Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Suffering Over What is Not. Who Is Responsible.

WARNING: A bit of a ramble.

A friend of mine has trouble relating to her father. To her he seems quite lonely and shut down, focused only on a news channel all day long, and engaging in very paranoid and depressing conversations about the state of the world when she calls.

She is reluctant to freely respond to this person he is. She is in so much pain about the the father he is not.

It is so much easier to see the outlines of someone else situation than my own. In her I see she must differentiate the pain over what he is not from how she might like to be with what he is. Her fretting over what he is not, gets in the way of enjoying who he is (perhaps not "enjoying" but at least reacting honestly in the moment to who he is).

What he is not is all hers - is all her. No one can actually be *not* something. How can I blame someone for not being kind? How does one actively not be kind - not be xyz? Everyone is always not being everything and so, has no responsibility for not being any particular thing.

Sure, maybe this is just clever semantics, but I think there's a nut of importance in it.

If I think "he was mean." That's fine. Maybe I've got unrealistic perceptions, or maybe he was indeed mean. There is a chance "he" has some responsibility in that. But he has no responsibility for "he was not kind." He was also not green, not flying 20,000 miles an hour, not a woman, not singing a song. There a million things he was not. He can not actively not do something. So all my suffering over what he is not, is all my responsibility. If I was really aware of myself, I would say "I wish he were kinder." Now it is clearly all mine to deal with.

This leads to another idea. You could say "well, kindness is the opposite of meanness, so you are saying the same thing." That, I feel these days, is a huge fallacy I have been operating under all my life. There are no true opposites in these things. Opposite are a semantic and organizational convenience, not a fact. The universe is not in balance because there are equal amounts of love and hate in existence. That ying yang circle thing is not true. The biological processes and brain pathways that get exited by sensory input that bring us to feel hatred or anger are not one side of a processes that also bring us to feel love or peace. Each emotion, each judgment is its own absolute "thing." There is no collection of dipoles balancing.

What does this mean to me practically? Perhaps don't try to balance, strive to respond. When something or someone annoys, differentiate my disappointment/suffering over my unfulfilled wishes of what they are not (that is my shit) from my spontaneously arising response to what they really are. Was my shit is out of the way, I might be surprised at how appropriate that response is.

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