The Eyes Have It

Grandma Margaret 001 (2)

There are many philosophies, faiths, and religions that purport to explain the human condition and offer a path to salvations of various sorts. None are entirely accurate. Part of the human condition is that we are destined to understand in part, not in whole. Dr. Bossypants is frustrated by this, but she bravely soldiers on. She would rather have all the answers, and she would very much like them to be correct. However, she manages to meekly accept these limits most days.

Another part of the human condition is for “true believers” to deny the incompleteness of their understanding and jump into a given system with both feet and every available neuron. Dr. Bossypants is horrified and frightened by this. The absolute rigidity of fundamentalism provides a shelter from uncomfortable truths, an excuse for ignorance, and failure to change or repent of actions that cause great harm.

Once, decades ago, when Dr. Bossypants was experiencing anxiety about public speaking, a colleague named Diana shared a strategy for overcoming this fear. Diana said that before she began speaking, she looked out over the crowd and put love in her eyes. Yes. Love. Adoration. Unconditional acceptance. Compassion for every single person wiggling in their folding chair, waiting for the speaker to entertain or enlighten.

Dr. Bossypants was a bit skeptical, but she tried it. It worked. The anxiety abated as Dr. Bossypants tapped into that part of the brain that produces endorphins of love. The muscles around the eyes soften. The lips relax and turn slightly upward. The eyes themselves moisten a bit and draw energy from deep within the brain—the right supramarginal gyrus, to be exact. Empathy replaces self-consciousness. When we will ourselves to emit compassion through our eyes (and face), we change our center of mental gravity. We can get past our isolating and destructive fears and join a larger community.

The astute reader has already made the connection here. The world is filled with people who do not put love in their eyes before speaking. They may be less anxious and more cocky–clinging to the idea that they know the whole truth—but Dr. Bossypants hastens to point out, again, that no human being knows the whole truth. Way down deep, we all realize this and are all a little afraid. We just cover it up different ways. People of all faiths and no faiths, listen. It is time to humble-up. It’s dangerous to believe you have the whole story because this leads you to do things that violate the most basic necessities for human functioning and survival:

  • Compassion (love for the enemy, love for the neighbor, love of our home—the earth)
  • Hope (for the future, for the now, for a better way)
  • Generosity (what goes around does, indeed, come around)
  • Honesty (lying never leads to a better community)

Love is not involuntary. Humility is not involuntary. Salvation has many definitions, and survival is not assured. So what’s a body to do?

Well. Like Diana said, put love in those eyes of yours. Let the muscles in your face surround and enhance your loving eyes. Be brave. Be forgiving. Be honest. Do this as if your life depended on it because as they say, the life you save may be your own.

 

 

 

 

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Hatred

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Hatred. According to Dr. Bossypants, this is a human experience everyone has. You can ban the word from your vocabulary but you can’t ban hatred from your emotional life. You feel revulsion toward certain foods, people, art, ideas, legislators, and even words. You loathe them. You revile them. You wish for their existential end. In a moment of unguarded, disinhibited rage, some humans try to obliterate whatever they hate. If you manage to amass enough wealth or power, annihilating things or people you hate can become sport, mission, or obsession.

And just as you’ve experienced hatred of externals, you’ve experienced hatred of internals. There are aspects of yourself that you hate. We want and need to be lovable. Our judgments of ourselves can be so harsh, they sometimes go underground and become unconscious. They’re so toxic we have to redirect the judgments outward and hate anything that reminds us of our failings and shame.

You’ve hated. You’ve been hated. It is part of being human. It will not go away. Thus, Dr. Bossypants is convinced that the question is not how to eradicate, but rather, how to accept and manage our human hatefulness. Here are some steps she believes will be helpful:

  • Stop ranting and listen to your hatred.

What does it tell you about your fears?

What does it tell you about your failings?

What does it tell you about your callings and gifts?

Is it a warning? A source of energy? A source in internal challenge? Can you grow because you welcome and understand your hatred?

  • Put your hatred in perspective.

You are a rational being. You KNOW that which you hate has value.

Do not force yourself to not hate. Instead, make room for alternatives alongside the hate.

  • Do not feed your hatred and starve the rest of yourself. Hatred is insatiable.

Whatever gets your attention grows. There are higher satisfactions and lower satisfaction in human evolution. The satisfaction of hating is fleeting and will never be enough.

  • Be civil.

In a civil society, hatred is best expressed by elevating the opposite of what you hate. In today’s climate of rampant incivility, this may seem quaint. It’s not.

Find gentle ways to express your limits, disappointments, aversions, and disgusts, and then move on to notice and support that which is good.

Stand firm. Compassion isn’t weak or easy. You will have to practice.

  • Accept your whole self.

Sit quietly with your hatred, fears, and sadnesses. Know them well.

If you are not aware of hating some parts of yourself, you are dangerous. This is anaerobic hatred—corrosive, explosive, and blinding. Open up. Dig.

Remember you are only responsible for a miniscule portion of the way things are.

In summary, Dr. Bossypants says this: Forgive yourself, understand your hatreds, face your fears, welcome the dark reminders that sadness brings, and get on with being. And by the way, dear ones, you will need to repeat these steps.