So, this is about a person, a t-shirt, and a difference in attitudes.

There’s this person I know. I’ve known them for years. I’m not going to say who it is, or even drop any hints about their gender, age, or relationship to me in any way. Because this daily think is about me, and only tangentially about them. I need to call them something, so for the duration of this post, I’ll refer to them by the wonderfully androgynous name Storm.

I’m not going to bandy about here. Storm is conservative, and more than just conservative: hatefully so. I’ve heard Storm refer to liberals as snowflakes, express glee over getting into arguments with them, say hateful, essentialist, reductive things about women, black people, and transgender people.

Over the many years I’ve known Storm, I’ve seen these attitudes go from just peeking above the surface, a little glimpse, to full on hate-iceberg floating above the water, ready to crash into my boat. (It’s not a great metaphor, work with me here.)

As this hateberg has made itself more apparent, I’ve gradually distanced myself from Storm, as well as some of Storm’s family and friends. I just don’t have the space in my life for that sort of toxic hatred, irrationality, and anger.

“Fuck Your Safe Space.” Lovely.

“Fuck Your Safe Space.” Lovely.

Recently, I bumped into them again. They were very proud of a new t-shirt they’d bought.

This isn’t the exact t-shirt, the slogan isn’t the same, nor the color. But the sentiment is very similar.

When I saw this thing, it really bothered the heck out of me.

I got a look on my face, that surely conveyed how unthrilled I was by it. I heard Storm comment to a friend, “Some people just aren’t gonna like it. Too bad for them.”

I didn’t confront them directly. I did stew about it.

Hence, this blog post.

I have this daily practice. Each day, I spend some amount of time in meditation and contemplation about some aspect of my life, human consciousness, emotional intelligence, and our relationship to one another. I study, for lack of a better term, being. This is something I’ve done for about 17 years or so now. Sometimes, I will ponder the same thing for many days, weeks, months, even years. (Compassion was one of my longest ones - I spent a good 18 months on it, several years ago.)

Lately, hate has been on my mind. What is it? Why do people do it? What can and should I do about other people’s hate?

I’ve been working on this latest contemplation for several days now. A few things have jumped out at me.

  1. That shirt, and the sort of attitude it espouses is inherently paradoxical. “Hey,” it says, “pay attention to me not paying attention to you!” The very thing it protests, it also demands. Ridiculous.

  2. For a long time now, I’ve held the belief that negative action is both more expensive and less useful than positive action. It’s human and natural to get angry. But to go out of one’s way to be negative costs a lot of energy. And it doesn’t really yield worthwhile results. Whereas positive action is the very opposite.

    I’ll use an example from my own life. I used to have this very negative boss at an old job of mine. He was horrible. Racist, judgmental, snarky and dishonest. I tried over the course of a year or so, to point out to him what an insensitive jerk he was, and to get him to do better. Eventually, I realized it was fruitless. So I found myself a new job, and quit. That was more than a decade ago. My career has blossomed since then. He’s a distant memory.

  3. I think hatred is a manifestation of a form of discomfort, or perhaps fear. “I don’t like this thing that is happening, so I’m going to react to it in this way.” It’s reactionary.

  4. Whether they realize it or not, hateful people serve a purpose that they themselves cannot avoid. They’re instructive. Every time I hear Storm open their mouth to say some terrible thing, it furthers my own resolve to be as little like them as possible. Not just that I want to be kind and compassionate, but also that I strive to be self-aware, self improving, and not blind to the ways I might harm others through my own actions and beliefs.

There’s a taoist precept, wu-wei, the “action of inaction.” It’s not passivity. Rather, it’s a form of detachment. Do that which is necessary, and only that.

There’s a particular verse from the Tao te Ching, #2, that describes this very well. (Stephen Mitchell translation)

When people see some things as beautiful,

other things become ugly.

When people see some things as good,

other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.

Difficult and easy support each other.

Long and short define each other.

High and low depend on each other.

Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master

acts without doing anything

and teaches without saying anything.

Things arise and she lets them come;

things disappear and she lets them go.

She has but doesn't possess,

acts but doesn't expect.

When her work is done, she forgets it.

That is why it lasts forever.

Kindness and hatred also define each other. So, Storm’s attitudes, and actions have furthered my resolve in some very important ways. More than ever, I’m committed to my default position of being kind to others. More than ever, I look for opportunities to help other people. In my voting, politics, charitable giving, I’m committed to pass laws to minimize the ability of hateful people to harm others, and to help out the little guy when and where I can.

On a personal level, I can see that, as has been my previous course, I’m steering clear of Storm. If the occasion arises for me to compassionately tell them why, I will. But I’m going to do my best to not fret about it, because it’s not necessary.

Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesDaily Think

So, still doing this blogging thing.

It's been 926 days now that I've been doing it, 2 years, 6 months, and 12 days.  Over this time, a lot has changed, in my life, and in even how I blog.  I've:

  • Blogged every day
  • Changed where I live (twice)
  • Blogged only when I felt like it
  • Changed my day job (twice)
  • Numbered every entry meticulously
  • Gained friendships
  • Stopped numbering altogether
  • Lost friendships
  • Skipped over days at my leisure.
  • Regained friendships
  • Caught up in waves.
  • Experienced death and loss
  • Added special titles that get used as twitter hashtags.
  • Starting dating new partners
  • Also linked to Google+
  • Deepened and strengthened my existing relationships
  • Stopped posting to Google+

Along the way, I've discovered a bunch of things.  WWFM, What Works For Me™ is a moving target.  It changes, just like I change.

One thing that I've had my eye on lately isn't just that I blog, but why.  I blog for me, as well as for you.

Yes, specifically you, the person reading this.

I'm a strong believer that we're all each other's student, and all each other's teacher, too.  It's not that I have special insight or answers to give anyone.  I don't think it even works like that.  Rather, as I'm going about my daily practices of mindful living, study, meditation, and contemplation and stumble over my own questions, I think that maybe, possibly, there's value in sharing that stuff with those who want to hear about it.

And if you're reading this, then that's you, my friend.

"All right, fine," you say, "but what's up with the passive aggressive title on this post then?"

Well, it's kind of a pun.

That character over there, that's te, pronounced kind of like "duh", and it's the chinese word for "virtue."  

Not virtue like pulling drowning kittens out of a freezing river by hand, on an arctic ice floe somewhere.  (Which begs the questions how the kittens got there, what you're doing there, and why not just look for kittens in a no-kill shelter, like a sensible person.)

Rather the virtue I'm talking about is more like the virtues of getting a good night's sleep, or regularly masturbating (especially in front of someone you love.)

There's te in a lot of things.  One of the biggest things there's virtue in is letting go of judgement, and just well, living.

There's a verse of the Tao te Ching that speaks to this handily.

2.

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't possess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

Now before I even get into this, and why it's on my mind, I can already hear a potential objection.  "Wait a sec, Mako.  If you're no guru, have no special insight, why the heck are you teaching me a thing? Or telling me how to go about doing this living thing properly?"  

I'm not.  I don't have answers for you.  I'm just sharing my own exploration of questions I stumble across.  If you do what I do, and it works for you, that's lovely.  If you don't do what I do, that's lovely, too.  If you shut down the browser, throw away your bookmark for my page, and go out for pizza with anchovies on it, that's just fine with me too.  (Even though anchovies are revolting.)  

I'm just sharing.  You're free to not partake.  It's all good.

Having said that, this verse has been on my mind for days, weeks even, because of something I've been hearing going around, something I've even bought into and participated in myself, sometimes.

It's that whole "2016 sucks, and is out to get people, look at who it has killed now" thing.

I'm actively working hard to not do it anymore.  Never mind that 2016 is now over, because actually, there is no over.  This is where the shutting up part comes in.

The truth is, the fact that it's January 1st, 2017 is, at best, sort of an illusion.  The only place is here, the only time is now.  We live in the eternal present.  There's never any time you're not here, and it's not now.  Go on, name one for me.  I'll wait.

Actually, I won't.  Because you can't.  Every second of every minute of every day you're alive, you're in motion, towards (yay?) your eventual death.

Stuff happens.  People are born.  They die.  We celebrate.  We grieve.  We laugh.  We cry.

Over and over.  

Until we don't.

The thing in this particular entry from the Tao te Ching that really stuck with me is this part:

Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.

All sorts of things arise.  David Bowie dies.  Trump gets elected president.  Malaria gets utterly eradicated in Sri Lanka.  US unemployment hits 4.6 percent, the lowest it's been in nine years.  I lose a very important friendship.  I regain and even strengthen that friendship.

What I see is this - pointing to some external thing, time, entity and bemoaning the tragedy is a toxic form of expectation.  By the same token, getting upset that other people do this is similarly, a toxic form of expectation.

People are people.  We're gonna do what we're gonna do.  Me, I'm not interested in being less mindful, and lamenting that things or people should be other than what they are.  

And the truth is, death's still coming for me, you, and everyone else.  Shitty things and good things are on the rise for each of us, because everything is always moving anyhow.

If you want to shake your fist at the heavens over that, you certainly don't need anyone's blessing to go right ahead.

But as for me, I'm doing my best not to do that.

When?  Right now.

Posted
AuthorMako Allen

This has been rather a sloppy sort of year for my blog. I started off not numbering, got spotty about posting daily, went back to numbering, still remained spotty.  

But I'm still here, and still blogging.  

There's a saying (usually misquoted as being said by Aristotle), that "We are what we repeatedly do."

I agree.  

I think part of that repetitive process is mindfully stepping back from it and adjusting it, the same way you aim a spray of water from a hose, or shoot a water gun.  

I go through something similar in my day job as a programmer. Try a thing, see if it works, adjust, try again.  Sometimes I will get something working, see an entirely better way to do it, and rebuild it. There's even a term for it, refactoring. 

I think adopting the practice of mindful refactoring has been, and continues to be a success strategy in my life.

  • Try something.
  • See how it works.
  • Throw it out if it's not working for me.
  • Keep going with it if I am happy with the results. 

Wash, rinse, repeat. Repeat until dead. You get the idea. This strategy is everywhere  in my life. I use it at work, at home, in relationships, my health, my finances.  

It's even inherent in my spirituality or philosophy. One of my favorite Lao-tzu quotes is "A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent upon their arrival." 

I do, ultimately, have a final destination. We all do. But how I get there, what road I travel, and what I do to enjoy the trip, that's what matters.  

Rascal, entertainer, and personal hero Alan Watts. His laughter sounds like music to me.  

Rascal, entertainer, and personal hero Alan Watts. His laughter sounds like music to me.  

It's no secret how much I love the written and spoken work of Alan Watts. Watts was a priest who studied eastern spirituality and philosophy and became a sort of "spiritual entertainer."  

Watts made it very clear he was no guru, he did not have all the answers for you.  Rather, he had a different way of seeing what it meant to be alive, a way you too might try to see.  The ideas he talked about were a mix of Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and a distinctly modern sensibility.

His ideas, combined with the work of some others (Pema Chodron, Brené Brown, Dan Millman, Wayne Dyer, and Viktor Frankl) have changed and informed my whole life. 

My friend Manuel sent me a link to a 3,800 word article by Tim Lott about Watts, his life, and his work, Off-Beat Zen.  

I'm very grateful for it. It taught me some things about Watts that I didn't know, and expresses in a marvelously pithy way some of the very complex, powerful, transformative ideas I learned from his work and which are a part of my daily practice. 

Years ago, several of my partners and I taught a class about kink and polyamory, for a kink group in Roanoke, Virginia. 

One of the cooler things we did was a sort of visual food metaphor I call Poly Spaghetti.

image.jpg

Here's how you do it.  

You get a bunch of people from the audience to hold different colors of rope, one at each end.  So you might have, say, Fred hold Rita's orange rope, because he's her daddy.  She on the other hand, is holding both that orange rope, as well as a blue one, linking her with Nancy, who is her slave.  Nancy in turn has Rita's blue rope, and a green one linking her to Norbert, her lover, and another going to Dave, her baby.  Dave is considering sharing a rope with Fred.   

Sounds awfully confusing right?   Let me help by asking some important questions:

Let's say that Nancy, from the example above, has a terrible day at work, takes a sick day, and has to then go into work over the weekend to finish a project, meaning she has to skip dinner with Fred and Rita, can't meet Norbert for coffee, and is going to need Dave to change his own diaper when he wakes up Saturday morning. 

Who is affected by Nancy's actions?  Who is she accountable to? 

The answers are:

Everyone Nancy has emotional ties to, or plans with are affected by her actions and choices. 

She's ultimately accountable to (and responsible for) herself. 

Power exchange, dominance and submission, and kink can make these waters seem awfully muddy sometimes.  But in the end, good healthy relationships start with good emotional health and well-being for oneself. 

Which is why this morning, many years later, I have an addendum to the poly spaghetti.   

I am the sauce of my own happiness.   

I'll throw myself under the bus for my own poly example.  I'm down at my partner Maya's house.  She's very not a morning person.  Neither is my wife, Missy.  I made the very sensible choice of not in-person or remotely-via-technology trying to wake them up.  What I did do was greet my partner Squee over Skype (who also wasn't up yet, but she actually wants me to do this), catch up my blog, and hang out with the lovely folks over in the Big Little Podcast slack.   

Later, when Squee was up, we connected and affectionately noodled with one another, and it felt great.  I feel wonderfully content, and emotionally self-regulated.   

Man, this is some good sauce. 

 

Posted
AuthorMako Allen