“There is no place on earth where we can be free of ourselves.” —Charlotte Joko Beck in Nothing Special: Living Zen
Occasionally, while reading a book, a particular sentence or even a paragraph leaps off the page and penetrates my mind. The above sentence struck me like a lightning bolt with its unequivocal truth, its subtle remonstration, and its underlying humor. Let’s examine all three of these aspects of this quote.
We all know we cannot escape ourselves, but more often than not we are in denial regarding this truth. Consequently, we frequently go to extraordinary lengths to avoid facing this truth. Addictions, obsessions, compulsions, and psychological defense mechanisms such as projection, are all examples of these fruitless attempts to be free of ourselves.
Joko Beck’s subtle remonstration is to command us to wake up–to realize nothing, nowhere and no one can save us from being with ourselves. So quit trying. We need to learn to live with ourselves if we are to have any joy in this world. (See “Know Thyself.”)
The underlying humor of this quote is that we already know this but we still keep trying to run from ourselves. The ego’s capacity for self-delusion and its pursuits to find happiness “out there” are limitless. So what is the alternative?
Joko Beck goes on to say that we must see the insanity of trying to escape from ourselves, and when we do, we begin to get a little clarity. Along with that clarity arises amusement. The capacity to step back and watch ourselves is uniquely human. When we watch ourselves with pure curiosity and wonder (no judgment), we are able to see our errors, misjudgments, and self-delusions, and we can laugh at all of it. What other species have you seen laugh at themselves?
So, make a pact to never choose to act from fear. Fear of facing yourself is what drives you to try and run from yourself. Instead, make your choices based on clarity and amusement, and you open up a whole new path with a new succession of choices that are apt to bring joy, peace, and harmony to all of your endeavors, no matter where you are on this earth! No more need to run from yourself!