The following is the 45th chapter in, “AWARENESS: A de Mellow Spirituality Conference in His Own Words” by Fr. Anthony de Mello, S.J. edited by J. Francis Stroud, S.J., Copyright © 1990 by the DeMello Stroud Spirituality Center.
“In my country, lots of men grow up with the belief that women are cattle. ‘I married her,’ they say. ‘She’s my possession.’ Are these men to blame? Get ready for a shock: They aren’t. Just as many Americans are not to blame for the way they view Russians. Their glasses or perceptions simply have been dyed a certain color, and there they are; that’s the color through which they look at the world. What does it take to make them real, to make them aware that they’re looking at the world through colored glasses? There is no salvation till they have seen their basic prejudice.
“As soon as you look at the world through an ideology you are finished. No reality fits an ideology. Life is beyond that. That is why people are always searching for a meaning to life. But life has no meaning; it cannot have meaning because meaning is a formula; meaning is something that makes sense to the mind. Every time you make sense out of reality, you bump into something that destroys the sense you made. Meaning is only found when you go beyond meaning. Life only makes sense when you perceive it as mystery and it makes no sense to the conceptualizing mind.
“I don’t say that adoration isn’t important, but I do say that doubt is infinitely more important than adoration. Everywhere people are searching for objects to adore, but I don’t find people awake enough in their attitudes and convictions. How happy we would be if terrorists would adore their ideology less and question more. However, we don’t like to apply that to ourselves; we think we’re all right and the terrorists are wrong. But a terrorist to you is a martyr to the other side.
“Loneliness is when you’re missing people, aloneness is when you’re enjoying yourself. Remember that quip of George Bernard Shaw. He was at one of those awful cocktail parties, where nothing gets said. Someone asked him if he was enjoying himself. He answered, ‘It’s the only thing I am enjoying here.’ You never enjoy others when you are enslaved to them. Community is not formed by a set of slaves, by people demanding that other people make them happy. Community is formed by emperors and princesses. You’re an emperor, not a beggar; you’re a princess, not a beggar. There’s no begging bowl in a true community. There’s no clinging, no anxiety, no fear, no hangover, no possessiveness, no demands. Free people form community, not slaves. This is such a simple truth, but it has been drowned out by a whole culture, including religious culture. Religious culture can be very manipulative if you don’t watch out.
“Some people see awareness as a high point, a plateau, beyond experiencing every moment as it is. That’s making a goal out of awareness. But with true awareness there’s nowhere to go, nothing to achieve. How do we get to this awareness? Through awareness. When people say they really want to experience every moment, they’re really talking awareness, except for that ‘wanting.’ You don’t want to experience awareness; you do or you don’t.
“A friend of mine has just gone to Ireland. He told me that though he’s an American citizen he’s entitled to an Irish passport and was getting one because he is scared to travel abroad on an American passport. If terrorists walk in and say, ‘Let me see your passport,’ he wants to be able to say, ‘I’m Irish.’ But when people sit next to him on the plane, they don’t want to see labels; they want to taste and experience this person, as he really is. How many people spend their lives not eating food but eating the menu? A menu is only an indication of something that’s available. You want to eat the steak, not the words.”