Every now and then I tell people that I grossly bullied others in my youth, and they respond with disbelief or surprise. But it’s not as though this process of cultivating myself to be more sensitive to others have come easily. It took me perhaps 12 years of self-inspection to uproot much of the physical and verbal violence I inflicted upon others. And I’d say I’m currently cultivating my sense of emotional care.
The physical hurt I inflicted stopped in my last year of high school, despite my having taken taekwondo martial arts to hone my sense of self-discipline beginning in middle school. I used to beat my brother, and that messed him up emotionally. In hindsight that was a kind of hypocrisy I regret. But we’re doing good today, thankfully. He buys me food when I’m busy with work.
After a few years of college, verbal abuses slowly chipped away to become verbal “cuts”. In other words, it went from being “You need to lose weight you fat piece of shit,” at age 14 to “A little soft around the edges eh?” at age 25. I think now those verbal cutting has largely diminished, but I still have to be careful.
There were verbal cuts with regards to gender, i.e. “that’s so gay” or “you fight like a girl”; on origin and immigrant history “yeah but they’re fobs”; or class, “yo momma so broke”. It’s easy to fall back into habits and mindless remarking. I think maybe the reason I am perceived to be reserved and quiet is because anything I say has to be careful and deliberate. Sometimes it crosses over into conservatism. I remember Bao Phi asked me why it was so important to not curse and swear when I remarked about his slam poetry containing a lot of “vulgar words”. His inquiry prompted me to ask myself what was more important, politeness, or truth in one’s mind and soul being expressed? I chose the latter.
This current phase of my self cultivation is the art of emotional care. This is new and almost alien to me. My first girlfriend was at age 26, when I really tried to care for another person. The relationship didn’t meet her needs, but I learned quite a bit about being a partner in mind, body, and soul. It’s taken me some time to learn how to deal with her as an ex-girlfriend, i.e. not to be awkward, or dredging up the past, or hammering down the primal need for being possessive. It’s still hard, and for that reason I can see why moving on is easier than trying to subject yourself to torture/torment in trying to remain civil with your ex. But I remembered having to being very explicit in my thoughts and feelings; she wanted to know what I was going through. The exercise of assigning words to such fuzzy notions helped me to understand what were my natural reactions, and what were within my control. Unfortunately, I was still very green in picking up on her emotional signs, perhaps because I was so engrossed in my own introspection. I still remember failing at addressing her needs, such as when she got hungry after a major parade, or being supportive as she struggled through her campaigning for student council.
Around age 28, I remember an acquaintance of mine exploded when I unearthed her pageantry past and shared it with others, in a rather juvenile fashion, “Hey look guys, she used to be a beauty queen!” When she exploded, I reawoken to the fact that I was still causing harm to others, emotionally anyways. I wrote a poem about it, entitled DMZ:
over time the human heart becomes littered with landmines
playful children play in fields
one child frolics in the scarred earth
and a thunderous boom roars across the bosom of the valley
"don’t talk about that shit anymore!"
children learn to stop smiling
r e m a i n s . . .
It surprises me even now that I feel haunted by that incident, largely because I thought I was doing well in being thoughtful about others, but such beliefs were far from the truth. This memory humbles me to guard myself from the conceited notion that I am caring as I’d want to believe. I still have a long way to go.
As I’ve not mastered emotional care, sometimes I feel like withdrawing from all forms of social contact as to prevent harm to others by burying myself in work. But I suppose neglect is its own kind of harm. I’ve told myself that after I go through this currently greatest career sprint of my life (perhaps I’ll slow down next year), that I work on exercising my emotional faculties again; let it atrophy and I might become the very being I despise.
Would be easier if one had simply been born a saint.
Conficius @ Wikipedia
Imagine having two to three million cousins.
Having done computer programming for awhile, I’ve had to deal with very subtle meanings of nothing:
- 0 (zero) - Used when you know the quantity of something, for example, how much cash you brought to dinner when hanging out with friends.
- yes/no or true/false - When no simply means no, and there are no gray areas, like when someone responds to your “Would you like to go out?”
- N/A (not applicable) - When the question/query does not really make sense, like a friend who was born in international waters having to answer the question “What country were you born in?”
- null - When a quality/property of an object is known to not have an assigned value, or is in its neutral or default state, like having blank spaces on a form.
- unavailable - Something is preventing us from finding out the truth. Don’t confuse it for an actual value/condition, just come back later.
- unknown - You’re aware that you don’t know something, like asking if the NSA has tapped into your email/passwords.
- undefined - When you’ve never addressed the topic and don’t even know what condition it’s in… like being asked, “Which presidential candidate would you support in the next Icelandic elections?” (Unless you actually follow Iceland politics.)
- unmentioned - You don’t want to change the status quo of something, so don’t talk about it. If you talk about it, people will think you have an opinion of it or stating some truth about it. Just hush, and let whatever exists out there simply be. Shhhhh!
Sometimes I feel like a nihilist.