Here we go then: me and my laptop and my befuddled brain, typing out whatever occurs to me and hoping to goodness it makes some sense to someone. Because if there's anything I've learned this week/month/year, or rather re-learned, it's that I haven't got the answers. I really wish I did. Sometimes I probably act like I do. But I have to be honest - as much as I want to be of significance in this world and do something or things that are worthy and useful and giving, I frankly haven't got a clue how. All I know is that I see needs that I want to fulfil, and I along with the rest of humanity just have to do the best I can to do so. If I can be brave enough; if I can stop being selfish.
My title for this blog is sappy, I know, but there's a reason for that - it's the best summation of humanity and my approach to life that I can possibly come up with. I firmly believe that is exactly what we all are: people in need of love, and not just the romantic kind. I mean filial, brother-to-brother, sister-to-sister even when we are not family, even when we are separated by national or cultural boundaries. I mean parental, in the care and guidance given by a mother, a father, someone who fulfils that role and protects. I mean agape love, love at its ultimate, the love that is willing to sacrifice whatever it must for the best of others.
There are kinds of love in this world that are so often overlooked in pursuit of the emotional eros rush, or subdued for the simple fact that we've developed an awkwardness of expression that prevents us from engaging in anything that could cause us embarrassment. That compassion and care for our fellow-man is a kind of love that should be celebrated and freely expressed is buried under fear of offence, and the very real possibility of being made uncomfortable. Countless times I've kept my mouth firmly shut when I actually knew it was right to try and say something helpful, or check if someone was okay. Also numerous are the occasions on which a well-meaning word of encouragement from someone else has been rebuffed with the lie of 'I'm fine,' because I didn't know how to accept their kindness. The prospect of acknowledging need, and thereby weakness, has our hackles up.
As far as I see it, we've got a couple of problems, and the first is that we live in a society that doesn't tolerate what it perceives as weakness. This might seem contradictory, but please hear me out. Apart from being a child, is there any state of being that doesn't come in for ridicule and judgement from one significant party or another? Those who are less physically strong or able can be left out of sports and physical activities even in school; assumptions are made that they don't try hard enough, and those assumptions follow into adulthood. Those who struggle with academics, regardless of the teaching scenario, their personality type and best methods of learning etc, are labelled 'thick', 'stupid', 'a failure'. Those who carry extra weight, for whatever reason, are vilified for a lack of self control; assumptions are made that they are lazy. The young are dismissed for a lack of experience. The old are dismissed as out-of-date. Women are told they have equality with men but are discriminated against in work and society for having children, not having children, having a career as well, staying at home with kids, wearing certain clothes... Men are assumed to be bullish, brutish, unintelligent, incapable of doing more than one things at once, not a 'proper man' if they are short/unbearded/single/etc. We have labelled our differences as weaknesses, and frankly, there just is no safe ground - some sector of society will always be pulling down another. With this to contend with, is it any wonder we have learned to put up a front of 'I'm fine', and never admit we might be struggling and in need of help? Is it any wonder that we hesitate to offer help, in case we offend someone by implying that they can't cope? Is it any wonder that our best chance of securing love of any kind may seem to be altering the way we come across, our appearance or our personality?
The second problem is the barriers created by the categories we then file ourselves into in order to cope with this dog-eat-dog approach to life. I'm no psychologist and I have no provable theory on this, only my own observations to work with. I don't think it's necessarily a deliberate effort to distance ourselves from one another, just the organic response of many hurt people, or people trying to avoid hurt, that we distance ourselves from that which could hurt us. We want to be invulnerable; to show the haters that we've risen above their hate; to prove that nobody's opinion matters except our own. It's an understandable reaction, and sometimes a necessary one, but in the pursuit of strong individuality, is something of community lost? When I put myself where people can't hurt me, I also put myself where they can't love me, either. And when I detach from a filial perspective of humanity, I can detach from compassion, too.
The truth is that often I am so focused on my own life and on myself that I find it all too easy to overlook the needs of others, just like I ignore my own needs so that I don't have to open up and be vulnerable. I hate people knowing I can't handle something. I hate letting them see a weakness. But without acknowledging that weakness, after a while I can believe my own lie and start to act like I'm superior in some way, and this is what I find so dangerous, because to my mind a superiority complex breeds abuse of power. Gone is the understanding that we are all in this together, and in its place all sorts of uninformed judgements, finely nuanced and maybe never openly expressed, but influencing every action, and every choice not to act. When I let myself think I'm better, I lose my sense of place in humanity, and I fail to be of any use to anyone around me. I become a worse person. And I forget how to love.
I'm not saying all this because I'm trying to morally condemn society or individuals, or imply that my experience is the case for everyone. Like I said at the beginning, I really wish I had the answers but clearly I don't! I'm just hoping that my honest thoughts on this subject might be of interest to some people, and as always with anything I write, that it may spark some constructive discussion on the subject. Personally I don't think that mankind is capable of perfect expressions of love in and of itself; I believe we need some help, and that the best form of love is divinely modelled. Plenty of you will disagree with me on that, I'm sure, but that's what I see as truth. However, I also think that the potential for that perfect love lies within each one of us - the potential for thoughts and acts of respect, of genuine care, of compassion, of encouragement, and even of sacrifice. The acknowledgement of our shared humanity comes hand-in-hand with our responsibility to one another to attempt this love, even if we may fail. It is my sincere hope that I will learn to put this goal above that of my own comfort, realising that strength does not equal invulnerability, but the ability to overcome in spite of vulnerability.