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Lions Roar : November 2017
ever really know for sure what others think of you. You receive only occasional feedback: gestures, glances, comments about who people think you are. These external messages are always subjective, momentary, and indirect, received in pieces, brief exchanges, fragments of interaction. So without being able to know what others think of you, you are left to define your sense of self in terms of what you believe others might think about you, which is two degrees of separation from a verified connection with your own mind. Meanwhile, while you worry what others think, they are caught up in the same game themselves, worrying what you think of them. On top of this indirect experience of self, we often operate from the premise that the messages we receive confirm an underlying suspicion: that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. In a society where the residual belief in original sin is deeply embedded in our secular identity, suspicion of human nature is the cultural air we all inhale. If you assume that your humanity is somehow flawed, unwholesome, or broken, then you might fear that time spent with others will expose this underlying brokenness. If you engage in friendships from this angle, you will always be relat- ing to friends while hoping to fix the things about yourself that you’re afraid the other person sees. Now you’re several degrees and one big Pit of Despair away from experiencing yourself directly. The solution to this mess is not to abandon other peo- ple; it’s to give befriending yourself the same urgency that you give to befriending others. ♦ From The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach Us About Buddhism and Relationships, published by North Point Press, a division of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. © 2017 by Ethan Nichtern. All rights reserved. Unlikely friends overcome their personal demons to support each other’s journeys in grief, revenge, and, of course, storming the castle to liberate the princess. Inconceivable! Fezzik at the top of the Cliffs of Insanity, which he scaled while bearing the weight of the others. That’s what friends (and kidnappers) are for. LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2017 69