Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Loving everyone is a tall order

There are some people I just don't want to be around. Longwinded, pushy, loud people. People who put other people down. Bossy people who don't listen.

I grew up a Quaker. I always believed it was my job to see that of God in everyone. It's not only Quakers, it's a Christian idea to love everyone. But I'm not a Christian any more. Can I free myself of this pressure I put on myself to try to love every annoying person I meet?

Such a sentiment seems contrary to the post I wrote yesterday about the well-being that I wish for people and communities. On closer examination, maybe my antisocial impulses are not so contrary to my care for humans. Maybe I get upset with humans because they fail to live up to my ideals, and because I care so much about my ideals.

No, it's not that I'm upset with the other humans. What upsets me is my own inability to put my ideals into action.

I think people should be treated as flowers: people should be nurtured so that they can bloom. We each have our own way to bloom, and no one should try to make us in to a different type of flower than what we are. To do so violates the sacredness of the flower that is.

When I see someone being pushy and bossy, it is as if they are stepping on a flower. I want to stop them, but I don't know how. That is what upsets me, and that is why I hate being around humans.

The things is, I can't. I can't stop everyone in the world from trampling each other. As long as I have the feeling that I ought to, I'm going to feel frustrated. It does not mean I should stop trying to make things better. It just means that I have to recognize my scope.

Christianity tells us to work toward that world in which all are treated with love. Paganism tells us that the world is full of light and dark, good and evil, easy things and difficult things. Yes, we need to strive to fulfill our ideals, but we also have to live within the finite. Our bodies only have so much energy and health and patience. Same goes for every other person. Some who have been through a great deal of hurt may carry much bitterness. I am not a superhero. I cannot singlehandedly overcome all the world's hurts.

Does that mean I shouldn't even try? No, it is only when we take the view that we have to create that world full of love that it becomes hopeless. When we take the pagan, earthy view, we realize all we can do is do our best to make our little corner. When my house is a mess, I still can carve out a peaceful corner for an altar. When my life is full of stress, I can still carve out a peaceful corner of 15 minutes spent in meditation.

Where is my corner when it comes to the question of how do I want to dedicate my life to make a mark on the world? Some people dedicate themselves to teaching children. Some dedicate themselves to creating a community garden. Some dedicate themselves to making music that soothes the soul. What is it that I can offer? What is it that I want to create? I'm middle aged, and I still don't know what I want to do with my life. I don't know, but I have some hints. I know that I value sustainable living and am interested in supporting community gardens, organic gardening, and renewable energy, but that at the same time, these are really never going to be my areas of expertise. I know that I have something to offer in human interaction, that I can be supportive of others, a good listener, and a facilitator. I know that I want to be part of a community that shares my values, and to contribute to nurturing that community. At the same time, as an introvert, I find being around people all the time tiring. I know that I like writing, compiling information, and working with databases.

Maybe I do know what I want to do. I want to dedicate myself to serving a community that shares my values, and I want to serve that community through a combination of interpersonal interaction (listening, facilitating) and some sort of work with information. I think the reason I feel so lost these past many years is because I do not currently have a community to which I wish to devote myself. The communities in which I find myself do not share my values. At this point, the advice-giver would inform me that he has brilliantly discovered the secret that has eluded me: that I simply need to join a community which shares my values. The problem is, that's not nearly so easy as it sounds.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The kind of world I want to build

I've studied psychology, social work, and education. I studied these fields because I want to promote the positive development of people and communities. I studied these fields, and it seemed to me, sometimes they lost sight of these larger goals, and focused more on how to do things in a particular paradigm. For example, psychology focuses on alleviating depression and anxiety through psychotherapy. Social work focuses on addressing poverty and child abuse through government bureaucracy. Education focuses on increasing learning through the use of classrooms, lectures, and grades.

These are the issues I wish to address, but are there not other ways to address these issues? I don't want to compartmentalize learning to schools, happiness to psychotherapy, or economic well-being to government bureaucracy. I want to build communities in which all people are treated as valued community members who have something to contribute. I want people to treat each other with respect, kindness, and integrity. I want people to continually grow in wisdom, knowledge, and compassion.

My favorite colleges are Marlboro College and College of the Atlantic because I believe that they are trying to build this type of community. I admire Quakers because they make cherishing others a way of life. This is the kind of world I want to build. This is where I want to put my time, energy, and money.

A liberal with strong moral beliefs

In late December and early January, I quit several email lists. The main reason was because I didn't like all the contentiousness. But then, a month ago, I was once again pulled into to that debating on the internet. A conservative Christian was decrying the "liberal/secular" attitude, and moral relativism. This is what I said in response:

I do not "buy into a relative morality" nor is "the secular/liberal ideal throws up its hands and gives up" an accurate description of my beliefs. I have high ideals and strong moral beliefs. The Christianity that I was raised in was based on the principle of "that of God in everyone." I believe that to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or being polyamorous is immoral. You dismiss the article I posted as "irrelevant" and an "attempt to demonize." It may be irrelevant to you, but it is not irrelevant to me. Not everyone who condemns people based on the gender or number of partners puts a gun to someone's head, but to me, condemning people for the gender or number of their partners is immoral, and I am not a moral relativist, therefore, I voice my objection.