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The Great Equalizers of Life: The Human Experience Reveals We Are Far More Alike Than Different

Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. . . Explore. Dream." —Mark Twain

The context that life presents on both the relative and absolute planes are the equalizers we all face, what we do and especially what we do not do. After reading Henry David Thoreau's Walden in my teenage years, I was unable to continue reading after coming across the line, "Most men live lives of quiet desperation." In this moment I recognized his insight to be shockingly correct. Upon reflection, I became crystal clear that the last thing I would ever be in such an emotional state would be quiet! This revelatory moment sparked my vowing to engage fully in this growing process of conscious living, and herein I became fascinated in just how universal so much of life is.

group of young adultsThe human experience reveals that we are far more alike than we are different. There is great worth is honoring our diversity, what some refer to as individual differences. There is a lot to be said for showing respect and kindness to our diversity. At the same time, the ego-mind seems to be ever fascinated with differences of all varieties, and is happy to make all those differences suspect, morally wrong and what divides one human being from another, one designated group from another. What if all those "differences" actually are purely what is "not the same." While this distinction may seem purely linguistic and trivial, look again and consider which expression has the most emotional reactive charge and which is relatively flat in this regard. The answer is obvious. Of far greater interest and impact to our lives is all that is common and universal to human beings—our similarities. In noticing and valuing what are our commonalities and similarities, we claim our humanness, understanding and humanity.

What we all face in being human beings can be called the equalizers of life. So what are the great equalizers of life? These are what every single human being without exception faces in the human experience of being alive on earth. These human equalizers provide the existential environment and psychological context of our lives, no different than the oceans provide the milieu for all sea life. For example, gravity and the constraints of physical reality as well as living in the Presence of now and being who you are qualify as prime equalizers effecting us all. Awareness of equalizers brings into sharp relief the playing field of human experience and the earthly constraints for development of our formation of being.

Trouble is the common denominator of living.
It is the great equalizer.
— Ann Landers

Probably the most outstanding equalizer is your connection with self and Self. How aware and present you are, especially with your imaginary ego-mind through standing outside of your mind and witnessing what it is up to now, are available on the relative worldly plane. This certainly includes the fact of aging and death, as is the opportunity to be present to Presence itself and Self. How the eventualities of aging and death are faced speaks volumes about how life is held and lived since life reflects death as surely death reflects life. It is curious to note that how one dies is most commonly a clear mirror for how one has lived.

At the same time, death could be thought of as the ultimate illusion or unreality since it is only your vehicle of a body that dies-not the luminous essence you are or what you build of your soul. Death can more accurately be perceived as a soul-releasing graduation to our peaceful eternity with God, Oneness and divinity. The elusive, limited nature of time on the phenomenal plane of earthly living as well as the timelessness of the absolute plane of Awareness are primary equalizers for us all.

Equally outstanding, if not the ultimate equalizer, is seeing that life unfolds as it does and it could not be different! To be clear, this notion is not to rely upon fate, destiny or karma. Rather, this is the realization that our mind's idea of operating out of true choice isn't actually how life works. Our ego-mind's prideful attachment to true choice does not factor in four undeniable impacts that utterly compromise and gut choice: (1) heredity, neurology or genetic predisposition; (2) environment/social conditioning; (3) unconscious programming; and (4) how present or not present one is. With awareness and making adaptive, constructive lifestyle changes, facing and resolving unworkable survival decisions rooted in environmental conditioning, making the unconscious conscious (as Sigmund Freud championed as cure from neurosis) and ever more being presence itself, one has greater "wiggle room" in "apparent choice." Even given every moment of life and the actions therein could not be different, there is room for influence.

The great equalizers in life include your health on every imaginable level. How do you care for your body's physical health with nutrition, exercise, activity, rest, sleep, weight and posture? How do you care for your heart's emotional health and your mind's cognitive health? When was the last time you paused and deeply reflected on your path through life. What have you been and how did you do that? Where have you come to here and now? Do you carry regrets over what you didn't do, or no regrets because you did follow through and give it your best, committed, 100% shot? What calls you to do and be in life before the inevitable? And, by the way, what do you really want?

How do you care for your relational health in close intimacy with your mate and family, meaningful bonds with friends, and fine associations with co-workers and acquaintances? Who thinks of anything else on their deathbeds than everyone and everything she has ever loved? Were you a good animal, a good earth steward? How did you treat other living things and our earth? What living legacy are you leaving?

How did you care for the cleanliness and orderliness of your physical environment, inside your home and your surrounding yard and community? What type of shape did you keep your car? How often did you scrub under the bathroom cabinet or clean the baseboards and corners of the kitchen? When did you last reorder your desk, closet, garage, house, yards, gardens and office? When did you last dust? Don't all of these activities reveal your attitude toward yourself, others, the world and Life itself?

A great equalizer is your quality of happiness, success, wealth, satisfaction and fulfillment as a person, since these have far more to do with what you create in perception, thought and attitude than anything to do with circumstances, situations and what is. How you care for being financially responsible in both your business and private lives is another equalizer. How do you treat and interact with your closest loved ones, extended family members, co-workers, employees and service people, friends, neighbors and people you've never met before?

How you face the inevitable losses of loved ones, material things and money in addition to the limitations that come in different phases of the aging process are often significant equalizers. Did you leave the world a little better off for being here, than if you had never been here? Who did you make a lasting contribution and make a noticeable difference in one's quality of life? How many other equalizers do you notice?

Your spiritual health in maturing your soul in the quality of your relationships and with God-where you end up in life and beyond life—is the ultimate equalizer. Some simply refer to this by a universal phrase that has taken on greater and greater relevance over time—the human experience. Right now, how aware are you of the equalizers of life? What are you contributing moment-by-moment in meeting these great equalizers?