Once a year, on Halloween, we walk around knowing that people aren’t really who they appear to be on the outside. For one day, we withhold our usual judgment. We don’t look at people in costumes and masks and say, “There’s Batman, he’s a good guy” or “There’s the Riddler, he’s a bad guy.” We recognize that their outer appearance does not reflect who they are inside. Likewise, if we wear a Halloween costume, we don’t care what people say about our physical appearance because they don’t know who we really are. They only see the external disguise, so we let any hurtful words pass over us.
Well, every day of your life should be similar. It doesn’t matter what anyone says about your physical appearance, because they have no idea who you are inside. If every day were Halloween, we would view people differently, recognizing they’re not really who they appear to be on the outside. We also wouldn’t care what they thought about how we looked because our outer appearance says nothing about who we are within. Our bodies are just a costume.
I’ve always thought there was something intriguing about costumes and disguises. Think of fairytales or movies where there is a masquerade ball and nobody can tell who anyone else is, even if they’re only wearing a small mask over their eyes. It’s hard to believe Prince Charming can’t recognize Cinderella until she puts on the glass slipper. Don’t you feel like screaming, “Really, you can’t tell who that person is?”
Kids seem to get the symbolism easily, which is one of the reasons they love Halloween. They get to dress up and pretend to be someone they’re not. But don’t we all do that every day of our lives? People can’t see us for who we really are because all they see is this external body we walk around in, with this personality we have created based on who we want others to think we are.
The real question to ask yourself is: Do you see the differences between yourself and other people, or do you see the sameness? Most people don’t immediately perceive our oneness with others because it’s not what they see with their eyes. We’re so trained to look at the physical world and see our separateness from others that it is difficult to recognize the sameness. Picture a movie in which you and a small group of friends are battling an alien race for control of the planet. It is a mighty struggle, and you start to feel overwhelmed by the machines or monsters. Suddenly, you see another group of humans coming to assist you. You feel an immediate sense of relief, appreciation, and camaraderie with the members of that group. That’s because you recognize your sameness with them as fellow humans, and you believe they will help fight off the invaders. It’s easy for all of you to join together as one.
Now imagine another scenario. You are back in the movie with the other group of humans coming toward you, but this time you focus on their differences from you, instead of your sameness. You think, “What the heck are they wearing? Who are these guys? Where are they from, anyway? I’m not joining up with people from over there!” Now, your differences drive you apart and you start arguing. Before you know it, the aliens have destroyed you all.
It sounds comical that people would do this, but it’s what we do every day. We don’t recognize our oneness as a human race; instead, we focus on our separateness. But we have the choice to see our sameness and feel compassion for all. If we accepted that our bodies are just costumes, this kind of unity would be easier to attain. The sameness inside all of us is disguised by the differences in our appearances. Are you going to be fooled by the costume, or are you going to see through it? It’s your choice. It’s our choice.
(Excerpt from The Three Rooms, Chapter 4)