How To Get Along With Anyone

Few individuals are strangers to the emotion of hate. Hate permeates through society in strange ways. Sometimes it’s overt violence, but usually it’s more subtle. The people we choose to associate with have ‘negative’ counterparts. The qualities we value don’t occur in all people. There are people who embody the opposite of every quality you value.

This sort of language can create difficulties and causes people a lot of suffering. One of the main ideas of Zen is to live beyond preferences, beyond opinions. As soon as we develop opinions, we place X over Y. We create a hierarchy, and all hierarchy leads to some sort of violence, regardless of how necessary the implied hierarchy may feel at the time.

When you like things, you choose liking them over other things. If you like certain thing fervently, you may find yourself hating its opposite fervently. On a small scale, this is why people disagree. On a moderate scale, it’s why people fight. On a large scale, it’s why people declare war, steal, and kill one another.

Culturally, we’re taught to nurture and fine tune our preferences. We’re told that we’re individuals, and we can like whatever we want to like. This is true. But in making preferences, we should be aware of the consequences. We should learn not to take our preferences too seriously, since they’re always changing anyway. This is why some people become best friends and then grow apart. It’s why some initial “enemies” end up reconciling and marrying one another, or becoming best friends.

If we’re honest with ourselves, this stuff all works out. But the reason it works out is because we learn to mature past our immediate preferences. We learn to acknowledge that people talk differently from us, like different music from us, have different criteria for a mate. And that’s fine, as long as we all make our preferences with the understanding that they’re objective. We don’t need to agree, but we can learn to accept.

This has been the greatest barrier, I’ve found, between me liking and disliking anything. I have specific tastes in both stuff and people, and at times I get bogged down by the difference between the little fantasy world I’ve built inside my head, and the reality that the world is filled with billions of different folks. They’re no better or worse than I am objectively. We can pretend we’re better than people through our own limited reality tunnels, but the person you dislike probably also dislikes you. You could both get along if only you could learn to make peace with differences, to realize that you don’t need to live the same life in order to be compassionate to one another.

If you define yourself in opposition to something, you start a war with that thing. It may be a small war, but it’s a war nonetheless. Once we do the internal work of shedding our attachments to our opinions, we can be more patient with people. We can not be angry or hostile.

We can approach situations calmly, remembering that our expectations and opinions about what should happen rarely ever align perfectly to what actually happens. We can make peace with both our internal and external differences. If we practice this, we can all get along just fine.

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