“Ain’t you tired, Miss Hilly? Ain’t you tired?” — Aibileen Clark to Hilly Holbrook in the movie “The Help”
Whenever I watch my dogs play in the yard, this line comes to my mind. I have three dogs, with three very different personalities.
My smallest dog, Ziva, is also the alpha dog, which means that she believes every treat and morsel of food is meant for her alone. The Lord, our 103-pound German Shepherd, is only two-years-old, so she’s still a big puppy. Whenever Ziva is guarding the toy or meal of the day, The Lord will dance around her, trying to play or lure her away from the prize while Ziva growls and lunges at her to keep her at bay. Jack, the oldest dog, is nowhere to be seen. He wants nothing to do with this drama and will be found sunning himself near his favorite tree.
Ziva reminds me of Miss Hilly, the zealous racist in The Help who works tirelessly to maintain white purity and supremacy and attacks anyone and anything that gets in her way. Ziva, just like Miss Hilly, is trapped in ego, unable to see that by attacking and defending she simply makes matters worse and increases not just the suffering around her, but her own suffering as well.
“To identify with the ego,” the Course in Miracles tells us, “is to attack yourself and make yourself poor. That is why everyone who identifies with the ego feels deprived.”
You don’t have to look far to see how our modern day religions are captured by the ego and teach their acolytes to blindly obey not just the corporate ego, but their own individual egoic beliefs. Mainstream Christianity, especially, is quite talented at teaching its members the art of egoic attack. Christians fighting against everything from marriage equality for gays and lesbians to equal rights for women to Muslims taking up residence in our country are feeling deprived. They paint themselves as the victims of discrimination by these opposing groups and are working to pass laws to make sure they don’t have to “violate” their beliefs by granting marriage licenses, baking cakes, ensuring equal pay or allowing mosques or Sharia law into their world.
Just like my Ziva, they attack and defend, seeing the prize — their own privilege and the self-worth they derive from it — as something outside of themselves. The ego perceives a world of separation. “They want what I have,” their ego whispers, “and if I allow them to have it, my share will be diminished.” That’s the message of much mainstream Christianity today — if someone in an outside group gains the same privilege you have, your privilege is no longer special.
If I give my dogs three bones, Ziva will work tirelessly to gain all three of them, because she refuses to see herself as equal to the other two dogs. They are beneath her and they need to know that.
“Ain’t you tired, Miss Ziva?” I will say when she finally stands in triumph over the three bones.
But, like the anti-gay, anti-Muslim, anti-women, anti-everyone-who-isn’t-just-like-me religionist, she’s so wrapped up in the ego she has no idea how to stop, or even realizes that she should. This is how the world is, both my dog and other deeply unconscious beings believe, and another way is not possible.
But, The Lord and Jack present clear paths to overcome the ego’s tiresome grip on our lives. When The Lord and Jack have a bone, they are not possessive. They chew it and if something better comes along, like someone walking down the street, they abandon their prize and run off to bark at the stranger.
Ziva, of course, sees this as her chance to steal the bones and she often does. When the dogs come back and find their bone gone, they do no fret or worry or challenge Ziva to get it back. They simply go on with their lives. In their world, bones appear and disappear.
Neither The Lord, nor Jack, sees Ziva as competition. They merely see her as another dog who, like them, enjoys the prize now and then. They don’t hate her for taking their bone. They simply bide their time. They’ll get that bone back or another one will come along. For now, they enjoy their present moment. Bones are nice to have, but they require nothing outside of themselves to make them happy.
This is the key to overcoming our egoic tendency to attack and horde resources such as money or privilege.
“You must realize,” the Course continues, “that your hatred is in your mind and not outside it before you can get rid of it; and why you must get rid of it before you can perceive the world as it really is.”
As long as we harbor hatred toward anyone we see as “taking” something from us, we will always be caught up in the ego and we will feel deprived when they have something we don’t have. Instead, the Course counsels us to first get rid of our own hatred — our own need to “get even” or even “get more” than someone else.
We must learn the art of living in the present moment. We may have a delicious bone in front of us in this moment, or we may not, but we must learn how not to hate those who we believe have stolen our bone or have more than we think they need. Instead, we must refrain from judgment of either our own lack or their apparent selfishness or greed.
“Only love is strong,” according to the Course, “because it is undivided. The strong do not attack because they see no need to do so.”
The Lord and Jack represent the strong — those who have risen above the ego and have learned how to live in harmony with even one who attacks and defends. They offer nothing but love to Ziva, and every so often, she seems to get that as she joins them in play.
I invite you to look around your own world. What bones are you defending? Who are you attacking or guarding against? We do not achieve “equality” in the outside world until we can first be equal with everyone, friend and perceived foe alike, inside our own hearts and minds.