Standing at the counter of the local coffee shop ordering a cappuccino, the barista “Raquel”, who I chat with now and again, was making friendly conversation. Presently she informed me that I am “one of the most adorable customers” that frequents the coffee shop. I admit that I blushed, but inwardly I was laughing. What a funny thing to say.  I wonder what she means? In opposition to her image of my “adorableness” she offered up her image of what she called the “Real Housewives of South Park.”

Immediately I understood the reference to the popular American reality TV series “The Real Housewives of [enter name of City]”. The series is a reality TV show that follows the lives of a circle of wealthy urban or suburban housewives as they spend their husbands’ (or their own) money, cater extravagant parties for their children and themselves, and engage in dramatically entertaining arguments, public and private endeavors, successes and failures. “You should see some of the women who come into this place” Raquel says with a smile attempting to mask her scorn. She elaborates by pointing to their air of superiority, their rude cell phone usage at the register while ordering, and their supreme vanity as they lift up a right hand to inspect their perfectly manicured nails only to become suddenly conscious of “the 5 carat diamond on their ring finger causing the valuable hand to come crashing back down onto the countertop.”

“I think,” Raquel adds, “these rich husbands are smarter than they appear. They may even have an unspoken underground plan in which they make sure that the rocks on their wive’s fingers are hefty enough to double as an anchor should the women prove too tiresome and bossy over time. A quick and nonchalant push over the edge of the luxurious yacht is all it would really take and…voila!”

“Well, they are clever men these prospective husbands,” I replied subconsciously attempting my own hand at wit. “But if they were truly planning ahead then surely they wouldn’t concoct a scheme in which the more precious gem on the finger of the lesser one would simultaneously be lost. I have to say I am not so convinced of their cleverness after all.” Raquel laughed heartily. I managed another smile.

Why did I add this subtly vulgar comment? I suppose I was trying to kill my deep feeling of sadness at the symbolic ‘reality’ of the conversation with a bit of humor which was too close to the ugly truth to actually be very funny. Still, I did attempt to laugh.

The Cause of Irritation

But why do these women irritate Raquel so much? To be honest, I don’t think it’s a matter of jealousy, not directly, which is to say, not consciously. In fact, I think that Raquel prides herself on embodying an image of polar opposite to the housewives in question, thriving on her tattooed and pierced sense of ‘unique’ identity. Perhaps in magnifying the assumed inner ‘ugliness’ of these women Raquel emphasizes her own perceived ‘unique’ and ‘down to earth’ image? Perhaps Raquel wants me to know that she is not the type of woman to put on airs, nor is she the materialistic type judging others based on superficial criteria. “I am a woman of substance” Raquel was saying without saying. But never once did she project the idea: “I do not judge.” It was quite evident that she did and does. Don’t we all?

Another possibility struck me. Maybe her distaste for those women has a little bit to do with a natural sensing, or call it an unknowing ‘glimpse’, into the True meaning of Beauty. But this sense of negative or shallow vibrations (pointing in the direction of Truth) seems hardly to last as one quickly turns the focus inwardly to the self who feels jealous, or envious, or angry, or whatever thoughts and feelings arise from the extended consideration of such showy trees. Suddenly, the momentary glimpse of Truth turns into a desire to ‘cut down’ those seemingly tall proud branches.

Inner Intentions: Passive Violence is Violence  

Typically, the inner (and inevitably outer) voice might find itself saying something like: “Well she thinks she is ALL of that AND a bag of chips! But she’s NOT. She’s false and shallow and my friends (who like myself are genuine and deep) all agree with me. I really do pity those women.”

But actually there is no genuine pity here. There is only aggression. There is only violence. One may object to my use of the word “violence” in this context but then violence is marked by the True intention which lies deep within. Essentially, violence is an act of imposition upon another. The outward act may seem nonviolent, but it is the internal drive propelling the external act which reveals the actual intention. Raquel may treat the housewives of South Park with polite respect when they walk into the coffee shop just as Gandhi starved himself in a supposed act of non-violence as he cultivated a negatively charged atmosphere ideal for violent upheaval. The external impression may say “peace” and “love” (is starvation itself not an act of violence against the body?), but inwardly the thoughts are bitter and hostile. Perhaps the connection between Raquel and Ghandi is less than apparent, but for me the difference is only a matter of measures as Ghandi’s violence greatly exceeded Raquel’s, and with deadly consequences.

So, could Raquel’s outward polite treatment of the housewives be the true measure of her intention, or is it the inner thought which speaks the Truth? Of course, the more violent the external act becomes the more violent the thoughts are which drive them.  The difference between one violent thought and another, between one violent act and another,  seems only a matter of degrees. As such, degrees do not redefine the essence of violence or the intention of afflicting violence (often in the name of peace), but only defines the severity of the injury.

So, what is the difference between a showy tree and a tree which shows off its modesty? Friends, do we not have a show on every stage here? And my how we love to play the humble role, expressing our depths and wisdom by bowing with exaggerated grace before our adoring audience!

“I really do pity those women” – yes, that’s the kind of thing one tells one’s self. And even while the Truth may be that these women should be pitied, there is no truth in those words when they are uttered by the egoic mind. Whether one does so consciously or unconsciously, such words cut the ‘other’ down merely to lift up one’s own sense of self worth.

Who Fashioned the Measuring Stick?

One’s self identity (whether negative or positive) is, in fact, totally DEPENDENT upon the existence of opposing identities and all the shades that lie in between. How else would one know how to identify one’s self unless one has a measuring stick by which to compare?! Just imagine, how could Raquel possibly know that she is ‘better’ than those uppity South Park housewives (ironically turning down her nose at them) unless she measured them against her own personal system of values? But there is a deeper level of valuation isn’t there? There is also the societal measuring stick whose voice whispers relentlessly into Raquel’s ears, “beauty, wealth, fame – beauty, wealth, fame.”

But where do these measuring sticks come from? Who fashions them? Is my value system truly unique, an independent product of my own Will? Is my belief system independent of the framework at large? Can I ever break the boundary of that framework and form my own measuring stick, my own exclusive value system totally independent of any other, incomparable and detached from my personal history and the history of humanity at large?

Relationships: A Conceptual Game of Ping Pong       

So measuring I have come to this thought, “I really do pity those women.” And while the ‘other’ woman undoubtedly projects a certain image of herself I, nevertheless, interpret the meaning of her projection using my own conditioning, subsequently responding to it in kind by throwing back at her my own projected image of her projected image. This is the unconscious game that we play, meeting each other externally, not as our true selves but as second hand images of images. Like an underground game of ping pong we react instantaneously to the ball we perceive speeding in our direction.

If one looks closely it becomes clear that the mechanisms underlying the circumstances of our meetings and subsequent relationships are basically the same. We project the images we have of ourselves onto each other and interpret the incoming ones and in this way we reflect each other, mirror each other. But neither one of us will ever SEE herself in the other. Neither will recognize her own reflection staring back at her. Neither will SEE that she is standing in a hall of mirrors hurling and misinterpreting projected images back and forth.

A Hall of Mirrors

We are endlessly reflecting each other’s projections, tirelessly projecting each other’s reflections, doomed to exist between reflected projections and projected reflections in a space that is infinitely retaliatory, infinitely dull, infinitely static, and ironically, infinitely contained as a cycle repeating itself within the realm of time. We seem naturally inclined to grasp tightly the measuring sticks which our forefathers and mothers have fashioned unconsciously on our behalves over time.

Yes, Time seems to be the common denominator which binds humanity to a subjective treatment of reality. Time is the realm of the slave whose mind is linked to the massive chain of cause and effect which spans the history of humankind. To undo the chains, to fashion a truly independent measuring stick based upon the only Moment that actually exists – the Now – one must exist in the space of Notime, dissolving all obstacles that seem to exist between what I think and what I AM.