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Whatever happens tomorrow...

Whatever happens tomorrow, the world will continue. So I thought I'd put forth a few things to remember, both for myself and for anyone else who reads this:

  1. The world will either get better or become worse. And there's no a whole lot any one person can do about that. That doesn't mean I advocate giving up; I just mean, don't get too emotionally involved in any one particular outcome. Whether you think you've "won" or "lost", there will be ample opportunity to keep working for what you believe in.

  2. My values will continue to be informed by science, reason, and compassion. I hold these values because I truly believe that their pursuit is the best course for humanity to follow. I know that others disagree. That's fine, as long as we can all discuss things like adults.

  3. Only a very few of the many people you encounter and deal with in your life are capable of changing their minds about anything important. It's just human nature, folks. It doesn't mean they're evil, or selfish, or stupid, or ignorant. It means that they accepted a certain viewpoint as "truth" at a critical point in their lives. It's a process called imprinting, and we human beings will do or say almost anything to protect the "truth" of those imprints. Because we are biologically incapable of truly believing that we, ourselves, are wrong.

    This isn't to say that people don't change their minds. Many do, but it's not nearly as many as you may think. And it almost always involves trauma—an assault upon our imprinted truths that breaks them, because anything less can be rationalized away. This is why, when this re-imprinting happens, it's almost always extremely emotionally painful. And it's also why we tend to try to avoid it as much as possible.

  4. The people on the "other side" (whatever you believe that to be) are trying to make the world better, too. They just don't agree with you as to the ways in which that should best happen. They may or may not be entirely wrong-headed, but they are not evil. Don't treat them as if they are.

  5. Your heroes will fail you. It's inevitable. Try to not hold it against them. They're human, too. They'll fuck up. Give them a chance to make it right again. (But don't be a milquetoast about it. If they really make a mess of things, it might be time to find new heroes.)

  6. Anyone who doesn't think you deserve compassion doesn't deserve your emotional energy. Whether this is a political candidate that you believe doesn't speak for you, or an ostensible "friend" who is oblivious to the ways in which he insults your intelligence or integrity (or just doesn't think it's a big deal)*, or anyone who doesn't see you as a person but only as a nuisance/problem/obstacle—none of them are worth your anger. Anger doesn't solve problems, only creates them. Anger doesn't make you righteous, it makes you the bad guy. The first person in any situation to lash out in anger is usually the loser.

    I'm not saying don't feel anger! In many cases, it's not possible to choose otherwise. But don't let anger drive your actions. You will, in all likelihood, do more harm than good—no matter how "good" it might feel to do so.

  7. Anger is never the first emotion. I credit the World's Greatest Therapist™, Arne Liss, with this piece of wisdom. I'm sure he didn't invent it, but he's the source I first heard it from. What it means is, anger is always a reaction to another, primary, emotion: pain, fear, or shock. So the next time you get angry about something, think about what it is that you're afraid of, hurt by, or shocked by. And also remember that anyone who's angry with you is also feeling scared, hurt, or shocked—and it may have precisely nothing to do with you.**

So try to not get too worked up about things. Things will happen as they happen. Keep working for the things you want, and keep resisting the things you don't. If you're right, then you have little to worry about. And if you're wrong, it'll hurt like hell, but at least you'll learn something.

-------

*One of my own friends, who was also a hero of mine for a long time, doesn't seem to be able to understand that, whenever we get into a discussion or argument about certain subjects, he usually ends up saying really hurtful and nasty things—things which have, in the past, made me angry enough to escalate the conflict to unnecessarily vitriolic levels. I don't claim innocence here; I take full responsibility for my own actions in these fights, and many of those actions were wrong. But I've learned from those mistakes, and (perhaps more importantly) from his mistakes. He may no longer be my hero, but he isn't my enemy, either.

**The man whom I have occasionally referred to in this journal as "The Asshat" falls into this category. He's so frightened of something having to do with liberal politics that he lashes out in frothing fury at anyone and everyone who publicly agrees with liberal values. He's alienated many former friends, not just me, and . . . well, I feel really sorry for him. For someone to be so terrified that he pushes people away who have been friends and comrades for decades just makes me really, really sad.

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
neo_tanuki
Nov. 6th, 2012 12:00 am (UTC)
(Applause)

Well said! Well said!

I KNOW you and I are divergent on many issues, but you are one of the rare people I know I feel I can have a reasonable discussion of politics and issues with when we disagree and I will not get a stomachache afterwards. So good on you, then. :)

ebenbrooks
Nov. 6th, 2012 12:20 am (UTC)
Thank you. I feel similarly about you. I think one of the reasons for this is that, no matter how badly you might disagree with someone on an issue, you very rarely stoop to either angry name-calling or contemptuous dismissal. You may get really frustrated, but I don't remember the last time you said something like "such-and-such a politician is a big poo-poo head, and anyone who agrees with him is also a big poo-poo head."

Also, you're not afraid to tell me when I am doing such things and that I should knock it off. ;-)
neo_tanuki
Nov. 6th, 2012 12:29 am (UTC)
If I DID call people "poo-poo heads"...I'd doubtless get more hits on Facebook! Figurative AND Literal! Lol. :)

But you are one of the few (maybe the only!) person I know who people can bring up an opposing view to and YOU don't call them "poo poo heads." Well, unless they do it to you first, at least. I've followed a few threads that went a bit south with shouting. ;P But seriously, I am always MORE willing to listen to what you have to say (even if I don't always agree) because I see you as making a genuine effort to listen to other points of view.
ebenbrooks
Nov. 6th, 2012 12:46 am (UTC)
Well, thank you. I do my best. My best isn't always good enough, but I like to think that I keep improving.
niall_shapero
Nov. 6th, 2012 02:33 am (UTC)
RE Your Fourth Item
The people on the "other side" (whatever you believe that to be) are trying to make the world better, too. They just don't agree with you as to the ways in which that should best happen. They may or may not be entirely wrong-headed, but they are not evil. Don't treat them as if they are

Here, I am afraid that I must politely disagree; there is evil in the world, and their are evil people. Sometimes, compromise is just not possible. (Of course, sometimes, in my world view, wars are necessary, so take this into account when you try to wrap your head around my worldview.)
ebenbrooks
Nov. 6th, 2012 05:21 pm (UTC)
Re: RE Your Fourth Item
I'm not saying that there aren't evil individuals out there. I'm just saying that you can't label the entirety of the "other side" as evil.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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