Monday, December 02, 2013

Listen Up Good Mother Fuckers

Last week I met with a wise man, a man I once said of 'if by his age I have half his knowledge I'll consider it a life well lived'

He is one person that has manhandled me, flung me around like a rag doll and just obliterated all my defenses. It was one of the most powerful and most enjoyable experiences of my life, I shall ever be grateful for it.

Anyway, I was explaining to him a situation, dilemma I was in, a central tension in my life. I have a question that plagues me which is 'how do I act with integrity?' I am fortunate to be experiencing remorse from one situation where I didn't as another near identical (but crucially, not identical) situation plays out.

That dilemma I might write about another time. 

But this post, this post isn't about me. It's about you.

The wise man said to me 'remember how I said love and hate are the two sides of the same coin: the coin is passion?' and I did both our brains are wired up like elephants. He said 'well helping and hurting are two sides of the same coin. What's the coin?' It took me two or three guesses before I got close enough for him to just tell me. 

The coin is empathy.

I don't want to steal a wise man's thunder, so instead I'll just say this very insight is very present in my favorite Lauryn Hill track - Ex-Factor note in particular the contrast between 'No one loves you more than me, and no one ever will.' and 'No ones hurts me more than you, and no one ever will.'

Now I was walking through New York looking for a shoe store lost and getting sucked again and again back into Mid-town, arguably the worst place on earth, truly the arsehole of Manhattan proving once again that the perfect body doesn't exist.

But I digress.

I overheard this lady on her cellular phone speaking to somebody she was out of sorts with and she kept repeating to my delight: 'Now you listen, and you listen good...' in a delightful ebonic accent. How I wish somebody would speak to me that way.

But I mention that to say this. So you listen, and you listen good mother fucker. I am trying to reach you, YOU directly because if I have one Christmas wish for peace and love and harmony it is this. Pay attention. Are you ready? Open up your mind and lower your defenses. Here it comes:

Asphyxiating infants aren't saved by asphyxiating infants. They are rescued by big strong fire fighters who are trained and equipped to rescue people in these dangerous situations even if they don't always succeed.

Drowning people aren't saved by drowning people. They are rescued by big strong life guards who are trained and equipped to rescue people who are drowning even if they don't always succeed.

Broken people aren't saved by broken people

It's a fairy tale, a fucken myth, an old wives tale. Moreover it's actually really dangerous. And just like an asphyxiating infant is more likely to have other asphyxiating infants around them than firefighters, and just like a drowning person is more likely to be surrounded by other drowning people than surf-life-guards, so too are broken people likely to keep the company of other broken people. 

Which is dangerous and bad enough. But please, please, please, please I am talking to you - STOP PUTTING THEM TOGETHER. The act of omission is bad, one I am now struggling with. An act of commission I hope to never ever have on my conscious.

It's a suckers game. Broken people will empathise with eachother 'He really understands me' are famous last words, because anybody who can recognise the self-destruction in another that they feel themselves is going to finally, be able to turn that destructive potential on somebody other than themselves, and be destroyed for it.

So let's be clear - absolutely clear. Asphyxiating people know how to asphyxiate. Drowning people know how to drown. Broken people know how to break. They have nothing to teach each other, they can just combine their expertise to amplify and accelerate.


Okay, so let's bring it back to my conversation with the wise man. I'm still really immature, this wise man can teach me. I can see the gaps in my understanding. I'm excited by it, it fills my future with potential and promise. My future looks bright.

What is empathy

Now you know, it's value is greatest in it's ability to travel. Somebody identical to you empathizing is almost useless to you, as their percentage of time experiencing empathy approaches 100% they are simply going to make the exact same moves as you are. When somebody exotic and foreign to you can empathize with you, temporarily they can inform themselves, correct for your weaknesses and make them irrelevant, amplify your strengths and move you closer to theirs.

That's what my wise man points out with his helping/hurting coin. A skilled firefighter knows the mistakes an infant is going to make, understands how they will panic, how their intuitions and instincts will betray them and can correct for them, maximizing their chances of survival. A skilled surf-life-rescue volunteer will know what goes through a drowning mans head, how their family are going to react, what panic will do to them and correct for them, maximizing their chances of survival.

The point is, that empathy is useful when you can actually choose which face of the coin comes up. When you have the skills and the training to choose between helping or hurting, cruelty or kindness then and only then can you really engage these situations.

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