I watched The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies last night.
After Laketown has been laid waste by Smaug, there is a scene where Alfrid crawls onto shore among hundreds of other exiled Laketown residents. They are all in the same situation, and yet Alfrid says why me?
It’s not very subtle, but it’s a good illustration of what many of us sometimes does, including me.
We experience what’s universally human. What millions or billions of people have experienced before us, and what billions may experience after us. And yet, we feel we have been singled out. Somehow, life is especially unfair to me.
There are several reasons for this experience.
One is that most people show the lighter and more glossy side of their life to others, even without intending it. Most of us dress nicely, put on a smile, and are selective with whom we share the most difficult things in our lives. So it’s easy to see the lives of others as easier and better than our own, especially since we are – sometimes painfully – aware of the disappointments and challenges in our own life. As Steven Furtick said, the reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.
Also, since there is identification as a self, including as one or more deficient selves, this self is naturally in the center of our awareness. We overlook or “forget” that others experience many or all of the same things as we do. My life is not necessarily more difficult than that of most others, even if it can seem that way at times.
What is the remedy?
One is to share these things with others, which allows them to share with us. We get to see that our experience is not unique.
Another is to find gratitude for it all, perhaps through an all-inclusive gratitude practice.
We can inquire into identifications and beliefs. And perhaps do ho’oponopono, or tonglen, or loving kindness practice.
We can also pray or ask for these experiences to help us find compassion, humility, gratitude, and a life of service.
And we can live a life of service. Knowing that others experience this too, we can dedicate our life to serve life. This can look like a very ordinary life. And yet it can make a big difference, for ourselves and others.