People around us are a mystery.
How common it is to find conflict with each other! We are all ‘not-self’ and nobody will ever fit into the thoughts we have of them. Any thought you have of somebody is a personal creation, something that defines you. Any kind of perception of another person is actually a product of your own mind, isn’t it? And that other person will never really fit into it. They never do quite what you want them to do; they do surprising things.
A person is something that breaks up your conceptual picture. So if you’re trying to hold on to one, it can be very frustrating, exasperating, confusing and difficult. ‘Why do they have to do it like that?’ ‘What a funny way to behave!’ ‘How many times have I said it, and she still does it like that!’ ‘Why can’t he ever turn up on time?’ ‘Why are people so hung up about being punctual?’
Fancy laughing at that. Fancy seeing the joke in that. Everybody defeats our opinions about them, don’t they? Human societies are always difficult to try and order because nobody fits into any opinion or view. As long as we are ordering our world around opinions, views and thoughts, it’s always a struggle. You have to have laws, policing and orders, tying people down with times and rules: ‘This is this kind, and you are that kind … You go here, and you go there.’
We’re thinking about each other all the time. Whenever you think about somebody, sooner or later you come up with something negative. You can always find a reason why a person should be like this and why they’re not. You can easily think about people in those terms: ‘She would be all right if she didn’t do it like that, if she didn’t have that kind of habit or that kind of feeling or look like that or talk like that.’ We can come up with a hundred and one ideas of what others should be like and what we should be like.
That’s the discriminative consciousness: cutting things up, denying things, seeing things in abstract terms.
This reflection by Ajahn Sucitto is from the book, The Most Precious Gift, (pdf) pp. 66-67.