Friday, September 30, 2011

Pretending charity; how cynicism is damaging people in genuine need of a hand.

I got an intriguing largish envelope in the mail the other day.  Personally addressed.  It was from the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists (Pty Ltd).  The envelope contained the following:

  • Covering letter in faux-handwriting addressed to dear sir/madam etc.
  • 8x assorted Christmas cards, various artists and styles, mainly carefully secular or semi-secular in design and wording.
  • 8x envelopes for said cards.
  • 2x printed bookmarks with artwork
  • 1x 'Pocket Calendar', a card with a picture, a tiny 2011/12 calendar and a list of important dates.
  • An order form pre-printed with my name a details, and a range of products for sale from Mouth and Foot Painting Artsists Pty Ptd
  • Small-format envelope addressed to sender, to put the order form in.

Of course, the mail was entirely unsolicited, and presumably has come via some mailing list purchased by them from another party.  I'm guessing it was Silver Chain most likely, an organisation that assists with low-cost home nursing, and which is itself partly funded by donation and partly government subsidised.  I am on their mailing list because I got a visit (free of charge) once from a specialist stoma care nurse (they have ONE such person covering all of Western Australia btw) after I had my tube placed.

At the top line of the order form, it says "YES! I have decided to purchase this package and enclose the $17.00....."etc etc or somesuch.  Underneath are tick-box options for ordering more products of a similar ilk.  The cover letter, whose faux-handwriting font could almost be seen as a feature specifically designed to make you not want to read it, is full of blather about the life challenges that people without hands and/or arms face - all real enough of course - and that your purchase would help them.  Well, the ones employed by this company anyway.

For that's the thing.  Christmas cards are by now a familiar fundraising venture for many charities, and this little unsolicited effort not only jumps on that bandwagon, but one-ups the genuine charities in the process.  Genuine charities?  Yes, because this is all set up to seem at every turn a charitable enterprise, yet it is nothing of the sort.  It is a Pty Ltd company, set up to make profit, like any other company.  It is not a registered charity, nor does it make any reference to using its profits to help the wider community of handless folk, or anyone else for that matter, apart from paying a dividend to the artists themselves (presumably in the form of purchased rights to their artworks).

Then there's the guilt factor.  It's cleverly constructed.  There is no mention of obligation in the cover letter, but the order form comes with this clever little phrasing: "Please send the whole order form when ordering, and do not send the form with unwanted goods.  Please note: these goods are sent without obligation".  So, they never ask you to send them back, but suggest in the most weaselly fashion that if you're not buying, you really *should*.  Think of the poor handless people.  That return envelop is nicely sized to fit the order form, but not the cards.  And it needs a stamp too.  Plus, you know tat if you could find an envelope big enough to take all the stuff then it'd cost more than a regular stamp and so.......the implication is that keeping the cards is stealing, sort of, or somehow not fair, even though they make it really hard for you to send this gear you never asked for back.

It's creepy, dishonest, and worst of all demeans not just those folk who do genuinely need some assistance with their lives without hands but also everyone else who has ever relied on needed help from a charity in any form, cheapening as it does the whole transactional framework.  This company has really lowered the bar for decency not as it applies to everyday businesses - after all they can stand or fall on their reputations and take the consequences themselves - but by branding itself as a charity in all but actual word and tax status it casts a new and negative pall across the whole realm of charitable donation seeking.

Thus, despite the fact that some of the cards are rather nice (if printed on cheap and flimsy stock and overpriced compared to usual store-bought assorted sets of better quality) I am entirely disinclined to reward this company with my cash.  And it's a shame, because had it been done differently, had I been sent for example a simple coloured single-page catalogue of designs I could choose from and order, rewarding the artists more directly, or under the auspices of a genuinely constructed charitable enterprise, I may well have found exactly the Christmas cards I will need (insh'allah and all that) this year.

Why am I even giving it oxygen then?  Because I have mixed feelings.  It'd be great to see a successful outlet for these artists, and for that I wish the enterprise well, but for what this little exercise in cynical marketing says about the way we must have become that such a thing would be contemplated and, just perhaps, successful, well........I dislike it.

So here's what I'm going to do.  The first 8 people to comment with a single-word theme for me to work from, please also private message or email me with your mailing address.  And I'll write you a haiku or tiny poem on one of the cards incorporating your word theme and the cover image.

Because I don't want to use them as Christmas cards, and I'd hate for them to go to waste.  this seems like a lovely translation of energy.  And you get some old-fashioned mail to look forward to.

This might be a bit of fun, eh?

PS: Speaking of the qwirly nexus of money, commerce, charity and transforming energy, those who are so inclined may still donate to my Natural Burial Fund here.  I'm not even going to mention how much of that word that starts with "o" and ends with"bligation" isn't involved with this notice. :-)  Thank you for the thought, regardless.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Winnowing

Lately I've started writing a blog post or some stuff for my 'other' book a few times only to have it all sort of a very patterned way.  Has that ever happened to you?  I get it now though, so it's not a failure, really.

I've set out to write about things external to myself in each of these instances of subsequently abandoned writing, but each time been led back as if in a circular corral to the simple truth that it's me I'm speaking about.  And that I'm just being coy and overly concerned about perceptions of egoism/narcissism etc.  But everyone who ever writes knowing there's an audience there is writing about themselves all the time, aren't they, so how about I just get over that, eh?

To the subject at hand then.

There's a winnowing going on.  As we toss the unhulled grains up into the air for the simple power of the wind to remove the chaff and leave us the shiny pearls of goodsome sustenance behind, so it is happening with things in my life, at quite a pace, at the moment.  Of course when something's going on for us we see the pattern reflected everywhere (some say we create the pattern everywhere, or co-create it with Other forces and factors in play) and that's in large part why I kept setting out to expound on the things I'm seeing beyond my ostensible sphere of influence.  There's more to say about what we see outside than in.  Both perspectives serve a purpose, but without the foundational acknowledgement that it's what is going on inside that counts, nothing I say will ring with any truth.

All that being said, there's a lot of this winnowing going around right now.

Being a pattern, it affects all of me, all of my life, and it's wonderful when I can have these moments of stepping back and just observing how it affects each facet of being in different ways.  Getting out of the road is also the essence of winnowing well too, isn't it?  Offering up the harvest to the sky, over and over again, that the chaff might blow away and back to earth, thence to return to the great cycle of life, etcetera.  No point just throwing it all over yourself, and you'll never get far fast by getting all dainty and hand-picking out the grains.  Which doesn't stop so many of us from taking that exact approach to change in our life so much of the time.  Little steps, done without reliquishing of control or trust in the wind to know what's chaff, what's grain, and to work with our intentions.

One of the things that winnowed out for me is the ancient wrestle about what can be known anyway - the limits of my ability to be sure about anything, which relates directly to this question of what is inside, and what is outside, and if there's any difference.  Because the grain that's left behind for me is that there truly is no difference.  Making a distinction between what is me and what is not is just something useful we can do with our minds to achieve certain things, but that being totally in thrall to either the separation of us and other, or to the wrestle with how much it's possible to prove one way or another, is just a really fraught and distracted, unsatisfying way to live.  Well, you realise it is once you've had an actual experience of living without that question.

I was joined up to this online Philosophy Debate Group in Facebook you see, by a relatively new FB friend, and this after reconnecting with a wonderful old friend who's really into such stuff (PhD and all), and going on this ultimately madcap ride, a fast-track helter-skelter relentless, strapped-in-tight experience of the Philosophical Lines Of Argument And Inquiry.  Of course, I'd been that way inclined all my life, but this was a nutshelling of the process.  And in the course of a week, with the help of some 'others' I saw the whole thing, the entire intellectual framework of inquiry into life and meaning and the search for Truth and God and Ethics, laid out cleanly in my mind.  And saw its ultimate futility.  A bit of a samadhi moment, that was.

Those who read here regularly or at least lately will have seen this winnowing at work in the world of my people connections too.  You'll recall a couple of weeks ago my tale of discovery about discernment vs. discompassion and the difficulty I had with a relationship with a mentally ill person (for want of a more nuanced description).  Well the process I saw going on then has continued unabated, and I've seen it at work in many of those around me too.  Quite a rash of people doing things like discussing Facebook de-friending, leaving FB and social networking in general, and dealing with issues about who comes into their lives and who needs to be left behind now.  The support groups and boards I belong to have subtly but tangibly shifted in vibe as well (and this can't be 'all me' surely).  The tenor, tone, and actual, as opposed to ostensible, purpose has changed.

Yes, but changed how?  What's going on?  Hard to hit my head on the nail with this one, but it has a flavour of letting go of over-caring.  There seems in the wind - and we're even seeing it in global politics and such - a growing acceptance that only so much can be done to enact change.  That we're not omnipotent.  That we really can't save others, or even help them sometimes.  That waking up to the new zeitgeist (a-ha! That's what I'm on about!) is the responsibility of the individual.  Not that there's any great lack of caring, far from it.  Just that there's a new and seemingly beyond-the-point-of-no-return level of understanding that suffering cannot always be averted, and that a way of being - individually or as a social whole - that is as afraid of suffering and the 'negative' as we all have been this last few generations is not just futile but is itself prone only to create further suffering in the long run.

What I'm seeing is people waking up, more and more.  And I'm so totally not being elitist at all here, or making any special claims on my own profundity or enlightenment relative to anyone else's.  Only to how I was just a couple of weeks ago.  I figure it's a good sign when you can honestly keep saying to yourself "geez, I'm amazed at how stupid I was only two weeks ago!" and smile.

Anyway, whatever I can say about it all in generalities and through resorting to prosiness can only mean so much.  Maybe better to stick to what it means in 3D and Heartland for me.

It means I'm defriending a bunch of folk in Facebook, which is a trivial gesture but important for starters.  I'm not outright leaving the social networks at this point, in fact I've half-migrated over to Google+ now.  I'll be much less active there from now on though, and am treating the world of people interactions much differently already.  Winnowing out the whole intellectual need thing (even allowing for predictable backslide due to ingrained habit and the occasional primacy of the Dumb Machine Mind) has set me free of much of the need I had.  I'll still stay involved with the BD and other tubie help groups, because I like to help there and I always learn much too.

And it means I've found the way back in to writing what I want to write.  It feels like I had to get something out of the way.  I have no expectation that it'll suddenly be easy, but there's a soft and refreshing light on the path ahead now, not just spooky oppressive shadows with the faint glimmer of a glittering thing out there, probably, somewhere.

Perhaps most fundamentally, and this realisation came last of all, as almost an afterthought, a surprise bonus extra, it means I have found (INSERT FREAKY CO-INCIDENCE HERE wow, I'd tell you about this thing that just happened as I am writing this but I can't, so sorry, other people's privacy and all that) a new level of peace not just with my upcoming death (the satellite obviously missed, haha, never mind ;-) but with my ongoing life - suffering and all.  I feel OK with it in a whole new way, and you regular readers will know I was going through a wrestle with that not long ago,the ironic fear not of dying but of living.  Again, not expecting it to be all easy, but some whole layer of fear and harshness has lifted.

The take-home message from this, I guess, is if you see me around a bit less, this is why.  It's no bad thing.  If you want to hang out with me some more, make a new or more intimate connection, sure - just email me or something.  That would suit me fine.  And my funeral fund is still going, and growing too.  We're past half way now, and you can still help me on my way with my natural interrment.  Since that satellite window passed uneventfully, I still have no date.  Thing is, now I'm in a place where I could accept a date so much more easily. In a way, I'm sort of......ready.

Link's here, thank you.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Tyranny of Normality

Just the other day a very large worldwide study showed that Australians are the world leaders in self-delusion when it comes to being overweight and obese.  About a third of the population believes they fall into these categories, when in fact over 60% of us are overweight or obese.  Australians are far from alone in the self-delusion stakes here, it's just that we're the most shockingly out of touch with reality. To add to this, Aussies are just as delusional about how much exercise we believe and say we do compared to what we actually perform, ditto regards the health of our diets.  Of course, there are a plethora of reasons behind the phenomenon of mass fatness, but what lies beneath the self-deception?

It's never simple to nail these things down perfectly, but I think one mainspring of this mass delusion is the tyranny of normality.  It's the fact that we're just used to being, and seeing, big people now - familiarity breeds contempt, so it has been said - and we thus adjust our mental settings for a new normal.  We see a different societal body norm now from, say, 20 years ago.  Overweight is the new majority, thus, normal.

Humans want to be normal, largely (no pun intended there).  Sure, there is individual aspiration, the urge for fame and to stand out to one's peers or society, but more and more this is about succeeding in achieving some grand form of normalcy.  Everyone's 'plating up' food now, where just a couple of years BMC (Before MasterChef) we simply served, or just ate it.  Foodie aspirations, experimentation with and chattery, competitive talk about food are normal today too - see also above, 'obesity'.  But what we want at heart as a communal animal is to sit comfortably in a place in the herd, engage with or at least not fail in the ubiquitous struggle to rise in the pecking order; to relate to our peers and preferably excel within the 'rules'.  Think about so-called "Reality TV", and the rise of the 'normal person' celebrity.  That's where the normalcy comes into play, and once the majority of people are porky, then.......well, a couple of things might happen.  Firstly, when you see your chubby self in the mirror you might not see a problem at all.  You're just large-framed, or you compare internally with your peers, finding 'worse' examples, and feel contented that you are quite normal.  (No surprise by the way that men are far less likely to see themselves as overweight or obese than women, and this applies globally). Secondly, it just may be that there is a subliminal urge to maintain (even gain??) one's size.  After all, aren't those skinny, eat-nothing health freak folk outliers now?  Or thirdly, you might just not see a health problem there at all.  After all, you look, well, 'normal'.  And the ubiquity of weight-loss advertising and awareness campaigns simply in the end highlights the normality of being overly large.

The weight issue is but one example among so many we could point to when it comes to the tyranny of normality.  And it's not like it's a novel idea; we've been a social, normatized animal since forever really, but I think we're at some sort of unprecedented peak here.  Perhaps that as our recent history has been one where the only seeming constant is constant change, we need to put so much more constant and persistent effort on keeping up with what 'normal' is, and thus unconsciously are getting better and better at adjusting ourselves to fit the 'now' normal as we go.  A sort of eternal feedback loop that works towards greater and greater homologation in society. Reminds me of the Borg, now I think about it.

As has been commented upon recently in the meta-mediasphere, advertising right across the modern media spectrum is not only becoming increasingly dumbed-down and preachy in its messages, with edginess and risk-taking as strategies on the wane, it is more and more careful in its elicitation of the 'normal' person it is portraying and speaking to/of/for.  The "busy mother", the "working family", the "young couple", the "average man" and so on.  I cannot recall before seeing quite so many advertising actors and spokespeople so carefully cast in that thin space between being 'attractive' in a model-like, idealised modern beauty sense, and non-threateningly average.  You know, good-looking enough to be pleasant on the eye and acceptable to the base hind-brain judgement that sexually they could be an attractive mate yet not so 'perfect' that they're in any way threatening to their own gender compatriots. Many are just a little overweight.  (Combine the two, advertising and the normatization of heftiness and you get the third spoke of the wheel - chunky Reality TV 'contestants' and weight-loss shows).  Normal is indeed the new thing to aspire to, even and maybe even especially in the consumer space.  Again, this is not exactly new, but its pervasiveness and the seemingly overwhelming primacy of this technique and zeitgeist for advertising - arguably the force in our world that does the most to influence individuals' self-perceptions and self-image - has attained some hitherto unknown level.

One could make several good arguments about why this new depth of normal-as-desirable thing could be a positive, perhaps.  Or at least have some slivers of silver lining.  But I'm struggling to find any for this level of extremity.  Just having normative values is the cohesive stuff of any society after all - without a shared consensus on some norms we could not function as a community - however once it gets to the stage that we've reached a sort of strangling takes place right across society. There forms a subtle erosive force upon the sense of 'us' we recreate by all the little things we do and say and think and see each day that contrive to tell us we are not each (all) alone, isolated, disconnected.  That we are a 'we'.

Consider for example the normatization of our society as being in a permanent state of conflict, and the ramifications of this.  If we look to America for the cultural lead for a moment, depending on how you want to figure it there's been a constant state of was since the start of WW2, or perhaps even earlier.  More concerning still is the new norm of the 'War On Terror', a truly insidious term that builds on all the 'Wars On (insert any example here)' campaigns trotted out by leader figures this last couple of generations.  Think for a moment if you can of how it feels right now to be a Palestinian or Israeli; both peoples who well and truly feel themselves to have experienced personally generations of constant war.  Trapped in an angry, self-righteous, defensive/aggressive mindset, they have totally lost it would seem any notion of the normality of peace.  Of harmonious conduct.  Young bright thinkers are positing peace-promoting ideas in these places as truly revolutionary concepts, as if the history of humanity is not one largely made of just getting along fairly nicely, thanks.  Thus, having to pretty much reinvent the wheel of progress towards an inclusive, unafraid society without martialism at its core.

And that's the thing about history, and our reading of it in the flash-information age.  Everything gets condensed into its newsiness, to appeal to our enjoyment, to retain the reader/viewer, and that means the action scenes.  We view history - and thus are doomed to have a default view of our present - as an overarching series of dates and instances of war and turmoil, scandal and calamity.  Which is, frankly, so much BS.  Most people in most of time have mostly just......gotten on with life, in a more-or-less peaceful way, and this is what constitutes our real history.

Think again of your Israeli or Palestinian (yes I'm generalizing and appealing to stereotype; hang in there, there's a reason for it) and project that now onto the face of your everyday American, living under the spell of terrorist enemies and a defensive martial mindset.  Children who have only known this, for whom it is unquestionably normal.  They will soon be our adults, in fact the first few are coming of age as I write.  It's not just an American-led cultural meme though, this is globally pervasive.  And I'd venture to suggest that there is more, and more highly politicized, normatized conflict occurring across the globe now than ever before.

It's not just war - that's merely an extremely newsy manifestation.  Think of the dynamic political tensions gripping the major democracies of the world at present.  Those societies which have largely driven the industrial and technological revolutions, responsible for enabling the population boom, the massive inequality of wealth, the amazing increase in health and longevity and also the mass destruction and deformation of the environment at large.  The nations that were early adopters of the ground-breaking adaptation of the 'least worst' system of governance and social inclusion and spread the ideas of capitalism and individual freedom ironically through conquest across the world.  The Australian parliamentary reality of two major parties so close to each other on policy (and oddly out of touch with so much of the general public's real sentiment) yet divided by an implacable enmity that disables any chance currently of compromise or bipartisan agreement.  The same is clearly evident in the US.  Modern capitalist democracy everywhere seems stuck in a bind between two irreconcilable sides of some distracting argument.  Some theoretical debate.  A red herring diverting our energies away from the more pressing issues of our continued planetary survival.

The more normal the state of conflict is, the more people are taking sides; it's a feedback loop.  When there is such a conflict, when ideas and notions on governance, polity, and the 'right' way to run a society (all ciphers for "how can we survive this dire state of the world we cannot bear to look at squarely") the more we need to find a solid 'normal' to sit with, to belong to.  And it's always been a quirk of the human intellect and experience that it's easier to define what one is by what one isn't; what one is against.  One sees the other as the abnormal, and one's self as normal.  The more we are able to define each side - us and them - by our differences, the more we are in essence trying to strengthen our own case for normality.  Thus the groups form and split, yet share at their core two fundamental, indivisible realities - they're in conflict, and they're in thrall to the same inescapable environmental reality.  This largely explains the desperation the conflict is attaining; the deterioration at every point of the environment around us.  Whether you see that environment as primarily natural, economic, political, cultural.....or any combination of ways, it looks essentially the same - in danger.

In danger, because this tyranny of normalization, this seeking of identity in sameness in the face of constancy of change, is so obviously a doomed way of being and a false hope for contentment.  It's powerfully anti-logical, and yet it's such an intuitive thing we do.  It stops us from remembering what 'normal' in the sense of healthy, holistically sound, sustainable and life-affirming actually feels and looks like.

This constancy of conflict is not normal.  Patently unhealthy self-image is tellingly not normal.  We are not, in a grand irony, behaving normally at all.

Yes, there have always been crises.  And this same phenomenon has happened before, perhaps.  Maybe it's part of a cycle, but this tyranny of normality is stifling us all the same.  A threshold has been crossed; the regular old ways of social cohesion and normatization have been left behind in the wake of our perversions; this acceptance of eternal conflict, of negative and unhealthy self-image, of unquestioningness.  Yes, that's another great irony.  We now have the tools to facilitate great individual questioning of exactly how we live together, and I see more and more people doing just that, every day, yet at the same time there is undeniably the most powerful and omniscient push I can think of in all of global history towards accepting as normal these perversions of what it is to be human.  A really shitty definition of 'the human condition'.

Perhaps I'm just describing a point in the ancient pendulum swing between conservatism ("let's only change slowly, cautiously, with greatest emphasis on maintaining existing tradition") and progressivism ("let's enact social change by fiat based on the best available theory that isn't what we're doing now").  Certainly there's evidence enough of this.  Just look at all of those of us essentially doing what we can to opt out of the conflict duality.  To express compassion, to detangle the arguments with reason and heart both, to transcend the fear that drives the spiral.  But the more I consider it, the more I see that we're almost playing the normalization game on a new, massive global level, and the normals that we're reinforcing just aren't the ones we need, nor is more of the same way we've been going.

It's just that I wish there were more of us doing it more often - the opting out of the conflict and living more via compassion and instinct than analysis I mean. My guess is that at some stage a tipping point is actually reached, where there can be rapid and meaningful change, that steps outside of the reformist/conservatist paradigm, that engenders a whole new model.

Where the definition of normal is reclaimed from the intellectual - whose endpoint always seems to lead via conflict to nihilism - back to the experience of heart and spirit.  The truly numinous as everyday life.

Utopian?  Certainly.  But I ask you with all seriousness - is that wish not, in fact, normal?

END NOTE: On the subject of normal everyday things we don't pay attention to, friends have been reminding me to post a link to my Natural Burial fund on my blog.  I set it up because many people asked how they might usefully help, and I eventually got humble enough to let people give to me in this way.  I still need further help to cover the cost of my impending interrment (unless the satellite company's insurance covers my death via hurtling space junk, which is still Option A for me) and trust it will work out well in good time.  You can go here if you wish to donate, thank you.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Discernment vs discompassion.

Those of you who know me through things like Facebook may recall a little while ago I was having some difficulty finding my 'core' response when it came to things like accepting friend requests, culling people from what has become an almost-too-large-to-manage-or-be-meaningful list, and so on.

Well as usual, the Universe has helped me along a bit.  As I maintained a bit of a focus on watching myself in my moments of discomfort - and those more frequent moments of ease, I must add - circumstances and the behaviour of others, seemingly out of the blue, lined me up for a showdown with my need-to-know.

What am I talking about?  I'm talking about self-examination.  My habitual wish to understand myself better; why I do the things I do, make the choices I make, attract the fates I attract, and so on.  Someone once said an unexamined life is not one worth living, and there's something in that.  We all certainly can name a bunch of drones we know in our lives, those who go around seemingly oblivious of their own motivations and processes, or if aware then uninterested in changing or growing as people.

Yet I KNOW deeply that self-knowledge, intellectual understanding,m is a blunt and limited tool at best, and just muddies the water with imprecision, the weight of personal history and memory, and the bias and skew imparted by the simple fact of employing language at worst.  I KNOW that just shutting the hell up and getting still and clean inside is all that I need to do to live well.  And yet.....and yet......there's this rattly old insistent mind going on.

As inside, so it is outside, que no?  Just lately I've been confronted with ciphers of my noisy and persistent intellect (thinking back though, when *haven't* I been, d'oh!) in the guise of others.  Good, ordinary humans all, but ones with definite agendas or worldviews or driving wounds or at least modus operandi that make them just right for chafing on my......what?  On my 'need to know' cicuitry.  My stubborn desire to find my truth, and live it openly.

How can that be a bad thing, you might ask, to find yourself closer and closer to you core being?  To God, as it were?  Well, sure, there is learning to be had, but it's expensive, and when it comes via the tools of the mind........see above.  The price to pay is endless conflict, friction, and wasted energy.  But if I am to have an opinion on things, and it is challenged by another, is it not my duty as a student of life to see where I might learn from the challenge, to test my truth against another's truth, to have it strengthened or indeed changed?

Actually, what I keep forgetting is that the answer to that question is not just "no", it's that the question is irrelevant and no basis for a contented life.

So once again, as I did near the very start of this blogging adventure, I am wrestling with this whole banana about having an opinion.  Being able to articulate a worldview.  Because that's ultimately where it comes from, a desire to express my experience of life, and the only way open - or so it almost always seems - is using words, these obtuse and clumsy sylllabic chunks of line and sound.  Ironic in the extreme too, as my speech and even typing abilities go downhill.  You'd think I'd be a better listener.

But then, sometimes, the Universe forces your hand with a bit of extremism.  In this case, it was an extreme other person (extreme in my experience that is, of course) who posed me quite the dilemma.  You see, this person has serious anger issues, and personal mental health issues which affect strongly the way they relate to others, and people thus affected can see their emotions towards others (and themselves) veer wildly from love to hate, and so forth.  Naturally, compassion is called for.  But then, I am also responsible for my personal space, and my sense of wellbeing.  The question arose; "where do I draw the line at allowing and accepting angry outbursts, irrational anger and venting etc as necessary to my duty of compassion to this person, versus my duty of compassion to myself and others who may share a space I have created (eg a Facebook feed)?"  Because much as I seek to be opinionless, to be beyond discernment (just a fancy word for judgement really), to be friggin' *enlightened* I guess, in the meantime I can only act by my own best way of being.  By choosing based on the most loving way I can accomplish in *me* and trust that this works out for others.  Hard though it is to have a true self-love all the time.

I procrastinated and thought about it for so long ("to unfriend or not to un-friend, that is the question") that my hand was forced, pretty much.  I am ashamed to say I was relieved at being relieved of the responsibility for action by this person pulling out of my life.  But then, not really ashamed, to the extent that it was an outcome that is good.  The shame is just a "should" shouting out from the ol' ego wanting to be running the show via the mind and concerted action again.  Urge to exercise control, again ironically.

Really, it's such a relief and it has made an enormous difference, just this one act of being un-friended, in my whole deal.  Because now I have lost - and I hope this feeling lasts, I'm certainly cultivating it - my hesitancy in discernment.  Discernment this time defined as "getting the hell out of the way and letting my first reaction stand".

In practice, it means there will be a day shortly where I cull a few FB friends.  In a nice way, you understand.  More importantly, it means my home relationship will change for the better yet again, and this is always something I want.  To grow in love with my closest friend and partner, of course.  For the hesitancy, the self-doubt, leaked out all over.

I don't doubt that I may fail again and again at this.  But a watershed has been passed.  I feel like my compassion flow has been re-energised, and in the third stated irony of this blog post via the mechanism of no longer extending my acceptance of the outward manifestations of an angry, struggling person in my space.  To remember that sometimes compassion from afar is what is right and it is no less real and good for all that.

Thanks for listening.  I could have done it without you in theory dear reader, but I didn't - I had you there in my life for a reason.  I appreciate you all, and love you, for your challenges as much as your supports. <3

I think the blog posts might run a bit more freely now too.