Hierarchy v. Status

 

The ego’s version of hierarchy is status or rank.  It is constantly reassessing itself on a scale of “better than/worse than.”  This manifests in obvious measures such as money, power, looks, fame, etc., culminating in the attitude “Do you know who I am?” There are any number of subtle and not-so-subtle ways we use to draw attention to ourselves; even among “spiritual” people there are little emblems of rank that assert their superior holiness.  We are all at times like the Pharisee*, thankful that we are not like these others.  But if we beat our breasts like the tax collector, we are still judging ourselves on a scale.  I can still want you to notice how humble I am.

This judging also works in more subtle and insidious ways; the inner sense of superiority or inferiority that we all carry, and that operates the little voice of criticism in our heads.  Someone cuts in front us while driving and we feel compelled to comment on their lack of driving skill.  We notice a very attractive person and our voice says we could never get to know them.  These things seem trivial, but they define the borders of our world: better/worse, I am still other and alienated from you.  I do not know myself, and you, as the One.

*The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector  (Luke 18: 9-14)

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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