A “lesson of love” I learned years ago was shared with me by Javier Gomez, a Chicano educator in Oxnard, California. He taught me about the Mayan expression of Inlakech. In 2007, Javier was inducted into the Ventura County Educators’ Hall of Fame. Below see an interview with Javier Gomez on the Dr. Dan Show.

I don’t remember how I first met Javier–I expect it was through my volunteer work at a nonprofit called La Casa de la Raza, but he became something of a mentor to m. Javier founded and ran a bilingual community theater (teatro) program in Oxnard called Teatro Inlakech (read an LA Times article about the theater here). One day he told me why he gave his theater program that name.

Inlakech, he explained, expresses a Mayan philosophy which he described as “Tu eres mi otro yo, you are my other me–what I do to you I do to myself.” I’d grown up learning the Golden Rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” Yet the concept of Inlakech moves beyond simply treating others “as” you would treat yourself. Inlakech suggests that whether we like it or not, our actions towards others are also actions towards ourselves.

What if we saw and felt ourselves in our fellow human beings? Is that not empathy? How differently might we move through this world if we recognized “others” as part of our collective body. Imagine that we are all part of a collective body. I’m not at all saying that some of us are “the head” and others “the body” — an idea rooted in theories of scientific racism!

If you’ve seen the Netflix series Sense8, you will get a better understanding of what I am talking about. In Sense8, a group of people from various parts of the world, and with very different social identities, discover that they are intimately connected to each other. When one of their group is hurt, they all feel the pain, even if they are not physically near this other group member. When one feels joy, they too are overcome with happiness, regardless of where they are.

Below see the trailer for the show:

When we hurt others, we hurt ourselves. When we are kind to others, we are kind to ourselves. And vice versa.

What if we measured our own health based on the health of all of our fellow Earthlings? We may not immediately “feel” unjust treatment of others in our human family, but eventually–and even generations later–we will. “Our” health is not just about our individual, physical body. “Our” body is connected to those of people in all parts of the world. 

You are my other me.