You see, I think that whether you’re a gangster, a corrupt politician, a plumber, a nuclear scientist, a cleaner, a hit man, a clerk, a stripper, a director or a soldier, those are just jobs. Some are more questionable than others, but nonetheless, they are just your chosen professions.
Even if you extort money for a living with menace, you still have a mother, or a wife and children to think about. You make money to provide the best you can for your family.
Even gangsters are in love. Think about it. Even people who kill other human beings are capable of love for their family. It’s inbuilt. Hard wired. As far as I know, even presidents who start wars that kill millions of innocent people, love their wives and their parents. So for me it really comforting to know, that no matter what people do in life, whether violent, or peaceful, there will always be an emotional connection to our parents, and we will seek someone to love, and share that love by having children with them. Perfect!
What we are in fact showing here, is that even if people are beset by anger and hate, they still have the ability to show love for another human being. This is the single greatest step towards a more peaceful world. Just loving one person may not solve all the world’s problems, but it’s a good start.
My parents are the most important thing to me, not because my partner or anyone else isn’t important, but because my parents have always been there for me when I needed them; and as they will (probably) die before me, I want to get to know them better. I want to understand more about their lives. I only seem to know them as “my parents:” two people who brought me into the world and looked after me – not as individuals with hopes and dreams; successes and failures; sadness and joy. So can someone please try to help me understand the following. If love is the most important thing to all of us, why do we act in ways that are the complete opposite of love?
A strong positive emotion of regard and affection
We say we love, but how quickly we forget what that means when we hurt another. So how can we know love when we only apply it to one specific group of people (e.g. our family).
How the soldier cries, when his brother is cut down by a bullet. He loved his brother so much. He will avenge his death. He will find the person who did this and make him suffer for what he did.
Love and hate may be the opposite of one another, but they are closely linked. You have hurt the one I love so I will hurt you. The example of the gangster, who loves his family but is prepared to kill anyone and everyone who gets in his way is a great way to show the hypocrisy (insincerity by virtue of pretending to have qualities or beliefs that you do not really have) of the human race. I do not believe we really know what it is to love. We may like people, or feel bound to them because of a genetic or matrimonial link, but to love is so, so different. If you love you cannot hate, and if you hate, you cannot love. Please try to understand what we are discussing here, it is of the utmost importance.
The mind, like a camera lens, cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. When you bring one thing into focus, the other goes out of focus.
You cannot love and hate at the same time. Even as a soldier, if you say “I don’t hate the enemy I am killing, I’m just doing my job, I’m just following orders,” please see that in the very act of killing, there is an absence of love and compassion for another human being. In the same manner, you cannot say you love animals, whilst enjoying a nice juicy steak.
So let’s not pretend we are full of love as the priest who blesses the troops going into battle does. Anyone who takes another life or sanctions the taking of life does not know love.
It’s time to stop pretending and find out what it really means to love, that is the important thing in life.
Of great significance or value
Important in effect or meaning
When questioned about what is important, it is fair to say that most people do not want to appear selfish. That’s why we say: “The most important thing to me, is family;” but in reality, that isn’t the case. I think we should stand up and be honest with each other, and say, “Do you want to know what’s important to me? It’s me. I am what’s important to me.” Is it true?
All my life, I have only been concerned about me. My job, my car, my problems, my desires, my money, my holidays, my stress, my relationships, my struggles. The world revolved around me. But a few years ago whilst travelling through a poor country in asia, I suddenly thought, “Stop! What am I doing? Am I so concerned for the “me” in life that I am forgetting everyone else in the world?”
Of course, some will say: “You have to look after number one. If you don’t, who will?” And I’m all for people looking after themselves, and working to provide for their family; but what I’m talking about is the realisation that whatever I do in life, affects others. This isn’t about suddenly becoming philanthropic (generous in assistance to the poor) or running off to india or africa to help people who cannot fend for themselves. It is the clear realisation that we are all connected.
Being joined in close association
Joined or linked together
How is it that we are all connected when we are geographically and culturally so diverse? Well, the first thing that connects us is that we are all human! Oh, sorry and let’s not forget the animals who provide us with milk, or the animals who unwillingly give up their lives so we can taste their flesh, or the streams that flow into rivers to give us water, or the trees that provide oxygen for breathing that we cut down for paper. I think you get the idea!
Not only are we connected to each other by way of being of the same species, but we are all connected to the planet and all forms of life are connected to us. We are all interdependent. Whatever we do can affect the planet and whatever the planet does can affect us (for example: tsunamis, volcanoes exploding, earthquakes, floods, crop disease, animal disease).
If I were a human, I’d be treading very carefully on this planet; it seems as if we could unbalance it very easily. Oh, I forgot, I am a human; and am I treading carefully? No I’m not.
Some of us on earth feel strongly about certain issues such as hunger, war, poverty, health, the environment, or global warming (which are all worthwhile causes I grant you), and we campaign tirelessly to “Stop The War!” “No More Hunger!” “Stamp Out Poverty!” But are we missing a vital clue in how to solve them?
There are a million campaign groups out there, each with their own agenda, each lobbying parliament; although some are successful, the fact remains that individuals have the most important part to play in the world. An individual thinking and acting independently, whilst acknowledging that they are connected to everything in the world, can solve any problem.
Think about it. Most people believe that the only way to effect change is through outside pressure, through convincing someone else to act, but the importance lies with us. Our individual thought, followed by our resulting actions, all affect someone or something in the world.
Everything we do; from the time we get up, until the time we go to bed, is having an effect – positive or negative. And because we think mainly about ourselves and our families in isolation, we don’t even realise we have had an effect! We are so unaware of ourselves in our surroundings that we can’t comprehend the idea.
So just for a moment let’s step outside the me to look at real life.
One day in the life of alan, an average employed working human being in the west. You may not see anything in this day as significant, but try to look deeper and see the connections.
“I get up in the morning and I take a nice long hot shower to wake up. I have a quick coffee, it’s from the finest beans in costa rica, but it’s quite cheap at the supermarket. I like to have a dash of warm milk, and I’m sorry to say, a couple of sugars. I always get up a bit too late in the morning to have anything to eat for breakfast, so I usually grab something on the way from the takeaway cafe to eat in the car. The journey takes me over an hour in the morning thanks to all the traffic, but my car’s much more comfortable than public transport.
I usually arrive at my office a bit stressed, but after another couple of coffees and a cigarette, I feel better! I work for a multinational organisation with offices in twenty countries. We make everything from security products to aviation products, and even have a food division. Sometimes sitting at a desk all day can be really boring and the hours are long, but the pay is pretty good, and the life I have been able to make for my wife and my four children has been great. We have a nice house in the city with all modern appliances, although there isn’t really much of a garden to speak of.
My wife has to work as well, as the mortgage is so expensive on the house, so we have to scrape enough pennies together to pay for child care so that there is someone to look after the kids when they get home from school. Hopefully they will all go to university and get good jobs with better pay than I get, then they can look after us in our old age!
At the weekends we go out on family trips in the car, and we always go to church on a sunday…”
So what was significant in that little story? Anything? Nothing? Did you see anything of yourself in this example, or did it all go over your head? That’s ok, it is hard to see that anything you do is having an effect, whether negative, or positive in the world; but it is precisely that lack of awareness that is causing us so much trouble.
I am sure none of us really set out to make trouble for ourselves and other people, and most of you would be really offended if I told you that most of what our example character above was doing was having a negative effect on himself, his family, the community and the wider world in some way or other; but you have to start to look beneath the words. I don’t want to spell it out to you here, but please look back over the short story as many times as you have to.
It was in understanding something similar that set me off on my own journey, which has enabled me to write this book. Something along the lines of, “Hey, if people eat fast food, they drop lots of litter, where does that litter go, and anyway, why do they need fast food…?” Ahh, because they work in jobs that take them miles from home, and who are the companies they work for miles from home? Certainly not companies that are serving the local community, and why do the job anyway? Ah ha! To get money to pay for a house and pay off the credit cards you have been running up buying stuff. And so why do you buy stuff? Well, to keep up your status in the community, to keep yourself happy, and why do you need to keep yourself happy? Because you are afraid, so what do you do? You go to church and pray that everything will be ok, and a man reads from a book that tells you everything you need to know etc. etc. and this book was born. So you see how important it is to see the connections.
You don’t have to force yourself to look. Just start to be aware of one thing, and see how it spreads to other things. For example, whilst watching the news, there may be a short piece on a war that soldiers from your country are taking part in, just ask yourself a question like:
“Why are they there?” And wait for a response! Your mind will start opening up, I assure you, but as soon as you start agreeing with the tv, your mind will be closed once again.
To make the connections, you have to ask questions; and you must watch your mind carefully so it doesn’t reply with a conditioned response (because it will, as you are already conditioned by the society you live in). When it does, ask another question. Challenge the conditioning. Ask another question and another. Pretty soon your mind will have to open its doors to one who knocks so loudly.
Question, question, question.
Why? Because all is not as it seems in the world. It is of the utmost importance you make these connections. Do not wait or hesitate. Find out for yourselves. Right now.
Having authority or ascendancy or influence
Just what is it to be important? I am the managing director of a company or the president of the country. I may have a job which affects a good many people, but that’s just a job; what I want to discuss is the psychological feeling that goes along with that job. We have worked our way through the ranks (or not) and we are at the top. The apex of our lives, and we like to let everyone know we are there, that we have made it! But is it real?
I would suggest that this importance is only in our minds. We have the respect (an attitude of admiration or esteem) of others, not just for what we have done, but because we are in a position of authority (the power or right to give orders or make decisions), and we know that this gives us superiority over others. Although this superiority is superficial, in the sense that we are only comparing our relative position in society, this still appeals to our egos. Why do we feel differently about ourselves when we are in this position? We walk taller, we feel stronger, we acknowledge subordinates in a kind of knowing manner; we feel more godlike, in the sense that like the image of god who is above us all, the man in the position of power feels he is above others.
If we think about this rationally, when we all strip off our clothes, the judges, politicians, directors, and army generals are all the same as everyone else – just a collection of bones, muscle, and tendons; although that is not how we like to see ourselves! Why? Let’s approach it from a different angle shall we?
In most species, there is the leader of the group, the dominant male, and this can be seen in every documentary about the natural world. In the animal kingdom, a male will challenge another male for superiority, territory, and the right to breed with all the females. In the human species, there is always a male challenging another male for superiority. It can be seen throughout history where one man has proclaimed himself “king” and beaten all of his opponents into submission (usually through extreme violence).
In countries where there is a king, he is still the most important person in the land, even when he is just a figurehead and the real power lies with the government. In some countries, he is even revered, but he got to that position by taking out all of his enemies, one by one.
In this modern age, the king is no longer fighting for his position physically, and the title of “king” is handed down through members of his immediate family. He parades around in the finest clothes and lives in the largest houses in the land. His position is on top. He is above everyone else. There is no one but “god” above him (or so he thinks). As can be clearly seen during revolutions, when the people have had enough, the king is the first one to go!
So why do human beings want to be the king? Well, first and foremost, we are still apes, and groups of animals need a leader – especially in the ape world. The only difference is the size of the group. So instead of ruling ten or twenty subordinates, we rule fifty million. The process is the same, it is just that through the creation of a super group (the country), the leader has ended up leading millions of people.
All hail, the supreme ape leader!
So maybe all this need for authority and supremacy is just natural, and it is as much a part of us as the need to procreate, so perhaps we shouldn’t worry. All we are doing is expressing a natural urge, and as our minds have not developed much in the last several thousand years, perhaps it will take another million years of evolution for us to no longer need to have authority and control over others. But why should we wait?
We may want to feel important, but it’s not really helping us build a peaceful, intelligent, sustainable world, is it? In fact this need for importance is damaging us and the rest of the natural world every day.
We don’t have to be a king, we don’t have to have authority over others. We do not need this. The world is abundant, there is plenty to go around. We do not need to fight for the right to mate with females, all we have to do is buy them a drink and talk to them! We do not need to build castles and have servants – a simple house is all we require. We do not need to dominate and exercise authority over people who work for us. We just need to reorganise the way we work. Do you see?
Once we transcend the need for status, and we recognise we are all one on the planet, why would you want to be more important than your brother? It’s as if there is a tiny switch in your brain that says “On. Must have more importance than others;” but turning off that switch is as easy as asking yourself the question, “why?” And allow your thinking to come up with a million reasons why it is not only good, but indeed essential for you to have more importance than others. As with the previous important topic, the only thing you have to do is keep asking yourself why? Why? Why? And eventually your mind will open, and you will realise in a flash that actually all this feeling important stuff is all nonsense.
When you die, how important are you? “Ah,” says you, “but it is better to be remembered by others who will say: ‘yes he was an important man,’ than not remembered at all,” but that is a mere projection of the brain wanting to keep itself alive at whatever cost. Soon you will be forgotten, and even if you aren’t what does it matter! You are dead. You cannot hear the people talking about you, but you would like to, wouldn’t you?
“Hello, look at me, I’ve made it. Look at my riches, look at my wife, I am a leader, I am powerful, I am someone, I am powerful.”
But underneath all of those riches and bolt-on accessories you call having made it, what is left? You, my friend, just you; naked, with skin covering muscle and bone.
Who are you now? Are you still important? Are you still great? Are you the king now? No, you are the same as every other human on the planet – except now you are free. Do you understand? Maybe one day, when you get a minute in your busy schedule, just undress in front of the mirror and stand and observe yourself for a moment. Who are you now? Are you still the man with the sports car, the fine clothes, the credit cards, the business empire, the adulation of others, the authority or the power? No, my friend, you are just like me, and I am just like you.
Our minds want us to think we are something different to give them something to cling on to, but we are all the same. It is time to realise that, and give up our designs on being important, after all, it means nothing.
By alan macmillan orr
“The natural mind – waking up”