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.

on false hope

Once upon a time, I dared to dream. I dared to believe that all could be free, that everyone was special, if only they would just believe in themselves, and that I could change not a world, but a universe. Infinite universes.

Turns out I can barely change a mind not my own. I can barely change my own mind sometimes.

I believe in the truth of these things, but since I’ve long since insisted on playing devil’s advocate with all beliefs, including my own, and using as many perspectives as possible to live in reality as it is as well as it could be, I recognize a true fact.

For the majority of us, true freedom, true success, truly changing the world… it’s hopeless. It’s a wall against which to beat our heads, to smash in our skulls, all the while knowing that whatever progress we make can be undone. The history of humanity is not huge leaps forward, but incremental steps, with leaden boots.

New technology, new governments, new religions, new ideas – these things shape the world. They are almost inevitably perverted by those seeking fame or power or wealth.

I want none of these things anymore.

I want to make little things better with simple acts of kindness or truth. That’s it. I don’t need to end fascism for all time; human nature dictates that’s an impossibility, certainly in one lifetime. They’ll kill us all first to hold on to their own sick egos.

I don’t need to achieve world peace or be the greatest artist ever to exist. I don’t need to be the Wyld Stallions.

I just need to make my nieces laugh, or help a customer or tell someone behaving poorly, gently, a hard truth.

I need to tell myself hard truths. I need to force my eyes open. I need to have as many eyes as I need to see as much as I can, and I need to keep forcing them open.

I may not change the world. I can change me. I can help in little ways. I can honour truth. Freedom. Beauty. I can leave it better than I found it. I can do my best not to contribute to suffering.

That’s it. That’s the best I can do, and I will probably fail at that as well, often enough to be embarrassed about it.

The world is not my oyster. It just is, and I am within it.

Target: 200 words
Written: 185 words, comic: Romance #1

myopia

Nothing tears us down quite like the things we don’t acknowledge in our lives.

The subjects we ignore – like weight or the effects of smoking or a toxic relationship. The need to move on from a soul crushing job. That was the impetus behind the Birds Fall haiku; the idea that what ultimately defeats us is not the thing we saw clearly, but the thing we never saw at all, or tried desperately not to think about.

We let it slide until it’s too late, until it’s too big of a problem to fix without suffering some serious collateral damage.

I know I have these blind spots. Depression. Shyness. Alcohol. Weight. The aforementioned soul crushing work. On any given day, there’s probably a half-dozen to a dozen of these types of things I’m actively trying to avoid thinking about, and probably twice that when you factor in the stuff I’m so oblivious to that I won’t see it coming until it punches me full in the face.

Life ain’t easy. Presence and awareness are wonderful watchwords, but most of us could never do it so consistently that we actually manage to have most of our shit under control. Control is an illusion. We do our best to avoid suffering and increase pleasure in the moment (more often opting for less suffering than actual pleasure), because that’s the best we can do.

We haven’t been raised to pay attention to these things. I suspect our world would be a very different place if we were. Capitalism, fascism, Trumpers, conspiracy theorists – all gone, because we’d be able to face our greed, our lust for power and control, our willingness to smother our brains in delusion and the false promises and outrage of others.

We’d look straight in the mirror and say:

This is bullshit. We are bullshit. We need to do better.

And then do better. Or not. Who could ever tell?

The world will end one day and it won’t be because we opened our eyes and called ourselves out on our poor behaviour. It will be because we squeezed them tightly shut and pretended there was no such thing as consequences.

Target: 100 words
Written: 213 words, short story: The Ineffable Hat