“The menu is not the meal.” – Alan Watts
“The map is not the territory.” – Alfred Korzybski
When I hear someone say things that make me angry, and it seems that their beliefs endanger what I care about in this world – I remind myself that my own beliefs are not the same thing as “ultimate truth.”
Instead, I have made a “map” of truth in my head. Other people have a different map.
Remembering this helps me to let go of judgment, because there is no reason to build a wall of morality between myself and the other person.
Their beliefs cannot harm me. Their beliefs are separate from any sort of physical reality, and are also separate from their actions.
I can care about the other person and share space with them, and no boundary is required to protect me from the immorality or inaccuracy of “what they think.”
Many times, when I recognize that other people have used differing words to describe their own “map of reality,” I get an “ah ha!” moment. They may be speaking from a scientific perspective I don’t endorse, or a religious perspective I have not experienced – but their words may point toward a reality I share with them.
I recognize that they have drawn a map showing the same rivers and trees I believe are there, yet their map is labeled with words from another discipline or system.
Things like psychology and biology and spirituality and religion can describe the same reality while labeling their maps of it with separate lexicons.
When I read the article Daniel Lewis shared in the Compassion Circle group, I was able to recognize the principles and concepts explained.
Once I could translate the ideas into words I feel more comfortable with, I felt kinship through those ideas.
In fact, these words seems to point toward a process identical to one I believe human civilizations need most at this point in history:
“OK, the answer really is kinship. Everybody’s so exhausted by the tenor of the polarity right now, in our country. And the division is the opposite of God, frankly… And that’s kind of where we need to inch our way closer — that we imagine a circle of compassion, then we imagine nobody standing outside that circle. God created, if you will, an otherness so that we would dedicate our lives to a union with each other.” – Father Greg Boyle
The territory where all human beings can live and thrive together may be located beyond the belief systems in our minds and the words in our vocabularies. Compassion can connect us beyond words.
What helps you find compassion beyond words? Do you remind yourself of a concept like “the map is not the territory”? If so, how do you express it?
Join our group and help human beings figure this stuff out: