In It Together: The Beautiful Struggle Uniting Us All is a self-help book for the soul. Author Eckhart Aurelius Hughes has achieved something here that reminds me of the great philosophers, yet there is a spiritual side of it that is not exactly religious but still feels sacred. As I continued reading, I kept thinking that I wish I had found and read this book 30 years ago. Alas, it was not yet written, but my younger self would have greatly benefited from reading it.
‘In It Together’: A Self-Heal Book
Perhaps calling this a self-help book does it a disservice in a sense. It is much more than that. I found it to be more of a self-heal book. All the people in the world, including those who know and love you, cannot make you whole. Hughes brings the reader along – gently by the hand – and gets us to look in the mirror. Only what he calls the real you can make you whole.
The Two Yous
Many of us have different sides to our lives, personas that come forth in time of need. We certainly don’t talk to the boss the way we talk with our friends, and we don’t talk with our children the way we talk with our colleagues. This is all a given, but Hughes is having none of that. Instead, he proposes that there are two of you—the two yous. He writes, “One you is your consciousness, or soul. The other is your false self, your ego, or your body.” He calls this “the primitive self.”
What Hughes proposes rings true for me in my life. I understand the consciousness as an almost separate entity from the self that hungers, wanders, and is like the monster that mocks the meat it feeds upon, as Shakespeare noted. The conscious you is on a higher plane, but seemingly at odds with its primitive self down on the lower plane.
The Horror Show
In today’s world it seems like a great many people are on that lower plane. With wars, people starving, leaders taking us toward chaos, climate change, the nuclear threat, horrific storms, and earthquakes, there is no way to feel at ease or to be truly at peace. Hughes notes this saliently. He asks us to imagine ourselves as an alien “orbiting the Earth watching this horror show.” It’s not hard to imagine a reason why no aliens have made themselves known to us. As soon as they see what’s going on down here, they quickly zip away back into cold, silent tranquility of space.
Gluttony That Kills
Hughes reminds us of more horror on this third rock from the sun. He notes, “Nearly 3 million people die every year of obesity” which means “800 human beings per day” while “thousands of innocent children starving to death is considered a preventable problem.” The dichotomy is stunning, and I don’t know if finding a way to help people not become obese will mean anything toward finding a way to feed starving children, but it would certainly prevent consumption of excess food that could be used elsewhere. In this equation not caring for one group doesn’t do anything to help the group that we supposedly care about but who are still dying.
Even just saying the words “Humpty Dumpty” usually conjures an image in the mind. We see a nattily dressed egg lounging on a wall before his great fall. Hughes doesn’t care about that fall the way we did as children hearing the nursery rhyme. We were quite upset with all the king’s horses and men for their inability to fix Humpty, but Hughes claims that is unnecessary. He writes, “The trick to putting Humpty together again is to realize he never was his shell.” The essence of Humpty, his real you if you will, didn’t die in that fall, just as our real you will not die when our earthly “meatsuits” perish. It’s not religion here, but something sacred all the same. Scott believes, “To accept death as much as birth is liberating.” After reading this book, I totally agree.
Hughes’ concept of love is beautiful, even poetic, one akin to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 in a way. With the beautiful lover being compared to a summer’s day, the speaker tells his love that she will never be in Death’s shade because of this poem: “So long lives this, and this give life to thee.” The lover will remain forever known because of the poet, and Hughes’ concept of love is similar in that the real you is not dependent on the “primitive self” or body. Just like Humpty not being his shell, we are free from our bodies as well.
I think his version of love, true love, is fascinatingly hopeful. “True love is not sacrificing your happiness for another; true love is being happy to sacrifice.” When you think about it, we all sacrifice for others. Parents most notably sacrifice for their children on a daily basis, not thinking twice about it. Sacrifice is a part of true love we rarely think about, but when I discovered this as a truth about love, I felt I understood it better.
Hughes writes, “Love others as they are, unconditionally.” Another truth worth living by, following the path as it occurs rather than trying to change it as we go. Accepting a person as they are and not as we want them to be is probably the greatest love of all.
A New Outlook
If you want a new outlook on life, read this book. If you want to forget the past or fear the future, Hughes will have you forgetting those things and concentrating on yourself in the present. This is a healing philosophy espoused lovingly by an author who ends his book by telling his readers “I love you.” Love is everything and without it there is nothing. Hughes’ words transcend the pages they appear on, rise through your eyes into your mind, and you can’t help but view the world differently after reading this book. I highly recommend adding it to your reading list.