Who Deserves a Good Life?

People throughout history have had the habit of only counting some people as people.  I owe this observation to something Robert Anton Wilson wrote decades ago.  There are the people who you are willing to help and defend and then there is everyone else.  These others are in a different category of people to you, they’re not as valuable as “your people”.  Your people might include your close or extended family, your neighborhood, town, “race”, ethnic group, economic class, or country.  It might include everyone in the world.

(For the record, race isn’t an actual thing.)

So, your people are the people who deserve a good life and that are worth your time, trouble, and sacrifice.  Everyone outside of that group is more or less fending for themselves.

For Buddhists who consider the first precept to mean not harming any sentient creature, “people” may extend beyond humans to include every breathing animal, any creature capable of suffering.

I put myself in that last category.  How can I possibly care about all sentient beings as if they were people?  The answer is, practice practice practice.  Metta practice, that is.

It is not possible for me to help every sentient creature in any significant way, but I can carry that intent.  I can do what I can when the opportunity arises.  I’ll vote for peace, economic justice, and the environment.  I’ll contribute to charities.  I can directly help my local community and people that I know.  Buddhist practice doesn’t require us to be superhuman — it requires us to be human.

Metta practice is what allows me to love and cherish our friend Donald Trump, to want him to be happy and fulfilled, even as I publicly identify him as a rotten person and an enemy of our republic.  The two statements are not incompatible at all.  Loving someone with metta doesn’t mean you have to like them, agree with them, or respect them.  Like, agreement, and respect are worldly judgments, they related to our human personality and how we deal with the practical world.  Unconditional loving-kindness and goodwill, metta, is a spiritual commitment.  It transcends all categories and conditions.

You knew Trump would eventually make his way back in here somewhere, didn’t you?

If Trump were being attacked by hyenas and I had a stick, my commitment to his well-being would require me to try to try and drive them away.  If there was anything left of either of us, my commitment to the well-being of everyone else would then require me to lecture him loudly and at length on why his words and actions are — deplorable, let’s say.

The Metta Sutta lays this out pretty clearly — I’ll quote a bit for you:

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded…

I care for Trump as a mother would care for her cruel and bullying child.  It’s a tough love, sometimes.

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