Do we owe them anything?

Those other human beings surrounding us… do we owe them anything? I don’t mean we have a debt, but if we have some sort of inner light, dim as it is, do we owe them anything? Are we obliged to share?

I was so resentful when I was young. I’m sure the resentment is still down there, stuck to memories and complexes like a worn chewing gum. I didn’t understand what it meant to be introverted. It was some sort of punishment, unfair and undeserved. I watched the kids playing in the centre of the playground. I was sitting on the periphery, watching with a mixture of pain and self-righteous envy. Maybe if I had looked left or right I would have seen people like me and I wouldn’t have felt lonely, but my sight was stuck on those happy boys in the middle. It wasn’t until many years later that I realised the blessings of introversion. I still didn’t know what it was, but I loved the inner life it gave me. A life that, it seemed to me, nobody else had. It took me another 20 years to realise that I was wrong about that too. As it turned out, millions of people were like me and, like me, had done an outstanding job at remaining hidden.

One day I asked myself if I owed them anything. Them. The enemy, the others, the ones who are not like me. The first time I asked myself this question, it felt like a joke. The child in me jumped “What?! What do we owe them?” Pretty much like Gollum, actually. I understand his reaction, it wasn’t easy. So I asked again.

For so many years I felt I didn’t owe them anything. They were a threat, a nuisance mostly. I made myself, didn’t I, with no help.

And yet… those who I called the others, in the sense that they are not me… are they really not me? There are no islands if you dive deep enough. We belong together. Maybe they didn’t understand me, but neither did I. I honestly believe I don’t have much wisdom to share. I used to think I did, but I was wrong. Humility is the best teacher, I had so much to unlearn. But whatever I have found… is it really mine?

And how did it come to me? A little recommendation here, to find Hesse; my mother reading avidly, to find Tolkien; a website there, to find Jung. And that instant connection… like I had been plugged in and had come back to life, like switching on the Christmas lights after a year of darkness and solitude. Above all, the feeling that I was not alone. All right, they were mostly dead writers, but at least they had existed. And the people who guided me to them, inadvertently or intentionally, also existed.

The others are not the others. They are us. They are me. I cannot ignore them, hide from them, despise them. Who am I to do such a thing? No. They are me. We are all part of a common being, with a common collective unconscious. We are somehow balanced, as in a spinning top. It’s the sum of us that makes sense, especially as a collective unconscious. We owe them as much as we owe ourselves. As much as it pains me to admit this, there is no one without the other. There is no them.

The need to be loved makes us uncomfortable. It implies a vulnerability that we are not always ready to admit. We alone are not enough. We are in the hands of others. We need their love, but we don’t control it. Instead, maybe we should open ourselves to it.