I forget exactly where this old Taoist quote comes from, maybe Lao Tzu or Chang Tzu, but it goes something like this:
“Everyone is so sure of themselves, only I am uncertain.”
Why would a sage say that he is uncertain? Because not knowing is the mark of a sage.
The average person (ego) thinks they know a lot. The expert ego knows even more. However the sage is comfortable with not knowing. It doesn’t mean that a sage doesn’t have knowledge. A sage has great knowledge, however she doesn’t count on the crystalized mind to guide her. Not knowing means she must rely on her innate conscious awareness to shine a light on her path.
She moves slowly and carefully through life, with reluctance to hurt or disturb anything—the opposite of the ego, which I sometimes refer to as the American Tourist.
THE AMERICAN TOURIST
The American Tourist is a stereotype. Imagine an American man, a worker on an assembly line, who vacations in China. He’s walking down the street looking to get to Mao Plaza, a tourist attraction. He thinks he’s lost so he asks directions from a local man who stops his bicycle at an intersection.
“Excuse me, do you know the way to Mao Plaza?
The Chinese man hesitates, choosing his words. The American man interrupts, speaks louder, emphasizing with his face, hands, and mouth. “M-a-o Pla-za, M-A-O PLA-ZA!”
The Chinese man smiles. “Sorry, my English isn’t so good. Mao Plaza is behind you, sir, you just walked past it.”
The American assumed the Chinese man is ignorant, and speaking louder would help, however the Chinese man is actually a brain surgeon, and a psychologist who just likes to ride his bike to work. His English may not be perfect but at least he can speak. The American can barely speak even a few words of proper Chinese, and yet he has the gall to go to go to China and expect people to speak English. The American hasn’t bothered to learn any Chinese customs. He thinks his own culture and viewpoints are correct.
The American tourist is the nature of our egos: unaware, strutting, wrangling, self asserting, inconsiderate, and self serving.
The American tourist bulls through life in their know it all, brusk manner, unaware of what it does, or the damage it causes. The ego doesn’t really care about others. Sometimes ego purposely steps on another to lift itself up.
You can see the American Tourist in fear based prejudice. You see it in fighting of all kinds, which is why another name for the ego is the reactive mind—when someone steps on our tail we must retaliate. Our leaders egos are responsible for wars and mass killing. The fear based, small minded ego is what Christ referred to when he was being crucified. Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”
The ego is a mindless bull, a hapless fool. Especially beware of the American tourist coming out in your intimate relationships. The ego is a bozo and can’t help but to make life into a three ringed circus.
WHAT IS THE ATTITUDE THAT ONE MIGHT ADOPT WITH OTHERS?
No attitude at all, only awareness.
One can’t really adopt an attitude of compassion because the American tourist under the surface may express himself at any time.
AWARENESS COMES NATURALLY WITH AWAKENING
Usually one has deeply experienced the stings and barbs of life and they have been softened by them. Pain and suffering helps to crack the ego’s hard shell and open the heart.
When you find your true nature, there’s no need to bull, or boast. You know that, in the truest sense, you know nothing. This is true humility, not the false humility of those who believe they are learned, great spiritual practitioners, or leaders. You become a babe, an innocent child again, and the heart opens.
You know that you have made countless mistakes, countless errors. You have hurt so many people with your unconsciousness. Now, all that’s left is the desire to alleviate suffering, to take away pain, to promote peace, love, and joy, to make all creatures smile.
In the state of true humility, you walk softly, become more gentle with your speech, tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions.
You possess the awareness to treat each person’s sensitive feelings as if you were trying to win the affection of a dog who had been terribly abused. You act as if you were speaking about a child and the child’s mother was in earshot. (every mother wants her child to be liked) You treat feelings as if they were a butterfly caught in a spiderweb and you didn’t want to damage anything.
In other words you are aware of your energy and the effect it has on others.
And so you have become uncertain. Your true nature: consciousness, takes it’s place as captain of your ship. The American tourist (the ego) is put in its place, and you go through life carefully.