Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Adventures in empathy

We've completed a full two weeks of this year already. Perhaps "completed" is not the correct word. Perhaps "pounded", "ground down into dust", "thrown a thick globule of black mist in every single direction, obscuring our view of a way forward, through the dark nights of the soul." Or maybe it's just me.

I mean, looking over the first two weeks of this year on a global scale, one walks away with the notion that the world is a fuck stew, a hot glob in a scalding pot slowly coming to a violent boil, the kind that explodes all over your stove range and sometimes the floor. I doubt this is different from other years; as a species, we always cook from the inside out. It just feels worse this year. I suppose because a bunch of shit happened right at the start, when we were all still hung over, painfully celebrating the notion that all the shit from last year was over, we'd been fed through the grinder but we came out the other end.

Two weeks is a blip to me but I think about the people directly ensnared by the still flailing tail of the monster that was last year and the Parisians who are now marching or wandering the streets full of anger and fear and uncertainty and how like an eternity two weeks must seem to them. I know how it feels to walk out into a city full of hollow eyed people, afraid of your own shadow, uncertain of what to think, feeling the earth has been thrown off its axis just enough to make the days seem physically nauseating. It happened here in NYC. People have more and faster ways to shout about it now, surely, but I get it. I get that it feels like you live in a haunted house, always waiting for the moment when someone or something jumps out at you. And when you feel that, the most empathetic, comforting you can hear (even if it doesn't feel like it at the time) is that it will pass. It really will.

Looking over the first two weeks of this year on a personal scale, things are decidedly less dire, but no less strange than other years of my life. Nothing terrible or outstanding has happened. I've worked a lot at my part time jobs out of sheer necessity and desperation. I went out dancing and didn't come home until 5 a.m. one Saturday. I've taken a civil service test wherein my Spanish speaking abilities were tested (because civil service is forever trying, and failing, to effectively quantify communication skills), felt cold more often than comfortable, been rejected (over the course of 2 weeks!) by five separate potential jobs, learned the literal meanings of heuristic and pusillanimous (kind of cannot wait to use these words in conversation) and done a lot of reading and writing. I've also done a lot of listening: to others, to library patrons, to coworkers, to my body, to my brain. I wanted to open my eyes and my ears this year and I wanted to pursue adventure and empathy and adventures in empathy. If things keep up at this pace, there will be no shortage of chances to do so.

I think the world is in a perpetual state of recovery mode. As such, we would do well to take the advice of many of the most effective recovery programs: one day at a time.

To tomorrow...

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