Judgement or discernment

Backyard panorama, Ashland, Oregon.

Backyard panorama, Ashland, Oregon.

Becoming tools of evolution

Being judgmental towards others and ourselves is a terrible burden that leads only to suffering for one who judges and the one who is judged. Yet the ego persists in this folly again and again. This time, it tells us, the crime is so heinous that we must be judge, jury, and executioner. We must protect ourselves from the evildoings of others and consequently deny sharing humanity with those we justly despise.

Yet every criminal shares in our humanity, and the experience of being human in this world means, by definition, that we learn from our environment by making mistakes and then correcting them. If I define Adolf Hitler as being the ultimate example of evil, and I judge him as being non-human, I may be missing the most valuable lesson I could learn from such a person.

What lesson could be learned?

A human that becomes capable of carrying out such cruel systematic acts against his fellows displays a capacity that we all carry inside us, that of separating others from ourselves by dehumanizing them. So we recoil from Hitler’s humanity, unwittingly falling into the same trap of misperception that he himself fell prey to. We punish the criminal by engaging in the criminal act ourselves. We have great teachers in this life, who both show us by positive attributes to be emulated and negative qualities to be avoided. Why not be open to learning valuable lessons from every example, from every interaction?

Judgement is not discernment. The fine level of feeling available to us as a result of meditation gives us the power to discern that which leads us to a more evolutionary path, a more enlightened direction in life. The hubris that is required to be sitting in judgement of others is impossible to indulge in once we become habituated to the subtleties of charm that the path of spirituality and humility affords us.

Yet we are still human and will slip from this path occasionally. Hopefully we will eschew self-punishment, and try again, correcting as we go. It is our dharma as evolutionary beings.

Resigning our position as judge of the universe frees up a lot of energy and time for more worthy pursuits. It is amazing how much better we feel when we lay down this monumental burden and become once more simply human.

Wildflower, North Mountain park.

Wildflower, North Mountain park.