Chapter 22 When you are not understood

第二十二章 當你不被理解的時候

22. When you are not understood

I am sure that all of us have been here: you are explaining something to the assembled multitudes in great detail. Your audience of two looks on in rapt attention. “What a clever man,” you say to yourself, “what an erudite and intelligent man.” You deliver your main point and that is responded to with a bewildering question. You realize in a moment of lonely horror that they have not understood what you said, not at all. Whose fault is this? It is, of course, your fault.

The great quest for human beings is to be understood and respected. Often our conversation, unfortunately, falls outside the “veil of understanding.”1 The only way to obtain this connectivity, many believe, is through love. “In the stillness of your presence, you can feel your own formless and timeless reality as the un-manifested life that animates your physical form. You can then feel the same life deep within every other human and every other creature. You look beyond the veil of form and separation. This is the realization of oneness. This is love.”2

What Eckhart Tolle (b. 1948) is referring to, however, requires deep introspection, meditation and practice. It is most certainly not achieved when one is in a state of fear or of conflict. I would like to share a rather amusing experience that happened to me many years ago. I was at a house party with some friends. The news was permeated with some conflict or other in the Middle East3 and Turkey figured prominently. These geopolitical moves were very important, or so they seemed to me.

I was speaking with two, yes two, young women and regaling them with my intimate knowledge of politics, art and philosophy. I had, actually, recently finished a book on the Middle East4 and felt all knowing about Turkey. I got right into the subject matter. As any effete and arrogant teacher, I assumed that you knew nothing. I talked on and on, and on. Their eyes narrowed, obviously in comprehension: hubris did I hear hubris? The one woman, that good-looking-California-type, turned to me and said, “So, do you like your meat white or dark?” “Sorry,” I responded, rather baffled, “I didn’t catch your question.” “Do you like your turkey meat white or dark?” “White,” I replied. I made my excuses and slinked away: shattered, I felt shattered.

What an anagnorisis, what a discovery! You were completely not understood – completely! A valuable lesson had been given. The only person I know 100% is the self -- myself. The rest depends on the levels of interest, comprehension and, of course, intelligence. But most people are the same when it comes to cognition: very few are not and very few are gifted. We are all basically the same, I believe.

That tenebrous journey that all of us make into the self must be filled with some laughter. You need to not take yourself too seriously. Yesterday, I went to the gym. It takes me time to get organized. I envy Phileas Fogg: I truly want my own Passepartout.5 Regardless, at present, this is not the case. As I fumbled along to the fountain to fill my water bottle, I noticed that my cell phone was refusing to go into the pocket of my shorts. I realized, to my dismay, that I had put my shorts on backwards: now that is a first! I thus began the day with a nice measure of humility.

22. 當你不被理解的時候