22. We either give in to the process of submitting the self with good grace, or, we are crushed into submission by the totality of the other. Either way the self is destined for extinction.
The self has been created for extinction. Not death – extinction. The self will be obliterated. It will be rubbed out as if it was not. The self I am referring to here is the persona, this idea that you exist as an individual. This does not refer to the perceiver, the observer who looks through the mask of the persona.
We have two choices in the face of impending extinction. We either dance with and in the process of dancing, we experience that who we thought we were, is not who we actually are. You aren’t this individual. You are a far bigger thing that flows through your individuality. When this is the case the loss of your individuality that death implies is neither catastrophic nor unpleasant. It is deeply gratifying.
Or you insist that you exist as an individual in which case your extinction will be horror. The extinction of your individuality, identity and persona is not negotiable. Extinction is your lot as an individual creature like it is for every single individual creature. This is not negotiable. The only thing that is negotiable is your good grace in the process. So if you act consistently with the insight that you don’t exist separately then you become part of something which is bigger than you and which cannot die; which doesn’t become extinct because it is the One Life from which all life comes.
It is very interesting that many religions describe hell as a fire. Further, it is a fire which perpetually burns off your skin only for it to be instantly replaced. Without going into a debate about the nature of the hereafter, this is a very helpful metaphor. When you insist that you exist as an individual your death will be experienced as a perpetual burning off of your boundaries, your skin.
The burning off of your skin is perpetual because at the moment of death you escape time. There are no clocks in the grave. There is no metronomic measure of seconds. That belongs to the realm of the living. The final moment of your life is the final moment. It does not have a moment behind it. It becomes a perpetual continuity. It just means it has escaped time. It is no longer in time. There are no clocks. When you die, when you are finally rubbed out, time ceases for you which means that one moment is an eternal moment.
If stepping into that eternal moment is experienced as a horrifying burning away of your boundaries, that horror does not have a punctuation point behind it. Eternal horror. You have a choice about that eternal moment. It can either be deeply affirming or like a perpetual extinction, a perpetual burning away of your skin, of the boundary which separates you from the world. Horror upon horror!
Constantly acting with the intent to serve is therefore about practising for an eloquent death. However, we need to remind ourselves what we have discovered about the intent to serve thus far:
There are two ways of trying to maintain the boundaries of the self. The one is to dominate and the second is to appease. The transactional essence of domination is “I’m here to get. Shut up and give me what I want. I will brutalize you to suit my own ends.” The transactional patterning of appeasement is “I give to get.” It therefore has as its essence manipulation and the problem with manipulation is that it is deeply sleazy.
If you experience somebody trying to dominate you, you resist them. This is natural because nobody likes to be dominated. When you experience someone who is manipulating you, you not only resist them but you actually counter attack. You seek to do them deep injury because manipulation actually has two damages. Not only are they trying to get something out of you but are treating you like a fool in the process. So there are two hurts here.
You resist me when I’m dominating you I make you deeply hostile to me when I am manipulating you. That’s when people start loosening the wheel nuts on my car – metaphorically – or they start slipping strychnine in my tea, which are all perfectly legitimate strategies for dealing with my deeply unspeakable behaviour. Therefore, serving the other does not mean appeasement. Serving the other doesn’t mean to do things just so that they think you are nice, because that’s giving to get.
Giving to give means I do what is appropriate in the best interest of the other in the situation that I’m in. In the best interest of the other might be a terrible confrontation that they are not going to like. Very often when you do what is appropriate in order to be helpful to the other person you do things to them that they find offensive at the time. Nobody likes being sorted-out. But sometimes people require sorting-out. The appropriate thing to do isn’t to always appease and be nice. In my experience relationship based on appeasement often end up in deep alienation.
Very often the deepest relationships you have are the ones that you really have to struggle with initially. They weren’t easy. They were battles. These relationships are often the most useful relationships, because they enable transformation.
So being here to serve the other doesn’t mean appeasement. It is doing what is the right thing to do, what is in the best interest of the other in the situation that you are in, whatever that means. If that means a confrontation, it is a confrontation. If it is kindness it is kindness.
As we discovered before, acting kindly in the context that requires confrontation is called cowardice. This is taking. Similarly when you confront a situation that requires kindness this is selfishness. This is also taking. But actually the worse of the two is not confronting when things need to be confronted. This is the one that tests you most deeply. In a sense it is easy to civilize a bully. It is a lot more difficult to get some steel into the spine of a coward.
The question may be raised how do I know where to confront or where to walk away? I suspect that the criteria that are operative are true for each individual life and in that sense this is a skill you learn by trial and error, except to say the following: If you have gone into the situation asking yourself what would be helpful to this person or this situation right now, you may not necessarily do what is appropriate but at least you are attempting to do so.
Art accessed from: www.herravendomain.com
Etsko Schuitema is the founder and Leading Partner of Schuitema Associates – a consultancy promoting business transformation through business growth, based in South Africa.