Do you believe in making distinctions between people/groups?

 Jordan Bates (@bashfulkoala) 5 years, 9 months ago

This quote is kind of a classic in online spiritual/freethinking communities, in my experience:

“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.”

― Jiddu Krishnamurti

The quote is powerful, and I’ve always loved it, but it also strikes me as overly idealistic. The implication is that any label or concept which implies separation is “violent.” This seems like a pretty strong word to use, considering our language more or less functions by separating the world in all sorts of ways. Ironically, Krishnamurti himself separates mankind from the totality of sentient life in the universe by suggesting that someone who wants to understand violence should concern himself with the total understanding of mankind. Why not the total understanding of sentient life on Earth and beyond? 

Krishnamurti definitely seems to be speaking from the school of thought which holds that the fundamental truth of our existence is that “All is One,” and that any differences/distinctions between human beings are shallow and illusory — that in essence we are all the same. 

I have spent several years in this camp, and I do still conceive of nature as a single process involving the same fundamental stuff. We cannot be extricated from this process. We cannot be conceived of as separate from it. Everything in nature is interconnected in this endlessly intricate unfolding process. 

I agree with this, and yet for a while it’s vaguely bothered me that so many people seem to emphasize non-separation/oneness so completely that they disregard/dismiss any and all labels/categories/distinctions/etc that define and separate individuals and groups from one another. I felt this way for a long time, but I’ve begun to think that it’s too simplistic. Sure, it’s extremely important that we recognize that we are all part of this same natural process and comprised of the same fundamental building blocks of the universe, but in our day-to-day, lived experience, labels/categories/distinctions are ubiquitous. They’re everywhere. And they do serve certain functions, whether we choose to acknowledge those functions or not.

If I know someone is an ISIS member, it’s probably a good idea for me to assume that that person isn’t a typical human with mostly good intentions. It’s probably a good idea to assume a few things about that person’s background and worldview. I might reasonably assume some sort of troubled past and serious existential angst compelled that person to seek the certitude and sense of belonging offered by ISIS. I might reasonably assume that the person is likely to want to hurt me. When I acknowledge that this person is an ISIS member, I am, as Krishnamurti says, separating myself from mankind, in a certain sense. My acknowledgement contains the assumption, “No, not all humans are the same. Some of them want to kill me.” And ironically, making this assumption might actually prevent violence against myself or others. 

That example might be ill-conceived, but hopefully my point is beginning to come through. My thoughts are not fully crystallized. 

Another thing I might mention is that some of us here probably consider ourselves HEthens, or members of the HighExistence community, and we would probably refer to ourselves as such in certain contexts. It seems that according to Krishnamurti, it is violent to do this. I’m reaching a point where I disagree with him. I think that at the very least, labels/distinctions are practical and necessary in our world. Telling me that you’re a HEthen communicates a whole lot of information very quickly and allows me to guess at quite a bit more. This probably creates a bond between us because there are things we have in common, if only a general appreciation of HE’s site/forums. *Not everyone* appreciates HE, and that’s an essential part of why it is meaningful for you to tell me that you do. So we might be separating ourselves from some segment of humanity in a way, but that is allowing us to connect/bond in a deeper way. 

Ultimately, I think I’m trying to say that I don’t think hard rules based on monism — like Krishnamurti’s “violence” rule — adequately capture the complexity of the world. 

All humans are the same. All humans are not the same. 

Both of these sentences can be true, depending on the context and one’s frame of reference. My current view is that reality is always nebulous, ambiguous. Simultaneously, we are all inseparable components of the same single process *and* discrete entities functioning in a diverse world in which labels/group identities/categories carry important information and implications and in which making distinctions between people is inevitable and probably useful. To me, it seems that recognizing this nebulosity and simultaneity is important and offers a more complete view of reality.

Final thing: making distinctions between people is not the same as judging people harshly, and acknowledging one’s own various distinguishing self-identities and group memberships does not have to result in animosity toward dissimilar people or outgroups. I think it is possible to acknowledge some amount of functional separation between people and groups in the world without being violent or hostile toward anyone. 

This ended up being way longer than intended. Sorry for the wall of text. Might have to turn this into a blog post. But, looking forward to any and all thoughts. <3

January 26, 2016 at 7:33 pm
Anjelica (101) (@Anjelica) 5 years, 9 months ago ago

Exclusive bonds are beautiful. Everyone has such an individual resonance that truth has to be experienced in  an intimate context. The issue is when you cant validate so you want to eliminate. And then the people who can’t validate the people who can’t validate want to eliminate. If you can look across the field and smile at whatever the other groups are doing then the boundaries are okay. 

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Anjelica (101) (@Anjelica) 5 years, 9 months ago ago

I think that the exclusivity of experience is just as important as the union of everything. I do believe we are capable of allowing everyone the freedom of individuality without  people raping anyone of theirs. Presently we have a collective fixation that freedom equals chaos and uncontrollable primal urges. I believe that the primal urge is harmony and not war, which includes the separation of tribes that carry an individual resonance. 

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Manimal (2,998) (@manimal) 5 years, 9 months ago ago

It’s how evolution works. Separation, spreading out.
When life began, there was one type of organism. Then it split into a few different species, and over time into two sexes. Over time more differences developed.
Now there are millions of known species. An astounding amount actually.

Humans were pretty much all the same in our early days. Simple hominids with simple needs and struggles. Over time we grew up. Now there are different cultures, races, languages. Different kinds of group think and individualism. Different societal structures and modes of government.

Over the last century, foolish idealists and corrupt elites have tried to undo this. Unifying this vast, diverse world into a grey blur would be a huge step in the wrong direction.

I am damn proud of my ethnicity, my heritage, my language and my flag. I love the unique landscapes and culture of my country. I love how it’s unique and separate, and I like how different other places are, their own uniqueness and special place in the world.

It was never about hatred or violence toward outsiders, it’s always been about love for what is inside. Gratitude for your life and respect for the ancestors who granted it, and care of your fellow man ad the future of your kin. It’s love, it’s care, it’s pride and courage.

The unity/equality ideal is not about love, it’s about fear of differences and distinctions. Greed and jealousy of what others have.
It’s the closest real-world equivalent of the devil. Deceptive and corrupt, with an iron fist around the hearts of the weak-minded.

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Lena (1) (@Lmlahoud) 5 years, 9 months ago ago

I’m new to HE and I need to say I’m thrilled to have found a community where people post about the thoughts I have at night that make question why I feel so different than others. Too many thoughts and too tired to type, I loved this post. 

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Reynevan (5) (@Reynevan) 5 years, 9 months ago ago

I don’t think you understood Krishnamurti’s words completely.

What he means, in your context, is that ISIS is the violence. It’s the result, the only result that could come out of separating ourselves.

While Krishnamurti’s messages may seem idealistic, he’s not being idealistic. He isn’t advocating letting others use you (be it steal from you, kill you etc.) or, when he says time only exists in the present, he isn’t advocating throwing your clock into the trashcan and forgetting you’ve ever had to get to a bus on time.

Another example is, he denies organisations – but has his own. What does it mean? He doesn’t deny organisations that are created for a goal – be it fundraising for a school, or a house for a homeless person. These organisations are nowhere ideological, which means they’re not created for separating people, one group from another.

The argument about the universe, beyond Earth… Well, we don’t know if anything’s there. There could be. But why bother about it now? Wouldn’t it drive us away from what is?

My point is, not labelling people and groups isn’t contradictory with not getting used.

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Garrett Payne (17) (@gpayne44) 5 years, 9 months ago ago

I side with you on this topic Jordan. Our mental faculties and understanding of the inner and outer world would not have developed concepts for “separateness” if distinguishing between similar and alike things were not valuable for our survival. I think that most people forget that things can be separate on one scale and within one frame of reference, while being united on another order or scale. 

I couldn’t be successful in certain areas of my life if I strictly adhered to the idea that we are all one, all the time. For instance, if I’m trying to pick group members I want to work with on a physics project, logically I should seek out those of my peers who are the most motivated to complete the project and passionate about physics. Knowing we are all one will make me have less stress about how the situation turns out, but the distinction between persons available for me to choose is still relevant.

I believe that everything that happens on this planet (and others) and within ourselves is feeding information to a set of processes that are outside the scope of our present understanding of physics. From this higher order perspective, we are all one. But on the scale of matter relevant to our daily lives and personal endeavors, we must make distinctions when it is appropriate to do so, whether those distinctions are made between groups of others or between parts of ourselves (or our past, present, and future selves).

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nikkihaze (33) (@nikkihaze) 5 years, 9 months ago ago

I both agree and disagree with this quote. I don’t think we should completely do away with these distinctions. I think the best thing about being a human is having the ability to appreciate the beauty of the world, and the most beautiful thing to me is the diversity among people, as well as species, landscapes etc. I think it would be boring and a rejection of our humanity to ignore this diversity. The problem is when we place too much emphasis on these distinctions, causing us to forget our ultimate unity and using our differences as an excuse for hate and violence. It’s important to find a balance.

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Aimuan (114) (@Aimuan) 5 years, 9 months ago ago

Lovely piece Jordan. We are separate on an individualized level of perception and can also feel as one with a specific group of people or all of existence in other levels of perception. It boils down to the perspective at the time. This supports that consciousness is truly non linear in any way, it is neither separate or whole, right or wrong, good or bad, nor is it definable or undefinable. Such is its nebulousness.

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John (25) (@jzic123) 5 years, 9 months ago ago

You hit it on the head: “All humans are the same. All humans are not the same”.

The line of thinking presented in Conversations with God resonates with me: “We are all individuations of a greater whole (i.e. God, the Universe, Life etc).”

I like to use a human body metaphor when thinking about this:

I am a toe, you are a finger, and we each naturally receive our “energy” and “life-force” from the nervous system, cardiovascular system, skeletal system, etc. Yet, It’s also possible for the toe (if the toe had individual consciousness) to correctly identify his different function/structure when comparing himself to the finger and make this distinction in a completely ego-less fashion. 

What Krishnamurti seems to be insinuating is that ego-less discernment (for most people) is not possible, and people just resort to making judgments when observing ‘others’. So, rather than suggesting ego-less discernment, he suggests no judgement/identification of any sort. This is kind of like ripping all the grass out of your front lawn because you had a small section of weeds in the corner…but, hey, at least the weeds are gone. 

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