Which you?

“I want [this].”

“Which you wants [that]?”

So spoketh my Zen teacher Pete Holmes on Duncan Trussell’s podcast. Or at least that covers the general theme of what he brought up.

I don’t think I’ve written about the extent to which Pete Holmes has affected my thinking (aka my life). I’ve binged on his podcast, You Made It Weird, and I also recently devoured all the monologues from his cancelled-way-too-soon late night talk show, The Pete Holmes Show. The man’s experience and perspective resonate with me. Like profoundly.

I’ve said this about Dan Harmon as well, but with him, it’s only on an intellectual level, i.e. what he says speaks to me, but we haven’t had a similar upbringing and shared neuroses. With Petey, it’s a felt connection. Which, listen, I get that I’m connecting to an avatar, a relatively “pure” form of Pete that qualifies for entertainment media. Although, to be fair, I’m not sure podcasts operate under the same strict demands and reductive filters of mainstream media. It’s hard to argue that You Made It Weird isn’t authentic Pete Holmes.

Let’s not confuse authentic with essential here. That’s not the point. Authenticity is being open to all your possible selves and practicing self-compassion in the wonderful process of exploring and enacting those possibilities. It demands self-awareness, honesty, and love. Authentic also doesn’t mean perfect. Pete Holmes, even the mediated digital version I “know,” isn’t perfect. And why would anyone want that? Perfection would mean game over. Nothing left to see or do. The same goes for self-actualization. There isn’t a single self that you’re ever trying to actualize, if you’re playing the game right (so to speak). There’s simply You in all your infinite varieties. So go ahead, see what you’re made of. Before long, if you’re really open and loving, you’ll discover that you’re made of everything.

Or at least it’s easy to claim this easy enlightenment from a position of privilege. My physical being is relatively secure, so I get to enjoy psychical latitude that isn’t universally available. I get it. But I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I’m also not going to forget it. My decision to observe and love all my selves and all their inane desires and insecurities doesn’t preclude me from extending that love to others. In fact, it enhances my capacity to care for others. It opens up greater empathetic imagination.

It’s not a coincidence that we are beaten down in this culture with self-doubt and self-loathing. Alienating us from ourselves is a great way of instilling an us/them mentality, which favors the status quo and the Big Egos already in power. We become so self-destructive/defensive that we have no room for others. We can’t even make room for our own selves.

We can blame the Ego, that socialized bodyguard (or warden) that comes into the world to protect (or punish) us (and keep us in our place).  We can, however, reach the point where we break free of our social personality and all its utility. We can excuse our bodyguard and stop looking through His unforgiving lens at ourselves: “Thank you, Ego, but you’re no longer needed.” Now, don’t expect the bodyguard (or warden) to abandon his post so easily. He’ll keep hanging around, waiting to pull you back into the old self that depended on such social armor (maybe even benefitted from it). You’ll have to keep removing it. Vulnerability in this sense does not make you weak, it’s a manifestation of your ultimate strength. Meanness springs from the Ego, protecting you from pain. Love arises when the Ego is let go.

So don’t be frozen. Let it go.

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