Meister Eckhart (1260-1328) is quoted as saying “A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.”
When we are mistreated, most of us react, and reactions are emotional. We get angry, upset and we grasp the wrongful treatment with both hands, like a crab might his dinner.
We look up at the ideal we fall so short of, embittered. If only that target wasn’t so high, or better again, if it didn’t exist at all, we wouldn’t appear so dreadful! In doing so, we bring the heavens crashing down to join us in the slums. Now we are level.
Like handing someone a glass of water while they are engulfed in flames, it does very little. The danger is that we are only really fulfilling our own need or want to be ‘compassionate’ people, in this vain sense.
We don’t want to venture down there and face the damage we have caused. The alternative however, is more devastation every time the truth comes knocking; and it will keep coming. So, we muster every ounce of courage we have left, open the hatch door, and delve underground.
Even though we may think the ‘reality’ we have built is solid, when it holds no truth, it is under constant danger of collapsing. One cracked brick is no big deal, but if every brick we use is cracked, we end up with a completely unstable structure.
The old moral philosophers called it the ‘finis ultimus’ (utmost aim) or ‘summum bonum’ (greatest good). The utmost to aim for in terms of our character, for those around us and our society.
Without us realising, every choice we make contributes to who we become, shapes our character and our integrity. Like droplets of water, over time, they will make an ocean. If we really believed we are a result of all our choices, perhaps we would choose more carefully.