I was born with matching skin into a white, middle class family with adequate resources to provide its seven children with shelter, nutrition, clothing, healthcare and the rest of the necessities of life on modest terms. The instability of my family’s home as we moved around to follow my father’s advancing career opportunities did not deprive us of the education that later opened doors to college options if we wanted them. Our home routines emphasized education because both of my parents were college-educated, as were my grandparents before them. Education was not our pathway out of any ghetto. It offered continued upward mobility as measured by social status, finances and clout.
We never lived in a ghetto although we also never lived in prosperous conditions until my youngest siblings entered school full-time so that my mother could go to work as an elementary school art teacher and add a second income to the family’s resources. Out of the house at that point, I still could come home to visit the increasingly comfortable, middle class household my younger siblings enjoyed. As part of a childhood tradition of passing along hand-me-downs, I started each school year wearing shirts that my older brother outgrew plus two new shirts I was permitted to select for myself. Also handed down to me each school year from generation to generation were the more fundamental traditions of parental stability and educational opportunities that opened doors not as readily opened to others even of my race who may have lacked such multi-generational support for their natural developmental progress.
Experiences I had as a volunteer while in college and later experiences I had as an adult opened my eyes to the more limited opportunities of children of other races, economic classes and little or no empowering traditions of parental stability and education. Especially limited were opportunities available to those born into poorer families or not supported by two educated parents who negotiated their way through life as a couple rather than allow their marriage to flounder in the seas of an angry divorce. My experiences with dysfunctional family dynamics were mild compared with those of many who struggle to grow up in this “land of opportunity.” I was not only living in the “land of doors that opened” more readily to people of my gender and race. I was also living in that land while being prepared by my family to advance through those doors as a welcomed arrival within whom those on the inside of such fields of opportunity felt comfortable. In short, I was well trained to conform, keep my alternative thoughts to myself and appear to bow to authority.
At first, I did not realize but gradually became aware that my social training as a child groomed me to be a member of the privileged class that measures its privileges by money, social approval and power to take dominion of whatever territory appeals to its members. I was an unwitting heir apparent within the gender, race and class who had arrived on this continent centuries earlier to claim it for themselves regardless of any pre-existing occupants and explore and exploit its resources as if they were entitled to use any and all of them to feather their own nests without regard to the impact of their greedy exploitation upon anyone else or the future of the continent. Those were hand-me-down attitudes of entitlement that eventually I found did not fit me like a shirt I wanted to wear. The fabric of those traditions chaffed my soul and burdened my heart. The shirts others offered to me as hand-me-downs when I was an adult were too small for me and not my style.
The privileged class in which I found myself entitled to membership was this continent’s original entitlement class. Its traditions were rooted in assumptions of entitlement. The more socially aggressive among the first arrivals either served as agents of the aristocracies of Europe or claimed to seek their own fortune independent of the dominion of such aristocracies in order to establish an alternate aristocracy. Wars were fought for independence from European aristocracies and for rights of ownership of people and things not previously subjected to ownership while continental-style aristocracies emerged upon this continent within the new culture. The culture turned out to be not new but instead a rehash of the old culture relabeled and sometimes disguised behind a thin veneer of democratic principles and necessarily therefore covert in its nature. The Europeans on the continent of North America claimed it for themselves as minor bullies when they overthrew the dominion of foreign bullies posing as European monarchs and then proceeded to bully each other into accommodating each of them.
For reasons of my own, I had no natural inclination to be a crown prince rubbing shoulders with the aristocratic bullies I found within the privileged class of white, educated, upwardly mobile, financially promising males into which I was so readily welcome as if I were one of them. Within that class I was a misfit. Eventually I failed to adequately disguise my misfit orientation and found myself less and less welcome. My skin color, education and other matching criteria could not save me. I became an anathema to those who preferred to exploit their privileges and climb higher over the backs of others. For many years I was confused about where I belonged socially. If not these, then who were my people?
As my mind gained clarity about who my people are, I became aware that there is class of “highest privilege” to which all of us have the power to belong and within which all are welcome. This is the class beyond subclasses defined on ego’s terms as superior or inferior to one another depending upon the criteria selected in each cyclical assessment. Beyond the ego’s constant campaign to separate humanity into variously appealing, variously socially approved and variously designated subcategories, there is a united, all-inclusive class with access to the most rewarding experience available to humankind. Its access to this rewarding experience is only exclusive to the extent that the class is all-inclusive.
One has to join this uppermost class voluntarily to encounter the experience of this highest possible reward but anyone and everyone can join. No one is excluded who volunteers to join and does the one thing necessary to be included with full membership privileges. That one thing is to shed his or her ego and step beyond the ego’s divisive, inherently conflict-perpetuating perspective to see the world through an ego-free lens as a universally unified and symbiotic experience for all forms of life.
Humility is the process needed to shed the ego. Any who will humble himself or herself, give up his or her illusory and meaningless privileges as an ego and seek his or her true identity beyond the ego is welcome to join in the experience of unconditional love that flows freely and abundantly within this class. It is a highest class act and attitude to join. Humility is not a step down into the basement of life, as some mistake it to be. In fact it is the stairway to heaven on Earth. Pride and prejudice do not cause a person to ascend but rather to descend in privileges as measured by a person’s decreasing or increasing quality of experiences of love.
At love’s heights it is authenticity, integrity and humility that matter most — for all of every age, gender, gender orientation, sexual orientation, social status, marital status, financial status, race, nationality and creed. Love is truly all we need and ego has no capacity to deliver it. Just as no electrical energy passes through plastic or rubber, no energy of love transmits through the artificial identity we call the ego. Ego insulates us from love. Let’s let go of ego to know that love abounds infinitely and eternally for all of us.
© Art Nicol 2016