Strangers to Ourselves

posted in: Blog, Poetry | 0

“Governments and states have to exist when people have no inner feeling of their solidarity with others, when human society is nothing more than an abstract term for a collection of individuals—divided from each other because each one is divided from himself.”

– Alan Watts, Zen & the problem of control 1960

This is not a political post, but it stood out to me because of the last line—being divided from ourselves. And it seems good to remember that all hatred, bigotry, anger, racism, judgement, haughtiness, indifference, pride, or even envy, are reflections rather than observations. These forms of attack come from seeing a little of ourselves in the object we hate, and because we are divided from ourselves, we misinterpret the feeling and blame the world or person around us for being the very thing we fail to see that we are.

We hate that the person is reminding me of some part of me.

And so we project and deflect.

But, as foreign as it seems to do so, we can practice letting our moments of judgment or anger or hatred, be a mirror—reflecting to us our true selves and nature.

Our feelings are not really about them, they are feelings about ourselves.

What we love about others is often what we love about ourselves.

What we appreciate in others often comes easy because we’re embracing a trait we recognize that we already possess.

When we mock or criticize another, we are distancing ourself consciously from the very thing we mock ourself for. Our mockery is a game we subconsciously play with ourselves to convince ourselves we’re above it. The seat of mockery gives a feeling of strength, a feeling of authority. Little seeing that our jaded words reveal our hand.

Only a coward mocks the fallen.

Only the guilty point the finger.

Only those with debt of soul do not forgive.

Only the poor steal (no matter their income level).

Only a fool scorns another mans lack of wisdom.

Only the faithless ask for assurance.

Only the godless preach that you don’t know god.

The blind lead the blind.

(That felt heavy)

But for everyone of these, the alternative is true…

Only a kind heart uplifts.

Only a strong heart hopes.

Only one with self-love can give love.


Goodness calls out goodness,
even when it’s not around.
Innocence declares others innocent,
even when guilty they’re found.

Beauty declares beauty,
for the one who’s lost their crown.
Love sees a brother
in the strangers and aliens around.

Our thoughts are not hidden,
as much as we’d like to believe.
Our motives are always given,
in the words and tones that we speak.

Yes we stand divided,
but not because of war
If we’re strangers to each other then,
strangers to ourselves much more.

The judgments that we make,
become the laws that rest our fate.
Do we see a foolish man,
a beggar, or a cheapskate?

For if we do then in due time,
the beggar we’ll become.
Perhaps one day we’ll find ourselves
asking the homeless for a crumb.

But oh for grace—not for the human race,
but for what goes on inside our own heads.
To love ourselves, to know ourselves,
all the beauty and the mess.

Perhaps we’ll see our brokenness,
our glory, shame, power?
Perhaps we’ll see our fellow man
is really me inside another…

So we start to love, embrace,
receive the alien, the stranger
And when we do we love ourselves
and also the creator.