Too

Image taken from google Image search

Image taken from google Image search

Once in a while things that are common will strike me in a new, uncommon, way. Recently, this happened with the statement, “I love you, too.”

For as far back as I have memory, I’ve always noticed two things about telling someone you love them (or, rather, responding to being told that someone loves you). It seems that there are two ways in which this exchange occurs.

1) Someone says, “I love you” to you. You respond in turn with, “I love you.” Usually this response involves tonal emphasis on the final “you.” Like, “I love YOU.” (Although, obviously not in the obnoxious way the all-caps version can come across.)

2) Someone says, “I love you” to you. You respond in turn with, “I love you, too.” Like the response before, this response also usually carries emphasis on the final word – in this case, “too.”

I’ve heard both ways be used by many people and their loved ones. In my family, we tend to employ the second variation. “I love you, too.” I’ve always been fond of that one, probably because that’s what I grew up hearing and saying, but I think now I’m even fonder of it.

What’s the difference? Really and truly, there probably is no difference. But recently it seems to me that there really and truly is a difference and as you likely already could have guessed that difference hinges on the one difference between variation one and variation two: TOO.

I just used a phrase I first years only a couple years ago by a psychology professor. “Really and truly.” In class that day there was another student, a friend of mine I see not often, who had a pill bottle somewhat prominently displayed on his desk next to his book and phone and whatnot. I think the pills were some kind of anxiety medication, I don’t actually know. I also think that being able to see the pills within his reach somehow made him less likely to need them: He knew help was within hand’s reach so he was less likely to need that help. But she spotted them, and promptly told him to put the pill bottle away. He was either reluctant to do so, or was just moving slower than her patience was willing to tolerate, and so before he could (would?) put them away she verbally prodded him to do what she had asked. She said something like, “No… You need to put those away now please. (nodding her head at him) Really and truly.” I remember feeling glad not to be him and also getting caught on her usage of “really and truly.” It’s safe to say most Americans (and probably most English speakers in general) often don’t consider the difference between the word really and the word truly – unless, perhaps, one of these words randomly hits someone as being more applicable to the emphasis intended or desired. But I think it’s rare and I also think really usually wins out over truly so even when we mean truly we say really.

But the words aren’t the same, are they? Despite any linguistic parallels, they (should) have different meanings. Without actually referencing a dictionary, I’ll suggest that really is mostly synonymous with “very” and truly is synonymous with “actually.” With that difference understood, suddenly the professor’s words make more sense. The student actually (truly) and very much / to a great degree (really) shouldn’t be showing off his pills. Like: Not only don’t do that thing, but also understand that it’s important you don’t do that thing.

He put the pill bottle away.

So how does that story relate at all to the “I love you” stuff from earlier? Well, same difference. It’s about word choice and what you’re actually communicating.

When most people are told, “I love you” what they intend to communicate in return is that they love the person who is loving them. Despite my entire upbringing, what I feel is most appropriate to communicate that is simply, “I love you” in response to having heard it. Further, we employ this linguistic logic in other areas such as greetings. When someone says, “Hello” you respond with an equivalent, right? No one says, “Hello, too!” Instead, we simply say, “Hello” in return. Is something like, “How are you?” ever met with, “I’m well. How are you, too?”

No ma’am. And in reality, the response to “I love you” should probably be only, “I love you.” (See variation #1 above.) The difference I’m getting at, though, is why I’m glad my family and I say it “wrong.” You see, the word too means things like “additionally” and “also.” When you respond with, “I love you, too” you’re saying the equivalent of, “Also do I love you” from which the listener should infer, “This person, in addition to other people, loves me.”

I think it’s a sweet thing to subtly remind people that they are loved by more than the person with whom they are having the exchange and this awareness makes me glad for my family’s habit – even if it’s somewhat accidental. Beyond that sweetness this is an important thing to do.

Do you agree?

Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti

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Sweeter Satan

Taken from Google Images, "Ego"

Taken from Google Images, “Ego”

As I mentioned in the last post, I believe that other people are indeed often extentions of one’s ego. I intend to explain in this post and perhaps another post or two why I believe that. As I mentioned in the last post, a certain friend has often been the impetus for posts here on Sthapati. It was similarly his idea that I break this information into multiple posts instead of slamming you all with the book this is turning out to be.

Also mentioned in the last post, in addition to that friend, were other sources of knowledge and guidance I draw from on this subject – and many others. I’ll start now with sharing some material directly from Tolle’s, A New Earth:

“In normal everyday usage, ‘I’ embodies the primordial error, a misperception of who you are, an illusory sense of identity. This illusory sense of self is what Albert Einstein, who had deep insights not only into the reality of space and time, but also into human nature, referred to as ‘an optical illusion of consciousness.’ That illusory self then becomes the basis for all further interpretations, or rather misinterpretations, of reality… If you recognize an illusion as illusion, it dissolves. The recognition of illusion is also its ending. Its survival depends on your mistaking it for reality… What you usually refer to when you say ‘I’ is not who you are. By a monstrous act of reductionism, the infinite depth of who you are is confused with a sound produced by the vocal cords or the thought of ‘I’ in your mind and whatever the ‘I’ has identified with…”

He goes on to explain a person growing up and becoming identified with the I-thought, “When a young child learns that a sequence of sounds produced by the parents’ vocal cords is his or her name, the child begins to equate a word, which in the mind becomes a thought, with who he or she is. At that stage, some children refer to themselves in the third person…Soon after, they learn the magic word ‘I’ and equate it with their name, which they have already equated with who they are. Then other thoughts come and merge with the original I-thought. The next steps are thoughts of me and mine to designate things that are somehow part of ‘I.’ … When ‘my’ toy breaks or is taken away, intense suffering arises. Not because of any intrinsic value that the toy has, but because of the thought of “mine.” As the child grows up, the original I-thought attracts other thoughts to itself: It becomes identified with a gender, possessions, the sense-perceived body, a nationality, race, religion, profession. Other things the ‘I’ identifies with are roles – mother, father, husband, wife, and so on… Most of the time it is not you who speaks when you say or think ‘I’ but some aspect of that mental construct, the egoic self. Once you awaken you still use the word ‘I,’ but it will come from a much deeper place within yourself.”

Tolle continues a little later to detail how identification is one of the most basic structures through which the ego comes into existence. Apparently, the word identification derives from two Latin words, idem meaning “same,” and facere which means “to make.” So when I identify with something, I “make it the same.” All of this can be somewhat tough to follow if you’re not used to diving deep, but if you’re a nut like me who does nothing without diving deep, this stuff is like gold. For me it’s never enough to know the what or even the how, but the why is also mandatory.

When I came to this world, like anyone else I was in bit of a fog. Through repetition and some basic infantile cognition, “I” came to know that Josh = my body, and later began expanding that association – no, that identification – outside of my personal borders. Suddenly, instead of just me being “I,” there’s now my things, my accomplishments, and …my beloved. From a purely linguistic standpoint, there’s nothing wrong with using words like I, me, my, or mine. Much like having the right tools to get a job done, personal and possessive pronouns are required to communicate relative ideas. From that strictly utilitarian perspective, there’s nothing egoic about those identifiers.

Problems arise when, as the Latins implied, I begin to equate (“make the same”) stuff that’s not really me with my actual Self. The person identified (see how this words arises, time after time?) as my beloved is essentially nondifferent from my Self. We’re from the same Source, we have the same Self, and we’re headed toward the same Destination. Just about anything else is ego, is Maya. In truth, if something were to happen to him/his body, I would be no less. It’s because of my identification with him that the idea of or experience of his leaving causes misery – my ego percieves the notion of “my” beloved leaving as some kind of attack on me. If Truth or Reality is eternal, there’s no logical way we can say that the body or personality of our loved ones or of other people are “real.” The stuff our bodies and thoughts are made of existed as other substances before their current form, and after this all-too-brief human existence, those same stuffs will decompose. The actual Truth of that situation – which every single soul will encounter at least once in life – is that regardless of physical manifestation, there’s never any difference in actual distance between us and Love. We see our beloved’s form, we identify with it – literally that form becomes “my” beloved, the identification means my ego/mind perceive “my beloved” as an extension of who I am, and so when my beloved leaves – in whatever form that might take – I am miserable, because I’ve already ignorantly tricked myself into fully believing that a part of me is lost. Much like an arm being cut off.

Taken from Google Images

Taken from Google Images

It’s because of this, that Hinduism has done so much exploration on the nature of the human’s internal landscape as well as other components like attachment. What are we really attached to? The ego is the object and the subject of all attachment. The ego is like a habit of smoking cigarettes – it’s both the problem and the apparent solution. Smoking causes issues which stress people out, and then it manages to fool people into feeling relieved when they smoke because of stress – which only causes additional problems for the smoker. The ego does the very same. We’re fooled into thinking something based in the original problem is ever part of the solution. We develop attachments to distract the mind from the ego, because as Tolle states, exposing an illusion disolves it. Our Self has no attachments, because all that truly is, is the Self – without going into it too much, this knowledge is precisely the foundation of Jnana Yoga, leads directly to experiential awareness of the One, and is why I can’t adhere primarily to bhakti margs, which for their own existence (at least at the level practiced and experienced by most humans) necessarily mandate, perpetuate, and promote the notion of “other” – which is a tool the ego uses to continue its own existence.

***If you haven’t gathered by now, the common application of the word “ego” isn’t nearly the complete definition of the word. Most equate ego with arrogance, but many humble people are still filled to the brim with egoism.***

But there may be some silver lining to this cloud, after all. According to the current issue of Hinduism Today magazine, Satguru Bodhinath Veylanswami explains through a Shaiva Agama how the ego is a tool of the One, meant to help us.

All that and a bucket of chicken coming up!

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti