Earlier tonight, I was on FB, and someone posted an article about a woman (a girl, really) who accidentally killed her baby by shaking him to death. The headline read, "Baby Killed for Interrupting Moms Facebook Time." Before I read the comments, I already knew that it was going to be a problem for me. This is the exact kind of headline that gives people the opportunity to make snide and hateful remarks based on assumptions about some poor girl they never met.

I don't want to delve too much into the details of it, but it was sort of the straw the broke the camels back.

It has always bothered me the way people tend to be critical and negative on FB. Making fun of a strangers outfit from a mobile while waiting in line at the bank. Complaining about other drivers while FBing at a red light (oh yes, they do). Name calling. "Us Against Them" Political opinions.

Even the people that I usually admire have started falling into this trap.

I know that the way things have been going lately, it's easy to lose faith. It's easy to feel like the world is coming to an end, and pretty soon, we're all going to be fighting each other for the last of the corn syrup and a few drops of gasoline (and it's going be their fault).

I understand it. I didn't become a black belt in karate for the fun of it.

The thing is, while it's easy to feel that way, and getting easier all the time, that doesn't help things.

There have been plenty of times when people have said something nasty or negative and my first instinct was to put THEM down. Say, "Hey, attitudes like that are the reason we have this problem in the first place!"

But, that's exactly what everyone else is doing, and it's not getting us anywhere.

Sarah Silverman made a great point in her video contribution to the "It Gets Better" project. She basically said that kids are literally bullying each other to death because behaviors they learned from adults.

I heard about a study on the radio today about how it's becoming a problem in elementary schools that kids with peanut allergies are being tormented by other kids. Kids are waving peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, etc. in the faces of the kids with allergies. They are taking something that is lethal to them, and threatening them with it.

Why such a lack of compassion?

Well, on one hand, it's self-perpetuating. Someone might hear that and think, "What a rotten little bastard." They might post that thought on FB, now hundreds of people get the message that this person thinks it's OK to call someone a name and then dismiss them.

Kids don't just learn from adults. Adults learn from adults, too. We get social cues from each other. Every time we conclude that someone else bad/wrong/stupid/ignorant, we're treating them like a non-human.

Humans, who are exceedingly complex, at the mercy of the universe, at the mercy of our own psychology, our DNA, and the sum of our experiences. We do things that don't make sense to each other because we are incredibly complex beings. So complex that most of us don't even understand ourselves, let alone someone else.

The thought process should never end with, "He's just a bad/stupid/ignorant/wrong person." It doesn't work.

We end up going in circles trying to make sense of someone being that way. It turns into self-torture, thinking that these people are out there and we can't escape them.

It never explores other possibilities. It never gives anyone the opportunity to think compassionately. It never gives us the opportunity to solve our problems.

I don't think that means we're obligated to dive in and start problem solving when we're reeling from some event that hurt us. I don't think that means we're not allowed to lash out ever, under any circumstances, either. Every once in awhile, we all need to have a good old-fashioned hissy fit.

We have emotions and we have to respect them. As a matter of fact, I think we're becoming less and less compassionate because we don't respect our emotions. We don't step back and give ourselves time to heal.

Anyway, if we try to think compassionately, we'll surely fail a lot, especially when considering old enemies and people who've hurt us in the past, but it's a start.

I'm not going to preach that we should be decent and kind to each other. If we think compassionately toward each other, then the kindness will be the natural result.

When there is no natural kindness inside of us, to me, that's a signal that we need to take time to heal. It's time to let go of whatever caused the pain and just focus on getting better.

Anyway, that's the self-perpetuating bit.

The next bit is about an article about a study I read awhile ago about how currently Americans have more mental illness than any other society. Not only that, but with all of our therapy, self-help books, drugs and wealth, we are the worst at recovery than any other society. This article went on to theorize (based on some other studies) that it came down to this Western idea that we are masters of our own fate.

This translates to us believing that when we feel bad, it is our own fault. It also translates to us we believing that when other people behave badly, it's their own fault.

From the start of any kind of problem, we're already starting to remove compassion from the equation.

In other cultures, where it's more commonly believed that suffering (or bad behavior) stems from a spiritual problem, blame is not placed on a person, but on the universe, god, gods, demons, or whatever. It's just accepted as part of life. Rather than treating the problem with drugs or therapy, the person is treated with compassion and spiritual support. Religious ritual in itself is calming, and it also brings attention to the problem without bringing blame into the equation.

I think I already wrote about this before, but the idea fascinates me, and it answers a question that I've had for a long time. I could never understand how it could be that people who live with more safety and luxury than any other society that's ever existed, in the past, could be so miserable. Have people always been miserable?

If war, hardship, abuse, poverty, death, etc. actually makes people miserable, then how is it that every single person who came before us didn't die of suicide?

Anyway, I want to write more about this, but I have to get to bed.

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Wednesday, Nov. 03, 2010 at 10:16 PM