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What if empathy was a finite resource that only existed in a fraction of the population? Imagine what would happen if the ones designated as caretakers of compassion went on strike. Or their kindness soured into cynicism. What would become of humanity then?

I’m concerned that compassion will be elbowed out eventually, especially since those in charge seem unwilling or unable to model it. The younger generation is growing up at a time in which “Instagram Influencer” is an actual job. We’ve even learned to condense our coarse critiques into 140 characters.

Now tell me, when did we decide as a society that pulling pranks was “all in good fun?”  This “heartwarming” (not to mention “housewarming,” but in a bad way)  video of a firefighter fooling his girlfriend into thinking their house was on fire so he could propose to her is (as all of our fathers used to say, say it with me now:) everything that’s wrong with the world today.

If I were that woman, not only would I refuse that marriage proposal, I’d throw my now-ex-boyfriend in jail for causing a public disturbance. Not to mention misuse of tax dollars. Of course, then social media would obliterate me for being a spoil-sport, I’m sure. I can’t even believe this needs to be said, but here goes. Terrifying someone you love is not kind.

A different video of a child in China who walked to school in weather so cold that his hair froze caused an outpouring of kindness. And this one of a stranger who drove 2300 miles to return a family dog to this sick boy shows that focusing on the positive is the antidote for negativity. Despite everything wrong with the world today, there’s still hope for humanity.

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“Be independent of the good opinion of others.” Abraham Maslow

Would you rather be universally liked by all, or loved by a loyal few?

If we could sum up the eras of a lifetime, it might read something like this:

Childhood: you want to belong.

Early adulthood: you want to be loved.

The rest of your life will be about this: you want to be yourself.

That’s good news, if you think about it. Early on, we may look to others as we determine how to “be yourself.” It takes years to figure out that everybody else is doing the same thing.

Ancient mariners didn’t have GPS. They used the stars, sun, moon and planets to navigate. Somehow, they found their way across oceans. In modern times, we tend to use landmarks to map out the course of life. First love. First job. First child.

But that’s also the beginning of comparisons. Net worth. Number of followers. Measuring yourself against others does nothing to improve your life. It can lead to feeling insecure and envious.

What if we didn’t feel the need to compare our place in the world to others? We might find the meaningful mile markers that fly just under the radar. Doing projects you love that allow you to contribute in your own way. Helping the community with all the tools at your disposal: time, talents, teamwork. Money if you can spare it. A prayer if you’re so inclined.

Life isn’t all about being first, you know. These days, second-hand clothes are sold as “vintage.”

“On second thought” can save you a lot of heartache.

A second wind will keep you going through long days.

This is your second chance at a first chapter. Set your own course starting today, and soon it will become second nature.

Faithful readers of our humble bloggie know that I lost my pet partner, KitKat, recently, so forgive me as I ramble on with stories about him for the next few posts. He meant so much to me and my son, and I realized today he was not just a cat. He was a counselor.

My son has dealt with exhaustion due to a medical condition his whole life. It’s affected his quality of life immensely, and, as a mother, it’s pained me that I can’t fix it for him.

One morning, I couldn’t wake up Cole, so I cried for a moment in the kitchen. My cat came into the room. “I don’t know how to help him. He’s not sleeping well or feeling good. I don’t know how to help him live well,” I said to my cat as if he understood.

KitKat came over to me, bumped against my leg and stayed there, waiting.

Pet me, he was saying. You feel good when you pet me. So if you feel good, you’ll be in a better mood. Let go of what you can’t solve now.

Still tightly clenched, I went over to the couch in the living room and he came to sit near me. As I patted his furry head, he purred. The tension was dissipating, and even though I still didn’t have a solution to this fatigue that never went away, I felt my shoulders start to relax.

You can’t reach out and grab hold of life with your hands clenched. Even if you’ve been running in circles for the whole week, find a way to have a day of rest. Lay your burden down and be at peace. If you can’t solve the problem, resolve the energy. You’ll find that things will look brighter tomorrow.

Picture this, if you will. You get to Heaven and God says, Listen, we’ve got a backlog of cases up here, so we’d like you to decide the fate of the people who mistreated you in life. Okay? Thanks.

Suddenly you’re behind a judge’s bench with gavel in hand. A stream of familiar faces flows into the courtroom. People from your past. They’re led to a table to await your decision. So. If you cast them all away forever, aren’t you doing to them what they did to you? Now who’s the perpetrator?

Isn’t it true that people who treated you poorly justified it that you hadn’t met their expectations? Or that you weren’t trying hard enough. Pulling your weight. That boss who yelled at staff. Didn’t she believe that employees need to fear the boss or they won’t meet deadlines? That ex who was cruel to you. Didn’t he feel he had a right to do that, since you weren’t the person he wanted you to be?

So this is the case for forgiveness. If you were in a position to mete out justice, it’s possible you’d throw the book at people – or even your gavel if you were in a mood – and become just as bad as them.

Not only is it better for your mental health to let go of the things you can’t change anyway. It’s possible that you’ve mistreated others without even realizing it. When you felt someone wasn’t trying hard enough, did you yell or give them the cold shoulder? Someone’s in the passing lane on the highway driving too slowly. Did you tailgate them? Of course, these are relatively minor infractions, but it all falls on the spectrum of disrespect. Keep your own karma clean: forgive, forget, and put the past behind you.

We live in a broken world.  There’s no doubt in my mind that this is true.  As Ruth wrote in “Give the Past the Boot,” we continue to suffer from past events often because we keep replaying past mistakes and harms in our minds.  And in “Until,” Lori wrote about how hard it is to believe in either government or church. The world is definitely broken.

But you know what isn’t broken?  God.

God is whole.  Think about that for a moment.

God. Is. Whole.

It can be so hard to keep moving forward in this broken world.  It seems that no matter what we do, something is still wrong.  In the words of Mr. Incredible, “No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again. Sometimes I just want it to stay saved! You know, for a little bit? I feel like the maid; I just cleaned up this mess! Can we keep it clean for… for ten minutes!”

But that’s the reality when you are broken people living in a broken world.  And some days that is really going to get you down. That’s why I didn’t post on Friday.

And I get the irony of today’s quote.  I really do.  But there’s also a beauty in it and I think that’s why the Diary of Anne Frank continues to be such a popular book.  Anne Frank was someone who saw the light and life in the world.  She knew it was broken.  But she also looked for that glimmer of light.

What can you do today? It doesn’t have to be big.  And it isn’t going to fix everything.  But it might be the thing that catches someone’s attention and turns them toward God, God the Whole, God our Light.

–SueBE

 

With all the church abuse scandals in the news recently, New Jersey’s attorney general has opened an investigation into child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in our state. “We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here,” said Gurbir Grewal.

Where have I seen that name recently? Oh yeah. Hosts of a radio show had courted controversy by referring to the attorney general as “Turban Man.” Grewal responded with aplomb, thanking the governor for his support during the episode, noting, “Others have faced far worse. We rise above this.  Now let’s get back to business.”

Maybe pain is training. Compassion calibration. A way to learn from the inside of the “ouch” what it feels like so that, when your turn comes to give someone else a break, you’ll stand up.

I remember a Sikh boy from grade school. It wasn’t always easy for him, as you might imagine, even though his wearing a turban was harming no one.

Childhood itself shouldn’t be a high-risk proposition, but really, where can kids be safe anymore?

School? Yes but. School shootings.

Church? Yes but. Pedophile priests.

Home? Yes but. Kids are more like property than people in society today. They have no say most of the time. Just what parents decide is best for them.

Change can only come from the inside. Of the school. Of the church. Of the person. Until there’s a change inside the human heart, the chain of pain will continue.

It irks me not to be able to wrap up neatly with an answer to this problem. Yes but. All I can change is myself. All you can change is yourself. So we’ll do our best today. Assume the best in others. Let them rise to our high expectations. Maybe it will be the start a new chain – of love.

This picture of a cheetah named Bingwa who gave birth to eight cubs makes me smile when I look at the two cubs in the corner. Looking at their mother, heads tilted, as if to say, We just love our mom! We’re so proud of her! I may be wrong, but that’s what I want to be true. Of course, it looks like Bingwa needs a break already, and who can blame her? I can imagine her thinking, What have I gotten myself into? That’s a lot of mouths to feed.

Do we ever know what any other living being is thinking, really? We can barely communicate with each other in this country lately. Even when people use actual words, we don’t always know the whole story.

Last January, an emergency alert was sent to cellphones across Hawaii, warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack. It turned out to be incorrect, thankfully – the alert had been the result of human error. But if even state-of-the-art technology can’t prevent communications breakdowns, what hope is there for human beings?

I actually got myself into a mood this afternoon as I was thinking about the state of the world at large and situations I need to decipher in my own little world. I needed a nudge to get myself back to center and found it in the story of this little boy with spina bifida who was having trouble walking.

No matter what you’re facing today, think of Roman, walking on his own for the first time and sharing the moment with his best friend, Maggie the dog. Small steps that give us a sense of perspective in the big picture. Just what we all need right now.

Writing time for me is only official when I listen to the songs my mother used to play on the piano. That audible cue says to my brain, it’s time to create. As I said in a previous post, she gave me an abiding love for Bach. When I was a child, I’d ask her to play what we called the “clockwork” song (BWV 847a – C Minor – Prelude at 5:19 in this YouTube video.)

She’d oblige me, sitting in front of the piano, stretching her hands and squaring her shoulders before tackling the song. It was so densely packed with notes, my eyes got tired trying to follow her fingers as she played. How did she do that? And how did Bach create all of these majestic movements? I noticed that this masterful song is called a “prelude.” Interesting. It’s not even considered a “fugue,” yet so much energy and effort has gone into it.

At the end of this prelude, there are three notes that foreshadow what the fugue that follows it will sound like. I remember her nodding as she played, saying to me, “there it is,” to remind me to listen for those notes that told you what was coming up in the fugue (BWV 847b – C Minor – Fugue at 7:05.)

Instead of trying to overhaul your life all at once, why not try a “pre-vamp” instead?

Whatever it is that you feel you don’t have and are hoping to achieve or acquire that would lead to a “re-vamp,” there are already grace notes of your future’s fugue in your present’s prelude.

So if your blessing arrived tomorrow, wouldn’t you like to be prepared to receive it? Make space in your heart for it. Listen: the music’s already playing. It’s just a matter of the whole orchestra joining in. Later, you’ll look back and realize the preludes of life are often just as lovely as the fugues.

Being trolled by a fan seems an oxymoron, but reading SueBE’s post about opposite day, I was reminded of author George RR Martin. Game of Thrones fans have been trolling him to stop living the high life and finish the last book already.

My theory is that Martin has no intention of finishing the series, because once he does, fans may forget about him. Even if they seem to be holding him in contempt, they’re still holding onto him. I guess it’s better to hear invective than to be invisible. Also, there’s the very real possibility that he’s got “you’re-not-the-boss-of-me” syndrome. Fans yell at him to finish the book? He’ll show them. Not gonna do it.

There are sycophants, and then there are psycho-phants. Star Wars fans? Trolling actors to the point that they leave social media? What is wrong with this picture?

In the same way, when you bully someone for being a bully, you’re now part of the problem. We’ve got deep divisions in this country right now, extending all the way to the dining table. There are Washington DC restaurants in the news for refusing to serve political operatives with whom they disagree. I suppose they have the right not to serve any patron. And anyway, wouldn’t you rather know someone hates your guts before they’re alone in a back room with your food?

Still, there must be a better way to make a point that to heckle each other in this way. Fighting fire with fire just leads to a big conflagration. Sooner or later, someone’s going to get burned.

I’ve got an out-there theory about that 80s pop song that won’t get out of my head. I think it’s an alien radio wave, cleverly disguised as the Eurythmics. After all, what are light years to aliens? They call it, yesterday. My guess is that they experience everything all at once: past, present, future, and have only one tense in their language – “init,” meaning you’re in it – all time, at all times. 

I’m fascinated by news related to science, if only because it allows me to use my imagination. It also takes my mind off the rest of the news. Why is it that the only time an event makes its way into the headlines – and into our collective psyche – is when it’s something terrible? You almost need a red button of sorts to warn you. This is bad for you. It will add nothing good to your life.

I’m not saying that journalists shouldn’t cover actual news stories that impact our lives, but I haven’t read anything in the news today that improved my life for my having read it. Not one blessed thing.

Maybe that’s the real issue here. Not one blessed thing was in the news today. Only the cursed things. The things that make us cry and curse and shake a fist in anger. Maybe no news really is good news. Or at least fewer negative news stories. Finding positive news online and in life is possible. You just have to adjust your antenna.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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