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.