Monday, September 30, 2013

another homework assignment- human nature

I spent four summers, plus a little here and there, canvassing in northern Maine.  I spoke with literally hundreds of people.  I have been close friends with a woman who was ritualistically abused, with the purpose of splintering her into hundreds of personalities.  I was raised by one woman who fought against the abuse she had been handed by closing herself off to love and hope and honesty.  The other woman who raised me was nothing but a shell, broken and dissolved into countless cups of vodka and diet soda, who never fully developed an ability to stand up for what she believed or say what she thought.  I have little or no contact with half of my very tiny family.  When I let my internal tapes of self deprecation and fear run my life, I found dozens of people willing and able to take advantage of that state in any number of ways.

I also spent several months working with kids who were abandoned, abused, neglected, and messed up in more ways than you can count.  One of them spent an evening trying to beat me with a broom stick, one of them ran from class so often that when I wasn't there to stop him one day, he ran into the street and was hit by a (slow moving, thank goodness) car.  One had bipolar disorder and his mother used to take his medication now and then.  One day when she did, I watched him fly across a series of desks to beat the hell out of another kid joking around and pushing his buttons.  On a day when he had his meds at school and he was sick and stuffed up, I saw he had a mildly infected cut on his hand.  I got a cup of warm water and hydrogen peroxide, sat beside him, put my arm around his shoulder, placed his cut finger in the water and had him rest his 7 year old head on my side.  He looked at me with deep brown/black eyes and asked if I had any kids.  I said "Just you" and I felt him melt into me.

Human nature is to need.  And to survive.  There is anger and hatred and selfishness, more so when we were deprived in one way or another.  When we are hurt, we strike back.  When we are abandoned, we close ourselves off and walk away from everyone reaching.  Human nature is to fear; we fear being seen, misunderstood, sometimes being understood and known.  We fear others and their ability to not like us.  We fear our desire to be liked.  Or we fear that others will see that we are afraid.

I think there is too much in our heads that is hard to describe and explain.  Every single one of us has access to infinite perfection and deep selfishness bordering on and, perhaps even stepping into, evil.  I have no idea what makes some of us go in various directions.  I realized a long time ago that I didn't believe in a regular path of fate.  Instead, I believed in fate as a series of branching paths.  We are constantly given options.  We choose much of where we go.  But each branch or path is a certain length and when we make one choice, we must follow that path until we find ourselves at another crossroads.  And again we choose, and again we walk for some predetermined amount of time and distance.  We choose and are corralled, each in it's own turn.

I feel the honesty of the quote by Ovid "I see the right, and I approve it too, condemn the wrong, and yet the wrong pursue."  I have done this over and over.  

I also think that we are all doing the best we can with the hand we are dealt.  That means our minds, our hearts, and our experiences.  I wonder if we have more interactions and experiences with different people, if we are more open to honesty, if not to good.

And of course, I see the impact of death and retrospection when we are the ones left behind.  People, sweet people, tell me they believe things happen for a reason.  I just don't see that. I see, like I said many entries back, that we are here for no real reason that we can truly grasp.  And so we are, in effect, here for the same reason as the trees, the grass, the ants, and buzzards and spiders and dolphins.  We are here because we are here.  And since we are here, and here tends to be so damned hard, the only thing that matters is how to ease the journeys of our fellow travelers.  We need to walk lightly holding many hands.  Because perhaps what we all fear most, is being unloved and alone. 

My problem with my understanding of human nature is that I just don't understand why people are mean.  I don't understand why people judge.  I don't understand why people are dishonest about so much.  I know it is simplistic.  I know we can't all get along and be friends.  Human nature involves misunderstanding and hurt and sadness and lashing out and reaching out and...too many things to write down.  It is tiring, and I think in circles when I think of this.  Because I know I am just as guilty.  I know I have made choices that have hurt, that are selfish and stupid.  It is the quote by Ovid again...

So what do I add to my credo?  Love?  Confusion?  Ineptitude?  Short sightedness?  Simple compassion?  Fear?

We forget what water is all the time, because life is routine.  We forget life is a gift filled with opportunities to connect and nourish and support and love.  And instead it becomes a series of meaningless steps from one moment to another.  And an exercise in judging those who make us step in other directions, in paths we were trying to conquer.  And then it becomes misguided attempts at closing ourselves off from everything that could be good.