I am thinking about truth.
About thought and action.
About the significance of words.
About the meaninglessness of words in contrast with behavior.
About secrets and lies. About dishonesty.
About the frequency with which the words “can’t” and “I don’t have a choice” get spoken, and how seldom they are true.
About the meaning and meaninglessness of feelings that are claimed, proclaimed, but not acted upon.
About trauma and fear and cruelty and coping and dissuasion and narrative.
About prolonged immaturity/infancy self-styled as superiority.
(Wikipedia is a little dainty about the role also known as “The Royal Finger” – it means the guy who wiped the king’s butt for him, like a baby’s.
I am thinking about how we use pleasures as substitutes for meaning. For love, joy, purpose, belonging.
About delusions of control and illusions of powerlessness.
About what people imagine power to be. About what power actually is.
About superstition. About a mostly futile wish that “what” can be changed or limited or made wholly impossible by “who,” “when,” “where,” “why,” and “want.”
About context and perspective.
About how giving – not trading, not transacting, not exchanging, but giving as in “gift” – can so easily awaken us to how much change we can affect.
About “Loss is one thing, but regret, quite another.”
About the difference between regret and remorse.
About “What we do now echoes in eternity” (Marcus Aurelius, or, in slightly paraphrased form, both St. Mark and Banksy). And “In the line of eternity, what does this matter?” (https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-news/the-subversive-joy-of-stephen-colbert-106698/)
About the inescapable interconnectedness of all life, and the unbelievable stupidity and destructiveness of pretending it isn’t so. About the reality of ubiquitous interdependence, and the destructive myth of the “rugged individual.” And the equally destructive myths of flawlessness, of flawless humanity, of unforgivability and unlovability.
About isolation and addiction.
About the rise of selfishness and self-pity and self-justification, and the fall of generosity and empathy and compassion.
About relentless rationalization, in defiance of all reasonable evidence of its failure to convince anyone its fabrications are true, not even the self it emanates from.
About the difference in meaning, and realistic disconnect, between “earn,” “deserve,” and “have.”
About how one hurt cannot undo another.
About “… grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned…” (The Peace Prayer of St. Francis)
About how suffering is not inherently a source of cruelty or failure or wisdom or success – how luck and choice play a part in what each of us do with the pains we experience.
About sorrow and happiness. About “To everything there is a season…” (Ecclesiastes, or Pete Seeger/The Byrds, according to your preference.)
About “…happiness exists in action; it exists in telling the truth and saying what your truth is; and it exists in giving away what you want the most.”
About “Everything you done to me, you already done to yourself.” (The Color Purple)
About “And my turning point came with this next question: ‘Sammy, have you ever hurt anyone the way your mother has hurt you?'” (https://www.theforgivenessproject.com/)
About “…forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.”
About what it means to defend. To protect. To sacrifice. To love.
It is Christmas, after all, a day with a pretty wide range of connotation, depending largely on individual context.
And I am trying very hard, for a combination of selfish and unselfish reasons, not to respond with anger, where anger feels a wholly appropriate emotional response to some spectacularly shitty behavior.
If we will exercise the minimal restraint required not to gratify our anger in an instant, and spend some actual time and energy on trying to figure out what is right, and why people behave badly the way they do, including ourselves, it is actually pretty easy to make the leap from fuck-these-selfish-spoiled-cruel-narcissistic-assholes to some less profanity-riddled, more inquisitive, and potentially more useful thoughts.
I have no idea where I first heard the idea that anger is not a primary, but rather a secondary emotion, one that we tend to use to mask feelings we are more uncomfortable with, the ones we experience as unpleasant and powerless – fear and sadness, particularly. I don’t know what the basis of the speaker’s assertion was, but I do know it stuck with me because it rings so true.
Anger is an emotion, from my perspective, that has a lot of power-hype, but is really a show of vulnerability or weakness. Fight is a fear response. Fear is a survival-threat response. Whatever our cultural narratives about anger and its companion action, violence (which is more varied, I believe, than the limited array of actions we are conditioned to label that way), it seems pretty clear that those things have little to nothing to do with strength. Strength is what is required to do what is difficult, not a descriptor of what is easily, speedily self-gratifying.
What does this all have to do with Christmas? Well, for a start, it means working today to manage my own fear and sadness in a way that doesn’t involve me texting “Go fuck yourself” to anyone. Trying to understand the hype and the subtext of the varied meanings assigned to the day. Trying to understand why so many people seem to fail to try to understand.
It means minding my own hypocrisy.
It means putting in the effort not to leave myself trapped in the myopic perspective of an endless present of pain that comes with a fear response. Survival-mode means now; prolonged survival-mode makes now feel timeless. Like an inescapable eternity. Like hell.
It means considering the relative value of survival strategies and coping behavior that have short-term and long-term value, and how to make the best of the former til the latter, which tend to be more time-consuming to achieve efficacy, can be fully realized. About not falling into the trap of treating short-term strategies as long-term sustainable.
It means being grateful I held back my angrily reactive thumbtyping to insensitivity that was hurtful, whether it was consciously or thoughtlessly cruel, and spent the day considering, and ultimately affirming, why that was the right choice to make.
I am glad I held my thumbs. Because this might bring me no greater kindness, but I am fairly certain it has done me a world more good than “Go fuck yourself” would have done.
I hope today brought you some joy. If not, I hope you made the choice to seek some perspective instead of adding your own contribution to the sum total of human misery. And if you didn’t, that you will accept that as long as you are alive, it is not too late, and decide differently, now, or in the future.