Inside my First-Second Degree of Illumination bubble, I perceive you separate from me, us separate from them. Even when we are we, as in a tight relationship, I distinguish each of us as separate individuals! I crusade for, create, and fortify alliances with others to assist me in defending my reality as THE reality. This the result of a separation hallucination.
From a Fourth Degree of Illumination perspective, everyone and everything in my perceptual world represent aspects of ONE individual – ME. To understand that concept, I may wish to connect with “others” – metaphoric, representational aspects of that ONE.
Through the vehicle of empathy, I can connect to aspects of me in all the myriad ways I present myself in my perceptual reality. I can extend empathy and realize a more expanded reality – one that recognize separation for the illusion it is. I might view empathy as an invitation to more fully understand the ONE that is ME.
Connecting Values to Extend Empathy
Dr. Robb Willer in a TED talk proposes that one can connect with another through shared values. He suggests we use values to extend empathy. Paraphrasing, when I appreciate your values and understand them in the way you do, I can connect to you in a meaningful way. When I connect through our values, I may discover a source of my perceptual separation and an opportunity for re-unity.
As a political activist, social scientist, and researcher, Dr. Robb Willer supports the idea that like-minded individuals tend to extend empathy to each other – what evolutionary psychologists call tribalism. A bias for tribal associations causes us to favor the opinions of those in the in-group and discount those of the out-group. We see this playing out everyday in American politics. That same separation illusion appears in me as perceptions of human cruelty, blame, terrorism, and justifications for and acceptance of genocide – and much more.
Connecting the Dots
This disconnect between competing values is the essence of the First-Second Degree of Illumination bubble.
To begin the process of “connect the dots” I might exercise one of my human “superpowers” – imagination. I can pretend I am both sides of an issue. I am you AND I am me. Imagine what it might be like to espouse another person’s beliefs and values in a scenario in which they are the “good guys” in an issue. Willer suggests I connect by applying the same value I hold for some other issue to their value concerning the issue in controversy. Value to same value.
Using Willer’s TED example, a conflict might arise when I espouse a more liberal view than my neighbor who espouses a more conservative view. When we discuss a divisive issue, I may tend to favor values of equality and fairness while he might base his arguments more heavily on moral values.
People are willing to fight and die for their [moral] values. Why are they going to give that up just to agree with you on something that they don’t particularly want to agree with you on anyway? If that persuasive appeal that you’re making to your Republican uncle means that he doesn’t just have to change his view, he’s got to change his underlying values, too, that’s not going to go very far. (Willer)
Remember – ALL the values on ALL sides of the issue are MINE – they only appear to apply to other people. Even the values themselves are an artifact of the separation illusion and do not exist as I perceive them – if at all.
To connect with my neighbor, I connect with his values as MY values. To do that, I respect his values as valid. Then I can extend empathy, in which I begin the process of dissolving the perception of separation into connection. That within-the-bubble empathy still validates a perception of separation because I’ve “extended” it to someone else – a someone I perceive as not me. Still, it is a step closer to complete dissolution of the separation illusion.
Connecting with the characters in my world offers me an opportunity to delve more deeply into the source of that world – the ONE that is ME. And isn’t that the point?