We are the Other


 The old brown cat, likely female, found her way to the Hermitage as a stray, as so many have. But, unlike most of those who, sooner or later, move on, she has stayed, making a place for herself among the other half-dozen cats.

 At first, she was the outsider, the outlier, the “not-of-our-tribe,” and she was met with suspicion by the others who, once outsiders themselves, have now formed a family, and they knew she was not one of them. So there was hissing and baring of fangs as she tried to join the others at the feeding bowls on the porch of the Gemeinehaus (Community House). She quickly learned to eat when the others were not around, and when she had the bowls to herself. She also lived apart, finding her way into the cellar where no other cats lived.

 Gradually, however, the other cats grew used to her. She was defensive but not aggressive, as she didn't force her way into the mix. She didn't attack or insist on being first. She waited her turn, patiently, and stayed to the side. Eventually, she became an accepted member of the family as well, one of our cat tribe, which has expanded to include her.

 But what the cats do not understand is something about the very nature of “the other” – that humans, with our abstract thinking, are beginning to recognize – is that there is no “other.” A separate and independent reality of “the other” is both impossible and an illusion as all of us are created from a basic and essential foundation from which we emerge as incarnated spirit or, in another sense, as bonded energy. Either way, each and all of us are part of the same underlying creative flux. We are literally kindred spirits, a single family, indeed, a single organism, all plant shoots from the same root, like those aspen groves in the Utah mountains that cover acres but are, actually, a single organism. With this new understanding, we recognize that we are the other, and the other is us.

 This can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to accept because it flies in the face of common sense, as well as all we have been taught to believe about the nature of existence and our apparently independent selves. Indeed, it requires a reexamination of the very idea of self.

 It's like the difficulty of accepting those parts of our personalities that are rarely expressed except in moments of duress, stress, and heated anger that conflict with the preferred idea of who and what we like to think we are, until they come flying out, no longer repressed, and demanding release.

 I, for example, have a tendency to become testy when I'm fatigued and not thinking clearly, so that the acceptable parts of my personality – like good will and benevolence – are easily submerged by anger and frustration and, in that state of heightened emotion, I often end up saying and doing things I quickly regret, a perfect example of acting in haste and repenting at leisure.

 Sometimes we see in “the other” traits we don't even recognize in ourselves and that seem so utterly foreign we wonder how people could believe such things or act in such ways. We seem to have nothing in common with such people (Such reactions are often based on race, sexuality, gender identity and ethnicity, anything that makes “the other” apparently even more different from us.) whereas, in reality, they are aspects of the spirit just as we are. They are aspects of ourselves and the larger Self in which we are all contained.

 Ironically, aspects of “the other” may be as distasteful and foreign to us as ours may be to them. So we are moving through waters that may disconcert at first, but remain tantalizing in their ability to reveal and uncover aspects of ourselves in voyages of discovery. We can smooth the journey by accepting these parts of ourselves and of the greater Self in their infinite variety. Walt Whitman was right when he said we are vast and contain multitudes.

 It also requires humility and patience to achieve the recognition that we are more than we may want to admit. But in doing so, we can reach an amazing point of personal growth as we expand the idea of self to include more than we ever dreamed possible under our old and now outmoded ways of thinking.

 We actually move beyond the physical confines of our body to incorporate everything around us. What an amazing moment as we realize that each of us contains all creatures, all living things and, finally, all existence itself. That's when the lesson becomes clear that what we do to any part of the whole, we also do to ourselves. Tread lightly!

 Our farm cats are, apparently, unaware of any of this as they each seek a place at the feeding bowls. They are oblivious to being part of each other. The idea does not occur to them and would probably be rejected as absurd even if it did. But once it occurs to we humans, we can never be the same again as our interaction with the world and its creatures is forever altered.