Apparently the shortest poem by Muhammad Ali, mentioned in ‘When We Were Kings’. “Me, We” refers to the sameness of all peoples. Sure, our behaviour might be different, the way that we dress, or the way that we express certain emotions. There are differences between people, but we are essentially the same. Several similarities described in Buddhism come to mind:
- Same Suffering: Our experience of suffering is the same, even though it might manifest in different forms. Suffering permeates Samsara.
- Same Desire For Happiness: Everybody has the same basic wish for happiness and to avoid suffering, in whatever forms they might be.
- Buddha Nature: The same capacity for happiness and the same potential for Nirvana and Enlightenment are present within everybody.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama often says “I am a simple Buddhist monk”. Some labels are a useful starting point to understand where somebody is coming from. We noticed that more labels become a hindrance, creating attachment on our side, and barriers to entry for others. By putting those barriers in place it makes it more difficult to connect with other people, even obstacles to starting a conversation.
Country is a big label that is used. Somebody might say “I am a New Zealander” for example. So what does it mean to be a New Zealander? In white history New Zealand was rediscovered by James Cook in 1769, became part of the British Empire in 1840, that carries the British history, English language, Church of England Christian religion, and other baggage. But Maori history goes back more than 700 years, with a Polynesian language, separate legends, and it’s own baggage. The point being that countries change, what is New Zealand today will change. The population changes and their views change over time, governments and leaders change, democracies become dynasties. The outlines of countries are arbitrary outlines over a map, that inevitably change over time. Identifying yourself by association with a country ties yourself to a history and the associated baggage.
By associating yourself, you miss the opportunity to connect with other people. You might be too focused on the “me” to see the “we”. This is illustrated by the 3 Poisons. From an ignorant understanding of reality attachment arises to country or whatever it might be. From attachment to these things, resentment, anger, and hatred arise. It is better to cut attachment to these labels before further negative emotions arise.