pounding

Doing my best today, but my head is pounding. I see the United Church moved to an even more progressive and liberal stance regarding substance abuse, which justifies my use of them as a baseline for kind Christianity, as opposed to more toxic sects of Christianity like those that support Republicans (and likely the Inquisition, if it still existed).

Of course, I still don’t believe that kindness and religion are required bedfellows. To me, kindness chosen instead of suggested or enforced is more natural kindness. Internally generated kindness is better than kindness pushed from outside by an institution.

We shouldn’t have to be told to be kind; it shouldn’t be an externally touted mandate.

The kindness that comes from within, kindness we choose ourselves, is always of a greater quality than kindness dictated to us as actions by others. Not that there’s no value in “forced” kindness, only a less pure intent, which becomes easier to forget or twist.

Choose kindness for yourself. You don’t need a man in the sky to tell you that.

how to be kind

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, because it pertains directly to who I want to be, as well as how the novel I’m writing works out in the end.

I haven’t read anything specific to kindness (though I’ve read lots on kindness), so I’m kind of winging it here, if only to clarify for my own mind what it is I mean by kindness.

We aren’t talking “nice guy”, like the dude from all those 80s movies that we all felt for with his unrequited love, but who in reality is mostly a creepy stalker who offers little to the girl he loves beyond being a total doormat, but still feels entitled to her love (and her body, usually – more often than not, it’s the idea of sex that drives this behaviour, not the actual person).

I can say that truthfully because I’ve been that guy (and thankfully, am not anymore) and know enough of those types of guys to know that they (formerly we) never actually see the object of our desires for who they actually are, but rather, a woman we trick ourselves into seeing on a pedestal, when the thing we really want to see them up on is a stage with a stripper pole, just for us.

I know an eminent feature of kindness is the selflessness aspect of it, but I’m not sure we can divorce the good feeling of doing something nice from the act, nor necessarily should we. From a behavioural, psychological standpoint, if doing nice things for others feels good, if being kind makes us happy, then it’s motivation to continue doing so, or do even more. Feeling good/being happy plus doing nice/kind things for others? Sounds like a win/win to me.

I think it’s the motivation that matters. Is the intention to do good for others driven by the desire to good things for others, or for self-aggrandizement, or as cover to do other, shittier things? I’ve certainly known both types, and I think we can all point to people who do good things for self-serving motives, and not because it’s a good thing to do.

The driving force behind the kindness is who comes first, I think. If the primary purpose of the act is to polish your image, or provide cover for other, nefarious behaviour, or to bolster a person’s ego, then though the end result might benefit the same as a true kindness, it is not an actual kindness.

An actual kindness puts one’s own benefit second. We can still feel good because of the act. We can still bolster our reputation. It can make up for shitty behaviour (as penance, not as cover). But that’s not the primary reason behind it.

The primary purpose has to be the kindness itself. Whether it’s nice words, making someone laugh, donating to charity or buying the guy’s coffee behind you in the drive-thru, the point is that our benefits must always be secondary to the benefits received by the other party.

I’m not sure I’d call it selflessness entirely, because there are obviously benefits (warm fuzzies, connection with another person), but I think it’s subjugation of those benefits. Too much of our philosophy and politics are defined by dichotomy; a spectrum makes more sense (or even a multi-dimensional polyhedron or set of polyhedrons only connected in concept). I know that’s more difficult to grasp, and either/or is simple, but life is more complicated than that. Humility becomes key.

As the Tao Te Ching puts it (badly paraphrased), we do our work and we let it go.

worries and doubt

I know this blog does little to market me. I don’t promote it, beyond having the link available on my social media profiles, and it’s not exactly engaging in the sense of providing value.

It might have some salacious interest, in the sense that anyone reading gets to understand the frustration of a struggling artist as he tries to discover his place in the world, whether the art he wants to create is viable and whether it’s actually possible to find a way to live with some sense of joy in this crazy world.

There’s a point I reach every time I sit down to really write, where I just want to chuck it all and start over, but that’s not the way the world works, is it?

We can’t just throw the baby out and start again. We have responsibilities. History.

We do not exist in a void – a fatal error I made in my youth before I learned to see past my own nose. Truth be told, that is still an issue at times, and only really became something I was able to move past in the last four or five years.

The Mungk was meant to embody the hopelessness I felt, the constant sense of impending doom, where everything seemed to get worse and worse and every action taken to make things better only drove me further into despair when they failed. Life, particularly in the last few years, has been a hell of an educator in that regard.

I am trying something different with Father Lightning. Ironically, the idea is similar to The Mungk (and in fact, I have at least two more pending ideas that revolve around ethereal dark entities guiding us toward destruction in the works – based on hopelessness, appetites, addiction and depression, though certainly not so delineated as that).

However, unlike The Mungk, these later ideas have positive resolution. Three wins and one loss isn’t bad, right?

Kindness plays a huge role in this, and while I’m a big advocate of kindness and compassion and understanding, actions are what matters there, and outside of family, I’m not sure I’ve lived up to that advocacy. Even inside family, at times.

My incompletion is forever a source of pain, but also a driving force. I’m not sure I could exist if I were already complete. Completeness, perfection – these things imply stasis. Fluidity, growth, retraction, change – these things give us movement, places to go, things to contemplate and discover. Omnipotence is boring. Static.

And static decays, always.

Going forward, I need to focus on kindness. On its theories and application, in philosophy and in reality. In words and action.

Still, I worry it’s not enough. I don’t need to take over the world; I just want my part of it to be better for having me in it – in actual fact, and not simply appearance.

I’m not certain I’m living up to that promise. I certainly didn’t during the ninety-nine days of enduring misery while writing The Mungk. My goal over the next few months is to do better, to find that spark of real kindness and come to a better understanding.

And through my actions, maybe put a few of these doubts and worries to rest.

forty-five

I don’t know why, but this birthday feels different. Perhaps it’s because I just went through one of the roughest periods of my life. Call it my Mungk phase, in which I learned most definitely what I did not want in my life.

It could also be my mother-in-law’s hospitalization. I’ve already had three grandparents die, but this is the first in the generation right before mine that’s gone. Everyone younger has been more tragic than fact-of-life aging.

I’m definitely feeling it. Still, I can’t claim no progress. I wrote a novella. I had three things published – two short stories and a haiku. I wrote a one-shot comic that could be fun to draw (and it’s increasingly looking like I might need to do that myself, despite my lack of ability).

The process could be good. Find the pitfalls on my own so I can have a better rapport and understanding with future collaborators.

As I start into a new first draft of the next book, having sketched out a four-issue crime comic, three more short stories (including one that strays into novelette territory) and another couple of poems, I’m actually a little proud, even if the work is a bit raw and I’m feeling less than inspired lately. I’ve read over forty books since I penned that first haiku back on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve read almost five hundred comics. Lost a pound. Built my meditation practice up to five whole minutes a day. Listened to almost a hundred and fifty albums. Learned forty new recipes.

I get it. It’s a little ridiculous, but it’s important to acknowledge even small steps forward. If The Mungk was about feeling all the bad things at once to understand how I don’t want to feel, this one has to be about finding a way forward. Finding a few moments of kindness in the dark. Being nicer to myself, included.