[Originally published on MySpace on August 2, 2010.]
One strain of popular methodology for solving the problem of how to exist in this world suggests that you pick a type of person to be, and then will yourself to be that person. If this were to be examined, it might be found that what actually happens is you try to deny thoughts and feelings you have that do not fit into the type of person you picked, and then tell yourself “No, I don’t think/feel that because it’s wrong, instead, THIS is what I think and feel.” Have you ever done that? You’re sneaking around inside your head, you find a thought or a feeling that you know is perhaps a little off the beaten track, and your mind skitters across it without really seeing it, and instead paints it over with what you’re “supposed” to think, even though that’s not what you actually think? Let’s call it The Supposed To method.
One example of the Supposed To method has to do with a particular and commonly held definition of “unconditional love;” specifically, that one which requires that you love everyone regardless of any of their qualities, characteristics, attitudes, behaviors, appearance, etc., the point being that none of these things should have a (negative) impact on how you feel or what you think about any specific person, nor even group of people. Of course, these things ALWAYS have an impact, both positive and negative. We’re a diverse bunch of folks in every different way that can be imagined. The differences between us (and none of us is the same as any other, only similar, which implies yet more difference) are by definition going to have an impact. If we follow the logic out from the premise in bold above, what happens is you’re put in the position of defining yourself as inherently flawed on those occasions when you do feel a negative impact. I mean, what else can you do if you are required to accomplish something (i.e., love everyone) but always fail at it? Since it is not possible to avoid any impact, how do you explain yourself in terms of unconditional love as outlined above, I remind you, if not in terms of inherent flaw?
Accepting for the sake of argument (and for the moment) this idea of inherent flaw as a result of unconditional—that is to say, acritical—love, check out this definition from my toe crusher dictionary…
Inherent: existing in someone or something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality or attribute.
And another definition…
flaw: defect; fault
Permanent, inseparable defect. Alas, the popular definition of unconditional love that I posited above does not appear to provide for a means to cope with this that I have observed, other than by a species of denial, in which you must, again, paper over your flaws and pretend to the world and yourself that they don’t matter because you may overcome them by sheer force of will.
Well, my goodness, if it was that simple, the world wouldn’t be in the state it’s in, and Wal-Mart wouldn’t be any different from Tiffany’s in terms of popular opinion, don’t you think? We could just wish ourselves into being better people, and poof! there we are.
Obviously, it doesn’t very often work out this way.
The difficulty with trying to use this definition of unconditional love as a premise in practical daily life is that whereas it may provide for a temporary fix—a temporary salve to your conscience, for instance—it does not actually solve any problems. Instead, the problems are bundled into an anonymous, acritical metaphysical mass and tossed into some obscure corner of your mind, where, of course, it typically festers and pops out somewhere else embarrassing later on.
If you wish to actually solve problems, then it makes sense to know what the problems are. You are less likely to be able to do that if you are denying how you feel or what you think and instead pretending to feel or think something else. Why? Because if you’re ignoring the problem, you’re probably not analyzing it. You’re not being critical of it. Now, I’m not suggesting we all “go into a coma” considering our own inner demons. But! Ignoring obvious stuff like being surprised by a lovely round girl in a negligee at Wal-mart isn’t gonna get you anywhere, either.
In my prior blog, Ugly Stick II, I offered an inside look at what I have since dubbed The Wal-Mart phenomenon, which I define as a caricaturization in popular media/opinion of the patrons of said establishment that is detraction-based, to the extent that such individuals have become a laughing-stock stereotype for bad taste, bad manners, bad form, stupidity, and general failure to conform to conventional middle class aesthetic and practical standards.
What I suggested at the end of my last blog as a means of coping with this and other like phenomenon was this: go ahead and laugh [if you must]. I find that laughter, far from being impolite, is quite often a means of letting off a little pressure from some underlying discomfort or hurt. Like crying, laughter can be an indicator of inner tension needing attention, which, if you allow for it, can then serve as a means of calming troubled waters so that you can think.
Then I said don’t forget compassion [including for yourself]. Go ahead and feel what you feel and think what you think. Acknowledge it. Become familiar with it. Just don’t beat yourself (or others) up over it. Don’t think in terms of inherent flaw (think apprentice…). It’s a lot easier to change your thinking if you aren’t under attack, eh? If all your defenses are not engaged? Easier to be honest with yourself and maybe find a few mistakes in your thinking, if there are any, that you can correct either by thinking it through for yourself, or by talking with others, reading, etc., or some combination of these.
(This is of course not the limit of the concept of compassion, but it’ll do for now, for this blog.)
THEN I said [shoot for the idea that] not a one of us has the right to deprive others of their humanity regardless of the provocation. This is my humble opinion. It is also perhaps another alternative narrative you can use to live by. Laugh and have compassion and take what you find inside your head, measure it against this, and see what shakes out, eh? None of us knows the whole story of anyone else’s life, right? I’m not going to say a damned thing about judgment here. You’re always going to judge. What I will say is that rarely do you have enough information about another person to be able to ACCURATELY judge their life, nor if you did, would your truths necessarily be the same as theirs. Although I will mention that your truths and their truths are both likely to be equally valid, and that you might be able to make some pretty astute educated guesses.
It is not that we are flawed, okay? Rather, the definition I posited for unconditional love is flawed, because it ignores the fact that we are individuals who need each other to be complete, and we often have a hard time getting it right because each individual has his or her own truths which you cannot fully know, nor can you fully adopt, nor can you measure against some archetypical ideal of validity in order to decide who’s right and who’s wrong.
Instead, keep an open mind. Be humble. Beat others not over the head with your own path.
But too, pay attention. You’re not going to be able to love everybody by sheer force of will. If you can at least remember that each of us is human, perhaps you can employ a little mercy and at least refrain from punishing others for not being who you think they should be. If each of us does this successfully, of course it’ll swing back around to you, right? You deserve to be treated like a full-on human being, too.
If ALL ELSE FAILS, consider this excellent idea:
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That’s an old chestnut, but still makes sense and is very useful. (Caveat: be careful about truths when you do this. Expecting people to wholly accept your truths over their own may not always work.)
No, this is not going to solve all the problems great and small that seem to recur over and over in daily life and in terms of the big picture narrative (of which there are many). But it might represent a good start.
2:06 PM 19 Comments 6 Kudos