-Daybreak at the Desert Retreat House-
The news of actor and comedian Robin William's apparent suicide flooded the media yesterday afternoon- waves of comments and condolences on the social media, TV news, radio stories, newspapers; and through all the deluge of information, one common theme seemed to surface. People were shocked that someone who was so incredibly funny and brought so much laughter to the world could be so deeply troubled that it would cause him to commit suicide.
This morning I was reading a New York Times' article about the death of Robin Williams. The reporter talked about a time when he observed Mr. Williams "cracking up" a group of random strangers who happened to be standing next to him in a crowd. "Williams was always on" quipped the reporter, "always in full entertainment mode."
I thought to myself, I wonder if this is a comment about contemporary culture in general - everyone thinks they have to be always "on" - always in "full entertainment, full performance mode?" "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." I sometimes think that Shakespeare's famous quote is an insightful analysis of the lives of many if not most people in everyday life.
I see it every day, the many "parts" people play out on the stage of life - everyone so carefully tailoring an image so as to be liked or valued, prized, rewarded or respected by others. The role of the "friendly waiter" who expects a good tip for his performance, the "hard working employee" who sleeps at her desk when the boss is away, the "school jock" who actually would love to take an acting class but is scared to death of being labeled as "Gay if he did so. Even thugs and street gang members play a "part" on the stage of life, looking tough and bullying others gets them the respect of their peers.
If you play a part long enough you may even come to believe that the "part" you play is who you really are. But the truth is that the "parts" any one us play on the stage of life are never who we really are -never our "true self."
I often talk about "surrendering the ego" while walking on a path to deeper peace in life. As I see it, surrendering the ego doesn't mean that we should no longer think of ourselves as "individuals" on that path to deeper peace. Instead, "surrendering the ego" involves giving up the false belief that the roles we play when we are in "full entertainment mode" are who we really are. The "ego" is our false self. The "ego" is the stuff we tell others about our "self." The "ego" is a bunch of ideas we construct to tell our self about who we are. On the path to true peace we surrender the ego,
We are all separate but none of us are ever separated - we all belong to one another, all of us are "interbeing, a web of "cosmic" interrelationship - and this is our "true self."
As I sit in my garden at the break of day on a mystical morning in the desert, I "am" the sun and I am the mountains, I am the wind rushing through the palm trees, and I am the birds waking up to greet a new day. I am the person in that car that I hear driving by. I am the people whose lives will cross my path today, and I am the ones I will never meet in this life. I am the people I love and I am the people who do not love me. We all belong together, and there is deep peace.
In order to walk the road of deep peace we have to get off the stage.
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the gentle night to you.
(a Gaelic Blessing)