Friday, February 26, 2016

Kicked By Kindness

Falling off your pathway is like being kicked. It yanks you into imbalances. It forces reaction. The surprise is disintegrating. The unexpectedness is discombobulating. The hardship scatters your senses. Sensibility goes awry. It sucks. For who has not fallen? Who has never been kicked, emotionally, verbally, directly, metaphorically? It is not an advent reserved for the disfavoured, for the poor, for the malcontent, or for kings; it is a thing of chaos and disorder. No, it is not always dependent on consequence. It does not necessarily depend on one's own responsibility or actions. The kick comes at you unexpectedly, dealt by date; by circumstance; by chance. And what was, is no longer. The vicissitudes of life can verily vanquish its victims. (Say what?)

Yet not all are vanquished. (And not all are undeserving). There are many who see the advent of misfortune as an opportunity to redirect, to alter course, to adjust, accommodate, to flow with the go. There are many who'd make of their disintegration a positive thing.

Dabrowski (1981) has it that unless we take disintegration and make a hierarchical shift within it we in actuality only change the physical circumstances of our lives to better (or worse) but are in effect essentially unmoved within. We bring our old judgments and dissatisfactions and gripes and growlies with us; we are not really changed. The addition of more rooms to our house, or more zeros to our paycheques makes us happier, yes, but does not change our essence. We remain myopic or bigoted or racist or offensive or defensive or victimized or belligerent. The change we experienced was mostly material. We grew on a horizontal plane. We now may know more, have seen more, have been to more places, but are not fundamentally affected. We are what we are. As such, Dabrowski's Theory of Positive Disintegration dwells much on the dynamisms inherent in our being, and does not predict much for the potential of one who is not essentially auto-telic, or a person not passionate about self-direction, about meta-cognition.

A 2013 research report by Kaplan on Kahan and Nyhan about our collective brain-based reaction to our evolution comes in a short essay review at this link: . It essentially states that we do not change, despite being giving the facts that contradict our present behaviours. We are so acculturated to the status quo that we hardly can become a unique individual; we hardly can break free from what everyone else is doing and thinking and being in our immediate society, if not our global one. Being ‘a child of the universe,’ as stated in Desiderata, does not quite do it for us. We see ourselves too much attendant on the doings-on of our own immediate Petri-dish. (No, a melt-down or two on the highway of life may not quite suffice. Nor, necessarily, will walking the St. James Way.)

When delivering the bad news to another, when directly responsible for implementing a change in their lives that might adversely affect them (or conversely make life yet more-better for their having to break from their obligation to an old paradigm), we give a kick that is disintegrating.... (So sorry, but may it turn out positively for you, truly!) At the end of it all, reaction might be tempered into response. And at the end of it all, no matter what, the direction one takes from the unexpected blow is up to you. You alone are the action, or the receiver, whether or not the ball is in your court. You alone make the lemonade from... And sometimes, even the kindness behind bad news can feel like a kick, indeed.

How to turn it into positive disintegration? Evolution itself is dependent on acquiring new habits. And evolution is dependent on change, one by one by one by two, by yet more. Always.

Monday, February 22, 2016

How're You, Really?

Three fundamentals attend us. The physical, the mental, the spiritual. Somewhere in the mix is the emotional. One feels sore, or adrift, or compacted. A blend of all? Conversely, one may feel fit, or alert, or alight. Physically, mentally, or spiritually, as the poet e.e.cummimgs would have it, "feeling is all." So it is that the question, "How are you?" is given in the moment, answered in the moment, or when shall one make the cut off? Over the last two weeks? Three months? Grief is given a span of mourning. Headaches are expected to last only for awhile. The flu takes one by surprise and can lay us up for several days. A car accident? A muscle pull? The break-up of teenagers, or of adults. The new dog. The new child. The new house. The excitement over the new.... Well, one gets the picture. So when the question arises, 'How are you?', it reaches one where one is at, right now.

In the old days (which most certainly was before electronic emails and texting, and when the phone call, especially long-distance, was a rare and privileged thing)... In the old days one wrote a letter and posted it, and waited and waited for the return. “How are you?” you'd ask. 'Well,' the answer would eventually come (at least almost a month later), 'well, we are doing fine. Only, I've got this headache, and when Barney said he'd put his foot down if I don't take an aspirin I told him to stop acting like a flamingo!' … So you'd write back: “Ha! Is your headache gone now?”

Yes, Barney's blarney was a long time ago. So too the results of the operation, or the job lay-off, or even the new bike that little Tike was so excited about. So, just how much should one reveal? Especially to persons not 'in the inner circle', persons who cannot relate, or persons not familiar with the passage of one’s life in general. What does one say? What does one want from relating to the other? Sympathy? Pity? An ongoing drain on their care? Does it really signify that I shall have dental surgery (oh my!) next Monday? Now I shall have to explain how extensive, the reasons why, and the wherefore and what for and... Ugh. I'm fine. I'm fine thanks. I'm fine.

Really fine (or bad) moments are best understood alone. One cannot possibly always have a cheering squad; an egging-on cadre of friends; a 'you can do it!' section of onlookers who give you the encouragement and persuasion that helps, yes, but really truly is not always there. It is in the dark small hours of persistent pain when no one else knows about it that one is most taxed. Of what use is chronic pain to anyone else then? No one gets to ‘feel good’ for their own feelings of sympathy. Or it is when the relatively few steps from the car to pick up milk in the grocery store, desperately hoping that nobody will bump into you, or waylay you, or expect you to stand (unsupported) in a queue while waiting to pay, that others do not appear understanding of the very tenuous thread of persistence that you're clutching to. They appear to do these things normally, casually, as though being free from a wheelchair is as life is meant to be. Pain that is not seen is entirely overlooked. Inner pain. Is that why we really wear black while we are in mourning, that others might give us respect for our heart-sore, be altogether more cautious and courteous and considerate? People treat those with canes and crutches and walkers differently. Doors are opened for them. Is that why we (generally) readily speak of our 'hundred aches and pains that the flesh is heir to'? We get more noticed? Yet the real step by step accretions of inner reserve and physical endurance, akin to one’s training for a marathon, are for the long distance runner, alone. One’s best pace is realized when one is, indeed, all alone.

All around us are people perpetually in and out of pain and disasters and misfortunes. All around us are people who have more, appear more happy, more confident, more engaged. It is the comparisons by which we most determine our degrees of discomfort. (When I was a little boy, as I recall, it took me several times to realize others do not feel as I feel, when I felt it. And as I grew up, I came to see that almost everything has a beginning, middle, and end. This too shall pass.) So then, you ask as I continue my own journey along the length of life's physical fire-walk, how am I doing? Well, I'm fine. I'm fine. Really, truly, thanks. I'm fine. Accreting. You? 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fond Farewell, Friend?

Friends hug. Things come together. Or they fall apart. We write one another. Or we don't. And the months intervene to become years. There grows a disconnect. Especially if there is little sense of a real kismet. 'Kismet', it's a quality difficult to define, ineffable in its vicissitudes, perplexing in its perspicacity, and confounding in its coincidental(s). Ducks of a feather? Holland’s Theory? The subtleties of nature so deeply atavistic that we, like foreign tribesmen suspicious of our differences, our otherness, however subtle, are not prepared to breach the walls of personhood and simply flow with the other? Why do we not tick-tack? Too many others in our lives? Too many people we know, must share news with, must ask about (let alone answer questions)? It appears when we do meet again we tend to bring a whole package of judgments, and we cannot but help ourselves. Where is this person 'at,' now? Still, we can hug our friends. (Even though we are not really truly friends at all; just people who know each other.)

Acquaintances of course usually arise out of being around someone in the field. ("I worked with him for 20 years and didn't know he played the piano," one might overhear). We are like that. We like people, even love them, but know little about them. Some we even know 'socially'. Some we've spent time with, shared dinners with, yet still there remains an essential disconnect. The details of the other's life do not register. We do not recall their birthdays. We do not regularly sympathize with their aches and pains and heartaches and accomplishments and newborn. We do not know the daily dictum of their lives. Friendship is there, yes, but...

Facebook is the favoured connector. Many a relationship is started (and forgotten) thanks to it. Thanks to it, I've personally picked up with some old friends and acquaintances from decades past. And at the same time, I've been able to see the posts of people I once knew. 'Creeping', my students call it. "I creeped you," they'd say, (as if reading something that another had posted as public in the first place is the wrong thing to do). Yet the comments and pictures of my old students growing older by the months and years are indeed interesting. Still, there is no contact between us. I have no need to tell them about me. They do not inquire. Nor do I reach out to ask them how they're doing; I can read it on Facebook.

Thing is, there's a concentric circle around oneself rather like that of a dartboard, with oneself as the bulls eye, yet better thought of in terms of being at the same time a holon, like being at the centre of a tennis ball. The outer limits are where we meet the people we hardly ever get to know; the waitress who serves us; the usher who shows us our seats; the store clerk or the ticket taker. The next layer is those we keep on recognizing, whose names we may even get to know, but who also don't quite know us, or we them. The local storekeeper. The local bank clerk. The doorman. Our fellow office workers. Then comes the layer where we are yet more intimate with people. And so on. The degrees to which we allow someone 'in' is the issue. And sometimes, like magic, someone just 'gets' us, and we they, and instantly we know we will always be friends. Always.

As the decades pass we find ourselves getting smaller and smaller with the persons we allow inside. It takes too much energy to blabber on about oneself. (And it takes too much energy to attend to the blabbering of yet another.) We just accept, love, care, and share with the other in a natural flow of accord. Kismet. Or we lose the threads, bit by bit, and that which was a connector at one time no longer serves. A pity, but there you have it. The relationship fizzles, and dies.

Some friends hug. Other merely shake hands. But in the end, feeling is all.

So… How are you, friend?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Love Lessons (the day after Valentine)

Everything relates to the self. Everything. We can only love because of the self. We can only feel, touch, sense, taste, imagine, and be, because of the self. Loving itself begins with ‘I’. It is a verb. It is action. And however subliminal the feeling, however clandestine, however secret, however differentiated, love arises from within the ‘me’. After all, I am loving. Everything relates to me.

 “I love you,” is a powerful pronouncement; and it is as casual as the language we use to say, “I love the view. I love it, that thing, that whatchamacallit, I LOVE it! I love to travel. Thanks for the gift; I love it.”

After all, everything relates to the self.

And the self relates to others. Thing is, the Self tends to see itself more easily in conjunctions, in juxtapositions, in comparisons, in contrapuntal tensions, and in direct opposites rather more readily than in accord and ‘love’. I am me. You are you.

And the difference is...

So we turn the pages of our lives in a series of competitions and comparisons that tend to devalue (or overvalue) that which was for what is Now. And love is tainted or apportioned or pretentious as we struggle to give it relevance within the immediacy of ‘me’. Even a tune to which one cannot relate will disaffect us. So too will words. Big words. Wrong words. So too will another’s physicality. So too will our needs and preferences and moods and intentions and actions create a series of circumstances by which we gauge the quality of our ‘love’.

Everything relates to me!


Some persons list and enumerate their achievements. Some have pins all over a map to show others where they’ve been. Some have very many stamps in passports. Some have a closet-full of memory shelves (even though kept private for the privilege of the self.) 

At issue is how much ‘love’ of all one has done, one does, all one is yet to do, sets one free.

After all, isn’t that is what love really is, twixt you and me; a lesson in letting go while still loving you, endlessly.