Thou Art That
Welcome back to my continuing series of Rules For Life.
One important element in every life that I’ve been leaving out of these articles so far has been the fact that you won’t be alone. You’re going to have to live your life with other people. They can be friends and family, strangers, and even people you disagree with—you’re going to have to live with them on this planet.
How you chose to live with them will determine the amount of conflict you’ll need to contend with. While conflict is not necessarily a bad thing, unnecessary conflict is going to be a waste of your time. You only have so many years on this marble and you’ll want to use that time wisely. This means avoiding unnecessary conflict and cultivating a life in which you co-exist with others.
One way to do that is to begin from a perspective that recognizes the intrinsic value in all things. People, animals, and all things can be recognized as having their own intrinsic value, which is to say “value for its own sake.” Taking a contrary stance and recognizing only extrinsic value means that you are recognizing only the worth things and people can give to you. This, again, only creates unnecessary conflict because as hard as this might be to accept, the world wasn’t put here just for you.
The intrinsic value of things does not only extend to people, either. Animals and plants and inanimate objects have their own intrinsic value. Like you, they are a part of a living universe. They contribute to it and make it what it is. This means that all things have value in themselves, for themselves, and not just for you.
One way great thinkers of the past have summarized this is in the phrase: Thou Art That. “Thou” can be anything or anyone that you address. “That” can be a reference to many things. “That” can refer to the divine in the religion of your choosing. “That” can reference a totality, such as the universe in which we exist. Or, “That” can simply refer to the worth each thing holds in this life. Even the most poorly created mud puddle or the most shoddily built device has some value. Why? Because, given the alternative between existence and not, those things exist. They are part of your journey. They are part of your life.
Valuing your life means valuing every part of your life, which in turn means valuing every aspect of a universe in which you are just a small part. “Thou Art That” is a way of recognizing that we are all in a unique place in a vast creation that we call the universe. Such a recognition does not require religion or spirituality. It doesn’t even require love. It simply means that you and I, him and her, it and that, those and the other, are all part of a whole. No part of the whole is superior to any other part, just as no part of a cookie dough is more important or no part of your heart can simply be thrown away.
The value in recognizing in everything—Thou Art That—is that you come to value all things. Fewer things go to waste. Imagine if you said to your cell phone, “Thou Art That.” Perhaps you would be less likely to damage it, which would save you money. Consider if you recognized the “That” in the oceans. More and more scientists are considering the oceans as living organisms in themselves. If we said “Thou Art That” to the oceans, perhaps we would be more likely to preserve them, thus enriching our own lives.
Finally, we should each recognize within ourselves “Thou Art That.” Our value is inestimable. We could no more put a monetary figure on our worth than we could put a price on the moon. We are all essential parts of a mind-blowing whole. No universe without us would ever be the same. Just as George Bailey found out how incomplete the universe was without him in it, so too must it be for all of us, and for the birds, and for the fish, and for the smallest grain of sand.
About the Author
Author and Playwright, Ken La Salle grew up in Santa Ana, California and has remained in the surrounding area his entire life. He was raised with strong, blue-collar roots, which have given him a progressive and environmentalist view. As a result, you’ll find many of his stories touching those areas both geographically and philosophically. His plays have been seen in theaters across the country and you can find a growing number of books available online. Find out more about Ken on his website at www.kenlasalle.com. Ken La Salle is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency, LLC.