Yesterday was a very interesting day. That it was a wild ride is a mild description – if I wasn’t dealing with a “changing by the minute” state of a variety of things, I was dealing with my emotional reaction to the “changing by the minute state.” Which I find funny, since I had been writing about our tendency to look more for meaning in chance and passing things in the present then to see the history of meaning in a broad spectrum of actions.
And I was glad that I had written that in the morning because it served as a reminder for me throughout the day as each new “oh it’s a disaster! no wait its not!” happened.
And that is a change for me. The whole day I was also aware of the difference in how I was reacting compared to how I would have reacted even just a year ago. But a lot of that change comes from my having cleaned house – my own internal house and the external house. I had taken a good look at the “people sitting in my kitchen” so to speak and given the ones who placed a heavy emphasis on fear and irrational needs for safety the heave-ho. This has made life much easier to bear.
But what was interesting to me, given that kind of self-awareness of the mechanics of change in my life – was to observe the reaction of people around me to what was going on in my day. This was another good reminder about dealing with life that before you launch off with a solution one must pay close attention to what the problem really is. I had one guy, one of the sweetest people I know, go off on the whole “you can refill cartridges” thing for about 10 minutes and then (and this is the reason I like him) he stopped himself short and said, “Wait a second, that’s not what your problem is.”
I see this as a trend the more I move within the advocacy community that many a good idea and solution are proposed, funded and launched with the designers only having half listened to what the problem is. It’s like there is a shut-off valve and as soon as you hear something that you relate to a known solution, you shut off the hearing and go to the speaking.
Its why the majority of funding for homelessness targets the minority of the homeless because it is simple to understand that the chronically homeless need homes. It is much more difficult to address the problem of why people become homeless – even when they still have jobs, even in this kind of society.
But we do like to offer help, to feel like we are helping towards people that mean something to us. But this is an area where the potential for the best of intentions being harmful is exemplified and the motivation for the offer or action is not enough to make it a good and worthwhile thing.
Because motivation, again, rises from emotional reaction and not a balanced response. It comes from a need perceived that first and foremost relates to our selves and not in response to the person in need. It is where the confusion has occurred that has transformed compassion into one of the most selfish expressions of modern man. It wasn’t always like that, but that is what it has become.
It’s funny, there is a new documentary out called “I am” which is supposed to be powerfully uplifting and a validation of the good in humankind.” I use the term “supposed to be” because it is kind of like a giant facebook status update (copy and post this to your status to prove you care!) and for most people will have the same effect on their life. I have not seen it but have read numerous reviews and analysis of its content and find it interesting that it has been classified as a “vanity documentary.”
It is a good and needful thing to feed oneself validation of the innate potential for goodness in humanity. If you work with any kind of advocacy, you need that. The danger lies in the vanity nature of the project. For many people, probably the majority that will see the documentary, the “feel-good” nature of it will be something that they will take in to make themselves feel good about the fact that humanity can be good and loving and not translate into a motivation to extend themselves to enhance and support that potential in real life.
Like a rubber bracelet, a ribbon pin, or a bumper sticker to “End THIS war” the support doesn’t go past the person. Like the whole prosperity gospel thing which btw does include the law of attraction, positive thinking, NLP and in general, the entire spiritual industry, one good and true idea gets pared down to a commodity to be sold that is advertised through a combination of guilt, fear and a promise of easy solutions.
Solutions that do not require effort, sacrifice or attention. Solutions that, and here is the underlying and very damaging message, if they do not work for you have failed because you did not think the right thing, in the right way, show up in the right place or go far enough in the purchase of the class, service, materials or training.
Back to the concept of zero, humanity is born with the potential to be good or bad, it is something that is not decided for each person until they reach an age of moral maturity (although there are rare instances of the naturally evil, I have talked about that before). Moral maturity is when self-awareness, the sense of “I” becomes inclusive of the understanding that the “I” coexists and has an effect on the “We.” The key is the term “co-exist.” Our modern form of moral maturity seeks to dismiss the “I” and you just cannot do that, for without it you remove the source of our motivation for action. Group emotional experiences are intensely fleeting and extremely dangerous forms of motivational sources (for reasons I rant about regularly). A lack of individual emotion means you cannot understand, cannot sympathize, cannot empathize, cannot have compassion because the potential for the effect of something on another human being that is not bound to you becomes a hypothesis; it lacks a basis in reality. It lacks a potential for the realization that “this could happen to me” and disengages us, makes us sociopathic, in relation to those around us because they are no longer perceived as real.
Reality, no matter how you slice it, is rooted in our ability to see a connectedness between our own lives and the lives of those not connected to us. The less we experience or can imagine that connection, the less reality we can perceive and wander around “thinking good thoughts” and occasionally wondering why things don’t change and bad things happen to good people.
Funny that for such a confusing and roller coaster type day, all of this was churning in the back of my mind.
c.2011. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.