Yesterday, President Obama quoted the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”
If that were truly self-evident – if it were evident all by itself, independent of any observer or person thinking it – then wouldn’t everyone know it automatically?
We wouldn’t need to learn about history, to observe our fellow human brothers and sisters, to gain a deep awareness of our own deepest aspirations and yearnings and see how they’re reflected in those around us, or even to hear about the notion of equality.
But there are many people for whom, I presume from watching their actions and hearing their words, all humans are not equal. Heck, the androcentric wording of that very line (all MEN) makes it pretty evident that even the drafters of that document didn’t regard all humans as equals.
Actually, before I start pointing out others hypocrisies I better ask myself first – do I really see all people equally?
Or do I react to some with immediate attraction, wishing to be near them and help them, while reacting to others with a sense of distaste and disregard? It seems like to know that all people are equal takes quite a lot of analysis and investigation, and a recognition of a very deep quality that is the same for everyone.
Appearances, preferences, beliefs, habits, customs, ideas – all of those are different for each person. What common thread runs through each human that allows our shared equality to be known? For theists, and the drafters of the Declaration of Independence, it’s that “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”
But clearly, that truth is not self-evident either! I do not see it. Instead, equality can be established on the basis of recognizing that all beings have the same desire for happiness and the same wish to be free of suffering. Further, all beings have equally been kind, in that their existence and actions are supports upon which we all depend for our existence.
Today, I will continue to make this truth of the equality of all beings evident to myself. I’ll contemplate the kindness of other beings. Through the simple fact that they exist, they have a mind, they want only what is good and not bad, I’ll be able to halt my discrimination and judgments.
Further, today I will continue to reflect on the dependent nature of phenomena, seeing that no truth is self-evident because its existence depends upon many factors, including the mind that understands it to be true and the conventions that establish it as truth.
From that, I’ll lessen extremism and bias, opening to others and seeing reality more clearly.