Accepting the End of Specialness

I am not exactly a fan of the Kinks – they were good enough songwriters in the post-Beatles British tradition, a strand of rock’n’roll (admittedly important) to which I have never really been partial. Give me Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie and Buddy Holly any day.

On the other hand, the Kinks were a great live band, often injecting otherwise blandly competent songs with an admirable shot of life when performed on stage. Nowhere is this tendency so evident as on their live performance of a B-side – “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.”

If you recognize that song, it’s probably from the Sopranos, where David Chase featured it prominently in an emotionally gut-wrenching scene. Tony’s sister is making a sincere effort to be kinder, gentler and more patient person. Tony cannot stand this – he considers it shallow and fake and an affront to his own refusal to change. Over Sunday dinner he ruthlessly pushes her buttons until she breaks in a tearful rage. Tony strides from her home with a satisfied grin, the Kinks’ monument to selfishness playing in the background.

I love this song! And in the past few years listening to and playing it, I have come to see it as one of the ego’s choice anthems. It is the quintessential song of specialness and this live presentation – both angry and aggressive (in comparison to the far tamer studio version) – perfectly captures the ego’s modus operandi.

One of the most important lessons in my practice of A Course in Miracles – and perhaps the one to which I have been most resistant – is accepting that I am not special. That I am, in fact, like everybody else.

Please understand I don’t say that hurtfully. We are all beautiful people who deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. Our hobbies and preferences and interests and modes of expression deserve to be honored. I try to offer that to my brothers and sisters, and I try to be grateful when they offer it in turn.

But deep inside, part of me believes that I am the favored child of Jesus – not one of many but the head of the proverbial class. It’s not Jesus doesn’t love you – he very much does – he just loves me a little bit more.

Of course I know that’s nonsense. The love of Christ is given in equal measure to all Creation. No one fragment stands above another in terms of the love of God and Jesus. We are all equally beloved.

It naturally follows that specialness can’t exist except as a bad idea in which only another bad idea (the ego) would invest. If we are all equally beloved, then there is no such thing as special. Specialness in any form is an illusion, even unto Jesus.

It should be especially noted that God has only one Son. If all His creations are His Sons, every one must be an integral part of the whole Sonship. The Sonship in its Oneness transcends the sum of its parts (T-2.VIII.6:1-3).

Any insistence that we are not only separate but different – and that one of us is “better than” the other in any way and for any reason – witnesses to an underlying refusal to accept the Atonement. Who refuses Christ at the level of content will inevitably try to hoard Christ at the level of form.

This doesn’t mean that I can’t admire you for your creativity in the kitchen, or your internal capacity for empathy unto strangers, or your songwriting abilities, or your gift for sharing in words what it means to be a student of A Course in Miracles or your sense of humor or whatever. It doesn’t mean I can’t learn from you.

It means simply that admiration and learning proceed naturally from our fundamental unchangeable equality in the vision of God.

As I said earlier, this has been a particularly tough lesson for me. We are all given gifts that, used in reliance on the Holy Spirit’s Guidance and dedicated to God’s plan for salvation rather than our own, facilitate awakening for all of us. I need you to be the unique you that you are in the same way you need it of me.

The trick is remembering that our varied gifts do not testify to the measure of God’s Love, which is immeasurable, and do not reflect any specialness at the level of form. I don’t want to be – as the saying goes – “another Bozo on the bus.” I want to be the driver.

But all that Jesus asks is to remember that we are “only here to be truly helpful” (T-2.V.A.18.8:2), that God will direct us towards this helpfulness thus removing it from our field of worry (T-2.V.A.18.8:4), and that this helpfulness on behalf of Christ is how we are healed (T-2.V.A.18.8:6).

Another way to understand “the last shall be first, and the first last” is simply to see it as a statement of equality, a placing us outside any realm of measurement. Perhaps that is what it means to remember we are Christ: no me, no you and no Jesus but just a “shining instant of perfect release” (T-15.I.15:10) we can only accept together.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Eric December 24, 2013, 10:53 am

    Hi Sean,

    I am not a big fan of The Kinks either, but I listened to this song without the framework of The Sopranos plot to distract me, and this too reminds me of specialness. I think there is a little bit of the self-concept section in there too with the face of innocence in the beginning.

    * side note* If I remember right, The Kinks being part of the British Invasion are one of the big reasons guitar amps has distortion, as they purposely ripped the speaker cone to get a distorted sound. Being a musician (guitar player) myself, I have to give them kudos for that.

    As far as specialness goes. There is absolutely no doubt that my mind falls into this trap, and this trap can be subtle. The mind can fall into this, even when railing against specialness. Now can the mind feel special for pontificating not specialness.

    I am a huge proponent that the course should not exalted over other paths as it is sometimes promoted. But I must be aware of my intentions behind what I say about this being antithetical to the course. Am I stating this with genuine intention that the course is not more special than other paths, or that since the course holds a special place in my heart, I am “protecting” the course from mi-use? It’s tricky and is often a mixture of both.

    Sometimes trying not to feel special, when I sometimes do feel special feels like work and/or phony. So I sometimes take a different approach. I let the specialness I may feel just be there, but I also try to include all my brothers/sisters by looking/thinking of the Christ in them.

    As the course tells us:

    The miracle acknowledges all men as your brothers and mine. It is a way of perceiving the universal mark of God in them. The specialness of God’s Sons does not stem from exclusion but from inclusion. All my brothers are special. If they believe they are deprived of anything, their perception becomes distorted. When this occurs, the whole family of God, or the Sonship, is impaired in its relationships. Ultimately, every member of the family of God must return. The miracle calls him to return because it blesses and honors him even though he may be absent in spirit. ~ Original Edition-ACIM

    Eric: Yet again, the course meets us where are at. It doesn’t simply tell us that all of our brothers are special because of inclusion, but also recognizes that we are identified with form and the mind might think, “Well that’s a nice idea, but is that really true?”

    The course replies, ” Equality does not imply equality (homogeneity) now. When everyone recognizes that he has everything, individual contributions to the Sonship will no longer be necessary. ~ACIM

    *side note* I put in parentheses the word “homogeneity”, because this is the word in the earlier versions of the text that is used instead of merely repeating equality. While the word itself is kind of awkward and clunky, I think that it is a better word to explain what the sentence is trying to say in the earlier part of the text.

    Essentially it says, (to me at least) the course is telling us that our brothers/sisters are all the same, yet while identified with form this doesn’t appear so. The course answers this with, no, while identified with form, this doesn’t appear now, but in Reality this is so. So while the sons of God are identified with form and see differences, each one has a special function in this world that is an essential contribution to overcome the world. Once the will of the Sonship and the Father are in perfect accord, then there is no longer any need.

    When I first began studying the course, I began to see insanity everywhere. That’s pretty much all I saw. Yet as time went on, I began to see miracles more and more where I have never seen them before. I’m not talking about miraculous healings, though I have seen those also. I am talking about the seemingly ordinary exchange between brothers.

    As the course tells us: This world is full of miracles. They stand in shining silence next to every dream of pain and suffering, of sin and guilt. ~ACIM

    Eric: And as I continue my study, I see this more and more. As you said before, course students can be quite elitist and there is sometimes this idea that course students are somehow different from people on other paths (that don’t “get it”), therefore there is this bubble between course students and “other” people. Yet, miracles transcends this idea. I have seen exchanges between brothers of different religions and no religion. I have seen exchanges between brothers of different races and cultures.

    Yes, I have seen the opposite also and I don’t delude myself by flippantly dismissing this as just an illusion. This is a call for love! But more and more I see the individual contributions of the sons of God. All of our brothers are special due to inclusion.

    I just watched a documentary called, “The Dhamma Brothers”. This is about a couple of guys coming into a hard core prison to teach prisoners Vipassana meditation. These are people that most have given up on. They are the “scum” of the earth. Yet two people didn’t give up on these people and their contribution helped heal the minds of some of these people. Our brothers.

    If anyone is interested in seeing this documentary, it is (or was) on Netflix stream. I believe it is also free on YouTube and is available on the site ACIMlounge.ning from Ruby.

    Eric

    • Sean Reagan December 24, 2013, 11:22 am

      Yeah . . . specialness has been a tricky one for me, I’m sorry to say. I agree that we can get overly-focused on it and so forth, but it has really been something that from time to time I need to call myself on – or be called on!

      In the spirit of the course meeting us where we’re at, it certainly meets me in a place where I want to be special, the favored son of Jesus.

      In general, seeing it – and owning it – is relatively curative. Awareness seems to be consistently helpful, in this and other areas.

      Yeah, distortion . . . I remember the first time I heard Randy Rhoads on Blizzard of Ozz. I’d heard distortion before but equated it with noise and attitude but Rhoads had an elegance to his playing that was so astounding to me. He was a very intelligent guitarist, I think.

      I like the Dandy Warhols quite a bit, too – distortion there being a sort of lush sound.

      I mostly play acoustic these days – this guy is my current favorite.

      Yeah . . . specialness has been a tricky one for me, I’m sorry to say. I agree that we can get overly-focused on it and so forth, but it has really been something that from time to time I need to call myself on – or be called on!

      In the spirit of the course meeting us where we’re at, it certainly meets me in a place where I want to be special, the favored son of Jesus.

      In general, seeing it – and owning it – is relatively curative. Awareness seems to be consistently helpful, in this and other areas.

      Yeah, distortion . . . I remember the first time I heard Randy Rhoads on Blizzard of Ozz. I’d heard distortion before but equated it with noise and attitude but Rhoads had an elegance to his playing that was so astounding to me. He was a very intelligent guitarist, I think.

      I mostly play accoustic these days – this guy is my current favorite:

      [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3YxlbYiLhA&w=420&h=315%5D

      Some of the people I jam with prefer electric, so in those cases I play a relatively cheap B.C. Rich warlock and channel memories of Rhoads.

  • Eric December 24, 2013, 4:09 pm

    Hey Sean,

    I’m a Fender Strat man myself. I like quite a variety of music. Everything from Soundgarden to Neil Young, but my main influences on guitar are the likes of SRV, Jimi, Freddie King, Old Clapton, etc.

    I really love Randy Rhoads. To me, he was the only metal guitar player that played from a classical base with the soul of the blues. When he played, it wasn’t just notes. There was something deeper.

    I tend to play more electric than acoustic. Though during the season I’ll break out the acoustic for some classical style Christmas songs. I really love playing Neil Young songs on the acoustic. I don’t like all of this songs, but the ones I do like, I absolutely love.

    What kind of acoustic do you have? I have a Garrison. I got it fairly cheap when they first came out. They got a little more expensive later on, and I think they stopped making them. It sounds really nice. Very warm. My friend has a high end Taylor and though I haven’t told him to his face, I think my Garrison sounds just as good. I’d love to have a Taylor, Martin, or Gibson, but it’s hard to even try one out as I play left handed.

    Eric

    PS. Do you play any other instruments? I also play bass as that is obviously just a low octave 4 stringed guitar. I also play(ed) trumpet, baritone, French horn and I play some drums.

    I always found playing music to be those times when I could be so present and in the now.

    • Sean Reagan December 24, 2013, 4:37 pm

      I loved Rhoads. My early musical interests were heavy metal but Rhoads was always a little above that, even though he loved it and was right in it. I also liked (still do like) Mark Knopler. Listening to him was a kind of bridge from bands like Kiss and AC/DC. Then I got into Dylan and Leonard Cohen and Irish folk music (Planxty, Christy Moore) and it was all done. I never really moved off that.

      I play an Alvarez-Yairi that’s almost 25 years old now. It’s been all around the world with me. I spent months playing street corners and bars in Europe in the late ’80’s! I would like to buy a nylon string guitar. When I played electric more regularly back in my twenties I played a Rickenbacker, which was a cool guitar. Strats are classic, of course.

      These days I play only guitar and harmonica, doing a Neil Young/early Dylan schtick. Back when I was a bit more intense about it all, I played the banjo pretty seriously. I can mess around on the piano and pennywhistle/low D whistle. The whistles are the instrument I often wish I gave more time to, especially the low D. I love that sound. I would like to sing better, too, actually.

      I agree very much on experiencing the now when playing music. My artistic focus is so much on words but over the past year or so I have begun to turn back to music. I miss playing out.

      Sorry you’re not closer! We could play some tunes.

Leave a Comment