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Empathy

Thursday 7/23/20

Yesterday was not good. I should clarify that as it suggests that some days are okay right now, and no days are. Each day here, right now, is a day in hell, truly, and I am trying to write my way out of hell. I have been now for a long time. I'm getting better, I'm daily getting better, and that makes things worse. I can't sit back and do nothing, wait for fortune to smile upon me, because that is not going to happen. I'm not one of those people who is just selected to be put forward. That would and could never happen. I have to make it happen. The horrible irony being that the more I endeavor to do this, the worse everything becomes. I likened it to this Venus flytrap of death. Remain motionless, I am swallowed. Struggle to get out, I become more ensnared, more stuck, and remain in the process of being swallowed all the same. But yesterday was a "hang on" day. Today may end up worse. I don't know yet.


I know this person whose mother may be dying. We're not friends, and they've hurt me a lot over the years, but they've turned to me for help, and I've tried to help them. People tend to turn to me for help, when they need it, but there really won't be any other time, or any time when they turn with me. That's a key thing in life, someone turning with you, or turning to you--when you might need it, or just because. On account of your relationship. Fealty. Bonds. Empathy. What I don't say to this person, because you wouldn't, because it wouldn't help them, it would be cruel, is that when the matter is resolved, one way or other, they will return to their life. Their main life. They have a good life, an easy life, a life with no surprises, no hurdles, people who love them in a wife and children. They have that island. The island is ninety-five percent of their existence. This will hurt, there will be sadness, but the hurt and the sadness will be absorbed by time and the island. Life will go on. Right now, they are freaking out, coming apart, and they're not accustomed to anything going wrong. I've known death, tragic death, and the thing I know about death is you cannot compare it to what it's like to be daily brutalized. No matter what the loss is. It's just not the same as getting up and knowing bad thing after bad thing will befall you. Often with death, when one also has a life, has other people, has normal comforts, a normal living situation--you can't underestimate what living in a clean house does for you, having the car to go to the grocery store, basic things that people take for granted--there is a scab, then there is scar tissue. New skin is given the chance to grow. And even if the loss is such that new skin does not grow, the circumstances of life are such that new skin does not grow, bleeding does stop. Maybe you don't begin again. Maybe you don't resume again. Because you don't have that island in place. Or your island was taken from you. But what you will not have is something new--in fact, many things--each day that is horrific, brutalizing, another blow, another body shot, another knife wound, another rape.


Here it is a river of fresh blood, every day. Every day is trauma. I'm not sure anyone can begin to empathize with that at all, really. I've counted on this person--partially because I had no one else--in life and death situations, and they lied to me. They lied to me about being there, in even very small ways, again and again. And now, when the doctor does not call them exactly when they say they were going to, this person gets really upset. And I think they are beginning to have a small understanding of what it's like to need someone--or feel you need someone--to live up to their word, and then not do so. They text me things like "you are the only person I've ever known who does what they say they are going to do." They are texting me out of a measure of guilt right now, but it is neither the time nor place for that. The time for those conversations was in the past, years ago, when the relationship might have been repaired or given a way to move forward productively. Right now, both parties put all of that aside, and it's about the immediate events at hand, and hanging in, and getting through. Doing the right thing, and being brave. And this person, I am sure, will manage both. They have that in them.


I wonder if empathy can only emerge when someone goes through something, whereas I think you want to be a person who can empathize with others because you work to do just that in your mind, your thoughts, you try to make your thoughts and your feelings go where theirs have gone, where something in their life has taken them. I believe there is a difference between what you perceive as overlapping experience and empathy. The latter requires real effort, it's a decision you've made to expend legitimate energy to have a sense of what someone else feels. You have to work at transporting yourself, in a way. It's not just going to happen. It's a conscious decision of morality and love. It is active mental friendship. Even for strangers. And I just don't believe that many people in this world truly ever do that. I think we do it less than ever. And I think far more than the things we say are wrong with this world, which often are made up causes, and causes created and stoked for personal and financial gain, and attention, and a bastardized, sick version of self-justification and self-ascribed righteousness, we have real issues like this one, which truly account for how we are and what we are. It's not a rogue cop in Minnesota, it's not Donald Trump, it's not who is wearing a mask and who isn't, it's not what you are or are not doing with your privilege. It's this.


Anyway. It's time to get going. Sound the mantra. Drink your coffee. Create the art. And let's not give up today.