A few days ago I'd woken up in the middle of the night. In the course of lying in bed, waiting to get back to sleep, the thought of "nothing special" suddenly came to mind.
I then pondered the fact that I'm nothing special; that all of humanity is nothing special given the vastness of the cosmos; that, nonetheless, religions try to make their followers feel very special by supposedly enjoying a special relationship with God; that if people could somehow have a sense that they're nothing special, along with everybody else, the world would be a better place.
Since, I've been enjoying playing around with this "nothing special" idea.
It seems to go a long way toward explaining the gap between how reality actually is, and how we humans typically consider it to be.
Meaning, we're really good at deluding ourselves.
And one reason this happens is our failure to look upon ourselves as nothing special. Instead, we have a strong tendency to see ourselves as being in a spotlight on the Stage of Life, while other people play supporting roles in the shadows.
This is to be expected, I guess. The only person we are in an intimate subjective relationship with is our own self. Everybody else we view from the outside, while we know ourselves from the inside.
So it takes some effort, some spiritual work, to alter that I-centered point of view into a more realistic I'm-nothing-special perspective.
For example, we see death all around us and know that no one is able to escape being dead at some point. Yet most people believe in life after death -- because their religion tells them that they're going to have a nice afterlife, while non-believers in that religion won't.
Today I wondered if Amazon had any books with the title Nothing Special. I found several, but only one book that had a similar philosophical perspective on how I viewed that term, Charlotte Joko Beck's book with the subtitle "Living Zen."
Amazon informed me that I'd bought this book on June 24, 2012.
Indeed, I found it in the Buddhist section of my bookcase. Interesting. Maybe my mind popped up with that nighttime "nothing special" thought on its own, but it seemed entirely possible that a memory of the title of Beck's book surfaced out of the depths of my unconscious.
I've started to re-read Nothing Special, or at least parts of it. Here's how the book starts out. I like this imagery.
We are rather like whirlpools in the river of life. In flowing forward, a river or stream may hit rocks, branches, or irregularities in the ground, causing whirlpools to spring up spontaneously here and there.
Water entering one whirlpool quickly passes through and rejoins the river, eventually joining another whirlpool and moving on. Though for short periods it seems to be distinguishable as a separate event, the water in the whirlpools is just the river itself.
The stability of a whirlpool is only temporary.
The energy of the river of life forms living things -- a human being, a cat or dog, trees and plants -- then what held the whirlpool in place is itself altered, and the whirlpool is swept away, reentering the larger flow.
The energy that was a a particular whirlpool fades out and the water passes on, perhaps to be caught again and turned for a moment into another whirlpool.
We'd rather not think of our lives in this way, however. We don't want to see ourselves as simply a temporary formation, a whirlpool in the river of life. The fact is, we take form for a while; then when conditions are appropriate, we fade out.
There's nothing wrong with fading out; it's a natural part of the process.
However, we want to think that this little whirlpool that we are isn't a part of the stream. We want to see ourselves as permanent and stable. Our whole energy goes into trying to protect our supposed separateness.