compassion and not hating people

Humans have a habit of seeing things as cause and effect. You drop a dish, it will shatter. You close your eyes and wake up at a different time, you were asleep. You say something rude to person A and they are angry.

Emotions are wild entities because while they usually have some manner of correlation between cause and effect, the proportions don’t always fit like we want them too. When a person is under an incredible amount of stress, sometimes something as small as a sad puppy picture can make them cry. Furthermore, even when we know it’s selfish and unrealistic, we can find ourselves angry or frustrated that things don’t work out the way we want.

No human is the center of the universe, and yet getting that into our skulls is another matter entirely. We want things to go well, even when we realize that the bumps and swerves and mountains in the road are necessary to feel that things are going well.  It’s a dangerous habit to claim a thing is part of human nature, but it is easy to feel that we all want the best for ourselves, in some form.

I feel like the more I learn about humans, mistakes, crime, and every other bad thing we go through, the more I feel that we largely have a cooperation and interaction problem. Many, yet not all, diseases come from our inability to care for ourselves and others. Both psychological and physical problems we face are often the result of not having the necessary social support, whether that be financial, emotional, etc.

People lash out because they are hurt. It doesn’t mean they should have lashed out, it just explains why they did so.

When it comes to cause and effect, we can simplify the situation down too much. We can point to A, B, and C, but we might miss the emotional reality of a person altogether. It’s not so simple. Events and actions add up over time. Experiences can remind someone of another experience.

When we look at ourselves, we know how it feels to be in our own shoes. However, being compassionate toward others is important. Communication and balancing out complex interactions is a tightrope walk with the whole circus making a ruckus around you, and it’s a tightrope for everyone.

There are so many things we don’t know. Being loving towards both ourselves and others begins with realizing that. Everyone is doing the best they can, as messed up as they may end up. The only way any of us gets to something approximating normal is by depending on others and letting others depend on us.

doing good things: it’s a bore

The question of good and evil is a big one. Most people would like to think of themselves as “okay”. Maybe not terrifically good, but at least not terrifically bad. Sure, people make mistakes and are cruel from time to time, but we each like to believe that our good mostly outweighs the bad. Religions often emphasize and try to encourage people to be moral, with greater or lesser success. Even people that consider themselves horrible people still tend to count some of their actions as beneficial to the whole good, and even people that consider themselves ultimately saints know in their hearts that they’re imperfect.

Adding onto this difficulty, there are questions of circumstance. If someone is struggling to survive, surely it isn’t necessary for them to help others since they are exerting so much effort in other worthwhile things? But also, we tend to overestimate how busy we are to make ourselves feel less guilty for not doing more. Helping the poor. Giving comfort to those in need. Being kind and compassionate when there is no external motivating factor like the desire to be seen as socially good.

Some argue that all humans are good, just get pushed down the wrong path by a terrible situation. Some others argue all humans are evil, and we have to fight our instincts to accomplish something good. Still, others feel that a binary of right and wrong is too simple and we should act with the understanding that circumstances are almost always morally ambiguous.

We might not know, and there will almost certainly be disagreement about the particulars, yet regardless we must realize that there is a drive, either internally or externally to do good things from somewhere. If there wasn’t, how would our species have survived this long? What about all of the cooperative relationships and groups that operate every day? Humans can be altruistic, at least to a limited degree. The problem with the argument is that there are so many options and opinions flying around that it becomes easy to justify doing nothing, even when we can do far more. It’s easy to feel like Injustice is so widespread that an individual can do nothing to help. But this isn’t the case. Even if an action is nominal, a good act can still impact someone else’s life for the better. There’s the hope that individuals will all do little things on their own and together that kindness and compassion will make the difference on the whole. However, it’s difficult to feel fulfilled as a tiny dot on a giant balance. Furthermore, even the most basic actions can have many results; who decides the overall absolute value of “goodness”?

Discussions of morality make people uncomfortable because it is almost always associated with shame. We feel like we haven’t done enough. Frankly, we probably haven’t, and if we are honest with ourselves, we know that our behaviors likely won’t shift in the future either.

So what’s to be done? In our hearts, we know what we have to do, and it’s boring.

The way for most humans to realistically enact change isn’t exciting. Not everyone can or should join the Peace Corps or start a charitable nonprofit. What impacts people is donating to charities who have actual pragmatic goals and ways to achieve them. What impacts people is joining a local club that does blood drives. Working at a soup kitchen. Being around people who are in need is uncomfortable, and we don’t want to deal with the realization that they are human as us. You don’t have to give up everything in your life, you just have to give consistently and practically. It’s dull. It won’t make you feel like a saint, it will more likely make you annoyed because you have yet another commitment to tack on to a large pile. It matters anyway. We can always do something good for others, our situation just dictates what kind of good we are capable of giving. We should do what we can, and what that means will probably change over time. Doing what we can where we can is a much better option, however, than being paralyzed with shame that helps no one.

End of hiatus and some comments on our natural human frustrations

It’s been a while, and the coming months will likely be trying, but the importance of trying cannot be understated. In both facing our fears and putting forth our best efforts, we should care. Caring is one of the most difficult things we can do, and it gets harder the more things we experience. The more we know, the more we realize how our compassion and vulnerability can be used against us, or sometimes worse, be ignored altogether.

In many ways, the story of human life is one that longs for connection and becomes frustrated in the journey again and again. Babies cry, and almost immediately we begin training them to shut up. It’s necessary. We have to be individuals that are self-supporting, but we can’t exist too self-supporting or else we become miserable and alone. If we are too dependent, on the other hand, we become aware of the burden of our existence on others. We are each like parts on a bike; the grimy handlebars wish to be the free-wheeling tires, the exhausted tires long to be the lofty seat, the squashed seat desires the control of the handlebars and the spokes just pray they will be able to hold everything together.

When we are unhappy, it can infect everything. A neutral or happy past experience can be twisted into a negative narrative. Being sad gives us this hungry drive to make everything else in our life fit that mood, but it can’t, not completely. No matter how insatiably wretched we may feel, we haven’t spent every waking moment from the womb feeling that way.  We’re human. We have complex emotion, often more complex than we want. Caring, putting ourselves out there, all of these things are so important and can become staggeringly difficult. Yet, just as we realize how dismal we are in the moment, we can trust in our own fickle nature. We will find beautiful things we enjoy, whether we are looking for them or not. Things hurt. Let yourself be angry, let yourself be sad, but also don’t forget to let yourself be happy too.

i am not a robot?? Plot twists and more…

There is a conceptual delight to the idea of a robot. A continuously productive machine with no gross emotions or feelings or biases is a wonderful thing. However, strange as it is, we are not machines. We need constant recharging, for hours and hours at a time. Even at our height, we are still not as efficient and effective as machines. We are volatile, events can harm us without direct physical contact. Humans are just so problematic compared to machines!

And yet! Being human is such a unique experience because we are aware that we are. We might not be as productive as machines, but what basis is there to assume our productivity equates to our worth? In some settings, we may begin to feel like that’s the case. However, there is more to us than that! We are creative and adapative. We can think outside the box, and use our associations to connect ideas. We can make wonderful things like machines in the first place, and emotionally connect to other people! Even we aren’t sure ourselves how we can do all of these things. It is something special to be a human.

While we love to connect to other people, part of being a social creature means we become jealous at times. We begin to compare oursleves to other people, and it goes downhill very quickly! But like machines and humans, part of being distinct entities requires there to be differences between them. Because you are an individual, you are different from those around you. Because we are varied in style, shape, and character, there are going to be differences in what we are good at and what we struggle with! You are not a machine, and that’s a good thing because you can do so much more than you are programmed for! You are also a “you”, and that means you are also able to bring something beautifully distinct to everything you do.

an extension on hope

Everyone is a hypocrite on some level. No matter how sincere or kind or honest, we hold double standards for ourselves. While we might be doubly hard on ourselves, a piece of us that is deep within us is our sense of hope. If we do something cowardly, there is always a hope, even if it’s tiny, that tomorrow we will be brave. We become hypocrites because that hope doesn’t tend to hold for others. We can run away or give up a hundred times and not lose hope, but if we might not give someone else a second chance.

It is good to have hope. Even if it seems a little delusional, hope means something because we can change for the better. We can take action and move out to accomplish more than we did yesterday. The problem is that if we don’t change, that hope truly is dismally delusional. An even bigger problem is that we rarely extend our faith to other people. Even if an individual absolutely hates themselves, they have to exist through themself; therefore it makes sense that we have a default within us that likes to be optimistic, as puny as it may be. For others, we don’t have to like or live with them, so we feel free to assume they can never change.

Still, we need to remember that how we treat others and how we treat ourselves is related. If we keep trying to extinguish that hope inside us, we won’t be able to see the good in others either. Everyone inevitably make mistakes. If we want to be in a better place, we have to take the opportunity our hope gives us and act on it. Furthermore, we need to extend that hope to others, so that we don’t close off the opportunity for others to so the same.

Halloween isn’t about death in practice, but you can use it to kill off the problems between you and those you care about

Happy Halloween! For a holiday associated with death, dark creatures, and general wickedness, the majority of people have a fondness for halloween. It’s like horror movies- you don’t like the vicious creature that’s slowly hunting everyone down, you like the thrill. And Halloween is a thrill! Operating at night, talking strangers out of their candy, masking your identity: these are all pleasurable activites because they are customs that we take part in as a community. 

For some, Halloween is just an excuse to party. However, the importance of the holiday isn’t that it’s celebrating creatures of darkness, but that we are celebrating a time together with people we care about in a light hearted manner. The features of the holiday are creepy, but sometimes creepy is fun! It’s an aesthetic that marks it apart from the rest of the year. It has a sort of childlike glee compared to Valentine’s day or Thanksgiving. 

Whatever your views on Halloween, just remember that it’s a holiday. At the end of the day,  it’s not about some costume or summoning demons, but about having an excuse to be with the people you love, sharing in traditions you care about. Even if you hate everything about this night, don’t close yourself off! Sometimes you need to shake things up from the routine.

What does your face look like?

We only see the mirror view of ourselves. Others get to see all angles of our faces, but we are limited in seeing how we really look on a daily basis. That’s why seeing a video of yourself is such a peculiar event; you are suddenly the onlooker of your own actions. But what is it like for a stranger? What parts of you are most salient? What aspect of your face do people focus on?  It’s important to think about because perspective because we get really caught up in our own heads sometimes.

The fact is, we dwell on certain things. We get bored and start thinking about tasks that aren’t necessary for survival like the humans we are. However it also means that when anything occurs, we are looking through a subjective lens. The faults we see may not be obvious to other people. The beautiful parts we see might also be hidden. We are used to our own standard of features, people, places, emotions, and we compare everything to it,  but it remains an unquantifiable bar. 

All of this is just to say that it’s easy to forget that not everyone has had the same experiences. Not everyone sees what you see. To some people, our noses might be the first thing they think about. To others it might be our forehead or chin. When frustrations arise, try to look on as an outsider. Try to bend your mind. You don’t have to agree, just get out of your own head for a little bit and you’ll find that it shows the other person a great deal of respect.