I wrote this entry while being emotionally riled, and while I feel I did an effective job of being constructive with my emotions and providing a great deal of substance to the reader, I do not feel I wrote all of this in the proper tone or from the optimal perspective.
As such, I was thankful to come across a good article this evening on the subject of good and evil, as the ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus saw it.
While I feel this doesn’t negate what I have written, I think it contributes a vital perspective to my narrative.
“When you see people, things, and circumstances during your day, Epictetus advises us to break away from of our habit of seeing them as good or bad. Their labels of good and bad can only be attached by our judgment, not from who or what they truly are. They are simply part of nature and the world we all work within.”
Even from one who reviles us?’
Why, what good does the athlete get from the man who wrestles with him? The greatest. So my reviler helps to train me for the contest: he trains me to be patient, dispassionate, gentle. You deny it? You admit that the man who grips my neck and gets my loins and shoulders into order does me good, and the trainer does well to bid me ‘lift the pestle with both hands’, and the more severe he is, the more good do I get: and are you going to tell me that he who trains me to be free from anger does me no good? That means that you do not know how to get any good from humankind.” – Epictetus.
“Here, Epictetus isn’t only saying problems aren’t bad but that they can be beneficial! If this still doesn’t make sense to you, then consider the weightlifting room at your local gym. Some people spend hours using those heavy weights in various positions and movements. In fact, they usually pay membership dues just for the privilege. They view these weights as a good. However, if someone has a job that requires he lifts boxes with similar weights as found in our gym example, would he think lifting those boxes is a good? Probably not. He certainly wouldn’t pay membership dues for the privilege. Instead, he expects to be compensated. So there you have two similar activities that are viewed by people as different because their interpretations are different, not the activities themselves.”
“Therefore, next time we run into someone angry or face a hopeless situation, we must remember what Epictetus has taught us today.”
This reinforces the themes of Stoicism and the value of adversity that were originally included initially within this entry, but I wanted to add this update as I think it places greater focus on these perspectives, which can greatly lighten the burden on our soul. All in all, not my favorite entry because of the emotionally fueled place it came from, but I’m happier with it after the addition of this update. For all intents and purposes I must remind myself that ‘this is a blog’, and as such I am allowed to make mistakes in conveying my ideas. – LB
I want to make this a short entry because it’s not worth many words, but it’s worth saying.
Edit: this is not a short entry, but it’s very much worth reading. Enjoy.
There are shitty people in the world.
As much as I have clung to the denial of this truth in my unconquerable lust for idealism, I can no longer deny this as a basic tenet of life – some people just fucking suck. And I don’t mean this in the way of people letting you down, sure that happens; however, what I’m talking about is the people who are well over the black and white line of decency on the spectrum of humanity.
I’m talking about people who physically threaten others, people who project their ugliness onto others where they inherently sense vulnerability, and people who just don’t give one iota of fucks about you and would probably enjoy whatever harm would come to you. People who in fact make a concerted effort to perpetuate whatever kind of harm or injury they might inflict on you – verbal, emotional, physical, or psychic.
If you read me you know that I’m a positive person. If you know me, you know this. But there’s no use in pretending these people don’t exist. We’ve all encountered them – within and beyond our circle of friends.
These are the bullies in life – male and female, straight and gay, of all races and classes. These are the people who wish others ill will – and whether they gain pleasure from it I cannot say, but they certainly aren’t averse to your suffering and at the very least they are indifferent to it.
And what of these less than great individuals – how do we go about living in a world where we have to share the same beautiful air with these absolute jerks?
I’ve never really asked myself this.
Up until now I suppose I’ve reacted as child might when confronted with someone who is just plain nasty; I’ve felt a mixture of equal parts hurt and shock. A kind of how on earth? feeling.
But I’m tired of it. I’m tired of being surprised by the ugly side of humanity, and in my twenty-nine years I’ve seen my fair share of it. As I once heard someone quip: “If you ever meet someone who tells you they haven’t been abused, then you are talking to a goddamned liar”. We’ve all been subject to abuse; we’ve all been treated far worse than we deserve -whether we know it or not, but it’s not difficult to single out instances in our lives where another has denied us our humanity, our dignity. This is a part of life. As is said in Rocky IV, life ain’t all sunshine and roses; the world is a very mean and nasty place.
Regardless of the inevitability of this, I’ve always done my best to meet incredulous persons with compassion. After all, we have all acted poorly; we’ve all been guilty of being shitty at one time or another and we all carry the scars of living. But at the same time, some of us don’t put our poison into others – instead, we use coping mechanisms and we integrate our experiences into our interpersonal behavioral schemas in a manner that is basically benevolent towards others.
So, what separates those who internalize their pain and transfigure it into something livable from the people who externalize it in a manner that makes life less livable?
I suppose compassion has a lot to do with it. But one of the little known things about compassion, and one of the things that makes compassion so interesting, is that compassion for the self is not relative to the amount of compassion we have for others. This is grounded in university research (Kristin Neff PHD).
The lack of correlation between compassion for the self and others is very counter-intuitive at a certain level – but once you examine this it makes perfect sense: some people possess ample compassion for others, yet have very little for themselves, yet others have ample compassion for themselves, yet they have very little compassion for others.
Frankly I’m slightly envious of those in the latter category. Not that I think it’s admirable to have less compassion for others than for yourself, but it’s certainly rational and pragmatic to a degree. I’ve lived my life with a deep degree of compassion and empathy for others. And as anyone in my shoes knows, there is a thin line between compassion for others and being an absolute doormat.
Being compassionate has caused me to remain attached to people long after I should have let go. Being compassionate has made me love people who could care less about what city I live in today. Being compassionate has made me very naive in many ways. It’s difficult to look back on this facet of myself and feel like this has been a strength of mine – but it’s been a virtue nonetheless. It’s made me a better person. It’s helped me stay connected to my innocence. It’s helped me stay optimistic and openhearted. It’s helped me be forgiving of others, but the downside is that I have always assumed I was due the same forgiveness I would give another.
And this is where life starts to feel unfair – when you feel like the world’s not nearly as kind to you as you are to it.
And so, at 29, here I am – and as I write this I am feeling like there are far too many rough edges and sharp corners in the world.
And there are. Indeed.
There’s a part of me that intuitively accepts that I’ll never quite understand it [the inherent rough edges and sharp corners of life] because I am a naive, idealistic, highly compassionate person. I’m a fool. But I’m a kindhearted fool.
It’s in my nature to believe people are inherently good, and I think this is a virtue; as Albert Einstein said, the most important question a human being can ask is “ Is the universe friendly?”
And your answer to this [whether the universe is inherently friendly or hostile] greatly influences your perception, which in turn largely shapes your reality. Just as all beliefs manifest themselves, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts; if you believe you live in a hostile universe, you will find hostility.
But despite my inherent belief that the universe is friendly I still encounter hostile people. This is something that the ancient Stoics understood well: that the behavior of those we come into contact with and many other significant aspects of daily life are simply unavoidable – and thusly lie beyond our control.
As Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations, over 2,500 year ago:
Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading. Neither can I be angry with my brother or fall foul of him; for he and I were born to work together, like a man’s two hands, feet or eyelids, or the upper and lower rows of his teeth. To obstruct each other is against Nature’s law – and what is irritation or aversion but a form of obstruction.
Now, here is a mature viewpoint that is both healthy and rational, as opposed to my own often far too pollyannish outlook. As the Emperor of Rome and the most powerful man in the world, Marcus Aurelius was certainly not naive, which isn’t to say he lacked compassion, as evidenced in the above quote and throughout his writings. But to me the above quote is a way of saying I will surely encounter unpleasant and unkind persons, but I will forgive them for they know not what they do.
As Plato before him said,”Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
As I commonly find, ancient wisdom rings true; this is an ethos I subscribe to, for we all face unique and arduous challenges; you don’t know what battles I am up against, nor do I know the adversities you are currently facing – but regardless of our own individual struggles, it does not serve us to pretend these are valid excuses for our own ugly behavior nor the ugliness we encounter at the hands of others. But what this does help us do is to meet unkind people with grace; knowing that they have their own demons and ghosts allows us to take the offenses we are dealt less personally than we otherwise would. Remember this: hurt people hurt people.
And perhaps intrinsically understanding this concept comes naturally for some; however, for me – it’s taken the better part of two decades as an adult to adopt a healthy attitude that enables me to take offenses far less personally than I am naturally wired to. That being said, it still requires conscious effort to respond to rather than to react to things, and still I am leaning, but I’m getting better at accepting the uncontrollable inevitability of others that’s an inherent aspect of life for all of us.
Sometimes you just encounter someone who is battling their demons on that day, and sometimes you simply face those who have disagreeable and contemptuous natures. Whether by genetics, environment, or a combination, some people just simply aren’t as good natured as others.
I’m reminded of the story of the scorpion and the frog.
It’s an Aesop’s Fable about a scorpion who wants to cross a river, so he asks a frog for a ride on the frog’s back – to which the frog replies that ‘it wouldn’t be smart to give the scorpion a ride because the scorpion would sting him. And the scorpion explains to the frog that it wouldn’t be in his interest to sting him because if the frog died then the scorpion would drown also. So, seeing the sense of that logic, the frog agrees. Halfway across the river the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog is dying he says to the scorpion ‘why did you sting me? It wasn’t in your interest?, and the scorpion replies, ‘yes – but it was in my nature’.
The lesson being that you cannot change a persons nature. Anyone with an ex lover knows this. No matter how much it would be in their interest to alter their behavior, it simply isn’t in their nature to do so. There’s no changing a person’s nature, no matter how hard you try to impregnate their logic, a tiger can’t change his stripes.
Unfortunately the caveat to this is that it can be very difficult to ascertain a person’s nature; however, what I’ve found is that you can tell a lot about someone when they are at their worst, or when they have nothing to gain from you. It’s often not until a storm comes that we ever see a person’s true nature revealed. The high divorce rate certainly reflects this – as few relationships wither in the sun – but rather, most perish on the rocks, amid rough seas.
To that end, I suppose it’s cause to be thankful when you are able to face adversity sooner, rather that later, as we discover a person’s nature early on this way; however, just writing these words twists my stomach into knots. I don’t like living in a world where it’s only a matter of time before a person’s true nature is revealed.
At the same time, I want to know that the downside of a relationship is survivable. If someone is capable of intentional malice towards myself or others, I want to know at the earliest possible point in time. But I recognize that this requires an ample degree of insight into a person’s character, since we all contain the less flattering aspects of ourselves beneath our personalities. Our personas are the masks we place on our character. And that’s really what a person’s character is – them minus all pleasantries.
As the saying goes, adversity doesn’t build character, it merely reveals it. So, in this light we can begin to place a value on adversity that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to comprehend. It’s tough going through a breakup after three or four years with someone, but the fact that the storm arrived now and not after a decade going down the same road with someone is nothing less than a blessing. Adversity let’s you turn a new leaf and prevents future suffering.
So, in a sense we have to ask ourselves what we want – a world where we see the best of everyone’s personalities, or a world where the true character of those we associate with is quickly revealed. In a sense this paradox is the dichotomy between being rich and being poor – when you are rich you naturally are treated better – and frankly it’s a tough question to ask. Having experienced both in my life I have a hard time weighing each, as being rich and getting treated more favorably by almost everyone certainly isn’t unpleasant – but at the same time, when the money is gone and you’re alone, you do see who your real friends are and that’s a very, very difficult reality to encounter.
I’s not just money, but any tough situation that can bring light to the character of the people around you. Truthfully, I want people who are going to be there for me when the chips fall. I have learned this the hard way. But at this point in my life, I simply have no room for fugazis and I am immensely thankful that my own adversity has allowed me to separate the fair weather friends from those who can stand with me through thick and thin; although as I move forward and form relationships in a stage of my life where I no longer have financial concerns, I am increasingly interested in ensuring I am not allowing my own facade to influence the facade that others project to me. On this note, I can imagine how being famous would completely evaporate the possibility of forming deep character bonds with others who would be all too enamored by your fortune and fame.
But this isn’t meant to be a personal diatribe about my own ethos on relationships at 29. Because independent of those whom I elect to surround myself with and share my life with, I’m still going to have to deal with fucking assholes. We all do – well, maybe not the Prince of Whales… but the rest of us certainly do.
There are simply some people who make me wish I knew Brazilian Jujitsu, because some individuals have never had their personality checked, and they could probably benefit from it. That’s a seemingly terrible attitude, and I’m in no small way ashamed by it, but I just can’t stand the fact that there are such cruel people in the world. It makes me think karma is a great concept.
But such is life. Nice guys aren’t nice because of all the money and women it gets them. They are nice because they are nice; however, niceness isn’t really valued as a virtue that people aspire to and this is one of the great deficiencies in modern culture – kindness is not worshipped the way beauty, status, wealth, power, and authority are. In fact I would say most people view kindness as antithetical to the pursuit of these things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the online profile of an attractive young woman with the hip hop influenced tagline of money over bitches cockily adorning it.
And sure, we have heroes that are kind – the token poster children for a society otherwise obsessed with bullshit; we have our Dali Lamas and our Rosa Parks, but the problem with these characters is that they are too saintly to be true role models. Don’t get me wrong – it’s obviously wonderful that these people exist and they are doubtless a positive influence on the world, but kindness doesn’t need rock stars – we need to celebrate and uphold a more ubiquitous form of kindness, because real kindness goes unsung. And beyond that, every time a leader gives a speech and invokes the name of Ghandi or Dr. King, I’m a bit disappointed that we are relegating kindness to a history lesson, rather than a study of current affairs.
We just don’t have accessible heroes for kindness today that we can easily relate to. We have a society that places concepts like fairness and equality over the basic kindnesses that should be the basis for these things. As a result of this lapse, it makes being kind seem more like a result of being ‘correct’ rather than the reason. And so we have kindness that only extends as far as the evolving cultural norms for equality and fairness. What we need is kindness that comes naturally, and a society that encourages and rewards kindness by teaching that kindness is it’s own reward.
All in all, I’m saying that we have very little incentives in our culture to be kind. We are taught to be nice, which is to say we are taught how to be pleasant – but we aren’t taught to be kind, which is to say we aren’t taught how not to be unpleasant. So, we have a very bipolar dichotomy to our personalities, where we are nice when it serves us, but we readily abandon all niceties when we don’t have reason to be.
One of the problems is that we don’t have a village and our elders have been relegated to the dregs of our society. We simply put them out to pasture and pretend they don’t exist once they leave the workforce. This might seem an extreme viewpoint on the matter, but compared to the respect for previous generations that other societies and cultures have, versus the way we treat our elderly in America, the juxtaposition between the two is enormous. And it’s not simply a case of another generation saying well, back in my day – no, the way we view and treat old people in America is fucked up. Period.
In a village those are the people who would have served to maintain the ethics of a society through both example and shame. In other cultures the thought of bringing shame to your elders is an abhorrent idea. They serve as a worthy model for how one ought to behave. In modern America, we only honor the elder members of our society based on their accomplishments. There is no measuring stick to look to for the intangible virtues we ought to embody. So, as a result, a man has no problem telling another to “go fuck himself” or that he will “beat the crap out of” him. This kind of thing happens all day, everyday, in every neighborhood and the other persons witnessing this feel no responsibility to speak out against such behavior, because as a society we deem this acceptable. However in a village, this simply would not fly. The elder members would have been respected teachers, but without their tutelage, we don’t receive the necessary lessons early on that have taken them decades to acquire. It’s often not till much later in life – and usually too late, that concepts like egalitarianism and altruism become valued by the individual.
When is the last time you spent time with someone over the age of 70, who wasn’t a parent?
Similarly, in a village, the weakest members of a society would be protected and cared for by those more fortunate. I’m not making an argument for socialism, but I am making a case for sticking up for those who cannot stick up for themselves. As Churchill said, “speak your piece, even if your voice shakes”.
I hear so few shakey voices today – my own included. What I do hear is a lot of cocky, arrogant, loudmouths who think they are all the man.
No. It’s been discovered that the most aggressive male is never the alpha male – but rather, the number two male. And I don’t mean to engender the issue of kindness, but I speak as a man, and as a man, I know that a true alpha male doesn’t need to raise his voice to be heard. And he knows that being kind does not make him weak. And that kindness isn’t an aspect of his feminine side, but an aspect of his human side.
Again, this is not a gender specific issue – females do not have a monopoly on kindness, and in fact I would urge most females to consider countering their inner Beyoncé with some much needed humility and kindness. Hyper-inflated self-esteem does not age well ladies.
So what are we to do about all the jerks in the world?
I’m going to finish with some suggestions for choosing to be a more kind person.
Don’t Be a Dick
Well – the first thing is simply to not be one. As the oft quipped adage goes, don’t be a dick.
Sounds easy. And it is on a good day. I’m sure the people that I have encountered who have rubbed me terribly wrong all have their good days – they might be rare, but who knows.
Either way, it’s easy to be pleasant when the stars are in your favor and you’re in love. But as I wrote of above, the real test is to remain kind in the face of adversity.
The ancient Stoics saw all adversity as training. And as such, Stoicism is a world class example of how to cultivate grace under pressure. Pick up a copy of my favorite book, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius at your local bookseller (you can also find a digital version of it online in the public domain for free).
Choose Your Perception
That brings me to my next point: how you choose to perceive things is always within your control. Nothing can touch the mind – it’s but our judgement that makes it so [good or bad].
I will put this stuff in a book with the supporting content it deserves – but the basic idea is that by being mindful of how we perceive things, we can choose to edit our beliefs and shift our perception of people and events to better serve us.
Know What’s Controllable
Next, we need to understand that most things are simply beyond our control. The best way to explain this is to internalize the beautiful truth that the only things that are under our own control are our breath, and our thoughts, from whence forth our actions spring.
As one of my current favorite passages from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius explains:
There are three things in your composition: body, breath, and mind. The first two are yours to the extent that you must take care for them, but only the third is in the full sense your own. So, if you separate from yourself – that is, from your mind – all that others say or do, all that you yourself have said or done, all that troubles you for the future, all that your encasing body and associate breath bring on you without your choice, all that is whirled round in the external vortex encircling us, so that your power of mind, transcending now all contingent ties, can exist on its own, pure and liberated, doing what is just, willing what happens to it, and saying what is true; if, as I say, you separate from this directing mind of yours the baggage of passion, time future and time past, and make yourself like Empedocles’ ‘perfect round rejoicing in the solitude it enjoys’, and seek only to perfect this life you are living in the present, you will be able at least to live out the time remaining before your death calmly, kindly, and at peace with the god inside you.
The Power of Breath and Thought
To this end, you have immense control in your breath to soothe yourself, and immense power in your thoughts to free yourself and create the reality you desire. I submit to you that the difference between consciousness and reality is imperceptible. Thus, by altering what’s in your consciousness (what you think and focus on) you can alter your reality. This isn’t a promise – this is the truth.
And for your breath, I highly suggest adopting a practice of meditation or yoga. Both would be best, but if you just chose one I would choose meditation.
Choose How You Feel
So many of us let the world run us from the outside in, and it’s no wonder we live in a world rife with unkindness as a result. Don’t start with the goal of determining your reality, start with the goal of simply determining how you feel. Remember, beliefs ~ thoughts ~ actions. That’s the way it flows. Don’t like your thoughts? Learn to uncover and modify the underlying beliefs beneath them – and there is always an underlying belief.
Simply begin my making a conscious choice to choose your mindset for the day each morning, rather than letting your day choose your mindset for you.
News = Garbage
From here, you need to go on a mental diet. Quit watching the news. Stop. Quit reading the news. If you must get news, use twitter as it will be much easier to filter what you see.
As my father recently told me, our minds are wired for bad news – it’s in the Amygdala – the emotional center of the brain. This part of our brain evolved to help us identify dangers that would potentially kill us. The news networks know this and they supply a steady feed of fear that intrinsically hooks human beings into it.
Also, quit listening to garbage music. I’m not going to justify this one beyond saying that the mind is very, very malleable to suggestion. Do you really want to worship bullshit? As an aside, I really like Jon Bellion lately. His mixtapes The Seperation and Translations Through Speakers were both released for free online. Google them.
Tear Down the Pedestal
It’s also important that you stop worshipping people. It’s one thing to have people you genuinely admire, but it’s another to worship them. And you might not think of it as worship, but trust me – it’s worship. We have a show called American Idol for fuck’s sake. You need to tear down the pedestal that media and television puts people on.
The reason I urge this is because it’s disassociating you from yourself. You are completely unique and you have your own unique potential. There will never be another you. Don’t spend your life looking up at others. Realize that you are a person others can look up to.
These people [celebrities] aren’t perfect. And our obsession with them is sick. It’s not doing your soul any justice to place them in a realm above yourself. Rather, use them as an inspiration based on things you can model and learn from. My favorite people are those who have turned their life around before finding their success. It’s not the success of the person, but the character traits you can learn from that count. They have vices too. They are no different than you or me – although perhaps a bit better looking, lol.
As David Foster Wallace said in his exceptional Kenyon College graduation speech This is Water.
If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power — you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart — you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.
And so it follows that if you worship other people you will never feel adequate in your own eyes. Look to, but not up to.
Be Grateful and Generous
The Four Agreements author Don Miguel Ruiz said that love is the perfect equilibrium between gratitude and generosity. That’s where I want you to live. Take that feeling into your heart. Own it. Remember: you live in the perfect balance between gratitude and generosity. ‘Tis a beautiful place my dear reader.
When you judge you don’t define others, you merely define yourself as someone who feels the need to judge. And in the eyes of people who don’t judge – the people who probably matter most – you look ignorant when you judge. It just reeks of insecurity an a low self-worth. It’s not healthy.
So, no matter how someone else looks, how they speak, what they do, who they are with – just remember, they are doing their best and we all have our own hopes and dreams and fears.
Be Kind to Yourself
This could almost be at the top of these suggestions. I want you to imagine that you have found unconditional and lasting love in the most loving and kind person you have ever known. Now go look In the mirror and meet this person. This is how you should treat yourself – what you deserve from yourself. However you have treated your body, your soul, and your heart in the past is done. Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a five year old in pain (Shoutout to Matt Kahn, Emotional Oneness). That’s an extreme paradigm, but at the very least putting things in that light can help you to see just how far off track our own self-love has become. Remember, no one will ever be able to love you like you will.
Reconnect To Your Innocence
It’s exactly what it sounds like. I want you to be connected to your childlike innocence. It’s still there.
If you really want to go deep here, you can even have a dialogue with your inner child. He’s there and he needs you. Your inner child is the gatekeeper to your soul.
Sometimes someone needs to be able to just have someone sit there and listen to them. Don’t think about what you are going to say, think about what the other person is feeling. Practice listening with your heart. Remember, we like other people based on how much we like ourselves when we are around them. Give this gift [heart-centered listening] whenever you can and you will be more popular and well liked than you have ever been.
Forgive and Let Go
Listen to yourself. Explore what you are holding onto. Let it go. Listen to the song “Let it go”. Cuddle with yourself. Know that forgiveness is simply accepting that the past could not have been any different.
Anyone can hold a glass of water. But after too long the weight becomes unbearable. You have to let go.
Don’t Manipulate People
The definition of manipulation is making someone feel a certain way to get what you want. Don’t do this. Remember, a true leader lifts other people up. If you want something, be worthy of it and ask fairly. If you do not get what you want, then accept that it was not fated for you.
Eliminate Energy Vampires
It’s the Pareto principle in action: 80% of the the suffering in your life is dealt out by 20% of the people. Let these people go. They are not worth it. No matter how impossible it seems, let go. Listen to your inner child.
Talk to an Older Person
It’s sad that we do not have a close bond with the elders in our society. Even more sad that the old men are often simply not trusted.
Make an effort to spend time with older people. Volunteer at a retirement home or a hospital. Your soul and your heart will profit greatly, trust me.
And don’t expect the perfect old person that Hollywood has portrayed. Don’t expect Obe Wan Kanobe. They are people too.
I’m reminded of the perfect story to close this entry with:
There were two friends who grew up in a small town together, and both became outstanding men as adults. However, one had been raised by a father who was an alcoholic and a poor father, and one had been raised by a man who was himself a pillar of the community. One day they were asked how each could grow up so differently, yet both could become honorable and good men. The one with the upstanding father simply said he ‘looked at his father and knew exactly what to do’, and the one with the alcoholic father replied that he ‘looked at his father and knew exactly what not to do’.
The reality of kindness is that shitty people do exist, and also that we do have a choice not to be like them. And it’s not that all is not love, but unfortunately, many people are simply ignorant to the beautiful nature of life and the choices they have to be kind to themselves and to others.
1: Even though Albert Einstein was a genius, he was human. In November of 1954, five months before his death, Einstein declared his feelings about his role in the creation of the atomic bomb: “I made one great mistake in my life… when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made; but there was some justification – the danger that the Germans would make them.” Beyond this [the letter], his theory of E=mc2 is what made nuclear fission possible. This is an important history lesson that few mention when talking about Einstein. The death toll from the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was as large as 246,000. With roughly half the deaths occurring on the day of the bombings. The remaining people died in the following months as a result of burns, injuries, radiation sickness, and malnutrition. Most deaths were civilian.
Life is short. Be kind.
Must Listen Bonus: David Foster Wallace, This is Water
If you really enjoyed this, or if you’ve already seen the shortened version of this on facebook a year or so ago, then the entire version is worth listening to.