With all due respect to the renowned Indian professor of philosophy and source of two of my favourite quotes on love, I am not a lion. Nor do I have any wish to be. Lions are predators. Man-eaters, even.
People have been telling me for years that I'll know I've truly grown up when I no longer care what others think of me. That's supposedly a hallmark of maturity, of adulthood.
This is one of those sentiments that is so easily misconstrued. And what it often turns into, I've found, is "I don't give a shit what you think, and if I hurt you, that's your problem, not mine." Lions don't generally respect the opinions of sheep, after all.
I cared entirely too much about the opinions of my peers for entirely too long, it's true. I fell into a kind of monkey trap when it came to seeking popularity: the harder I sought it, the more strongly I was rebuffed...which obviously meant I wasn't trying hard enough. It was only when I relaxed and let the goal of popularity go that I found my tribe, within which I am appreciated.
So there is definitely something to be said for not being attached to the opinion of others. Not everyone is going to like you. People who think differently are less likely to appreciate you: rare is the person with whom you can disagree on just about everything important and still respect. I count one such person among my dear friends. I may not understand her very often, but I have learned over time she is just as passionate about her beliefs as I am about mine; that they serve her well; and that if I can't find common ground, it's best to just let it go.
At the same time, though, it doesn't serve me well to discount her opinion, of me or of anything else. If I do that, I'm a very short step away from thinking of her as a sheep and myself as a lion. And I'm sorry -- actually, I'm not -- but that kind of thinking goes against one of my life's core statements:
EVERYBODY IS SPECIAL. BUT NO ONE IS MORE SPECIAL THAN ANYONE ELSE.The delusion that someone, or some class of people, is more special than another...that's the wellspring of virtually all the discord in the world. Look at religion: every faith divides the world into the saved and the lost, with strict instructions to do one of three things with the lost: save them, shun them, or kill them. The same holds true to a great extent with our civil religions (this essay, like most of John Michael Greer, is VERY much worth the read).
If you boil away ritual and rhetoric from religion -- no matter which one -- you will find one truth, repeated over and over in every faith the world over: WE ARE ALL ONE. This is why the Golden Rule is ubiquitous: because what you do to another, you do to yourself.
This teaching is not popular. It has never been popular. We prefer to see ourselves as separate from each other: it makes it so much easier to act out our control dramas and bend others to our will. But it is, nonetheless, true. This TED talk is extremely interesting: it turns out that our brains react the same way whether we are performing an action or whether we are watching someone else performing the same action. If we are touched, or we watch someone being touched, the same neurones fire. Astonishingly, if we then block the receptors that tell the brain it's not actually us being touched, we will feel the touch we merely watch. Think that through: the only thing separating us is our skin, and like anything else "solid", skin is made up of well over 99% empty space.
Since we are all one, it is quite obviously stupid and counterproductive to view any particular individuation of ourselves with anything less than love. Also, it means (to me, at least) that caring what others think isn't any different from caring what I myself think.
I am a sheep, not a lion. And I'm proud to be a sheep...even my friends laugh at me, 'cause they think
I look ridiculous, funny and pink.
"Pink? Pink? What's wrong with pink? Seems you've got a pink kink in your think....
Sometimes you're up and sometimes you're down
When you find that you're down, well, just look around!
You've still got a body, good legs and fine feet...
Get your head in the right place, and hey, you're complete!
From Pixar's Boundin'