Friday, 9 October 2015


There is a feeling "out there" about our fellow humans. I hear it said......... "I hate people". I think they mean "I hate some people" but I'm never quite sure. Some people are really annoying. Some are positively AWFUL. But as I waffled on recently, nobody's perfect and nobody's all bad. It just takes more effort to deal with the complexity of people.

In fact, as a perfect example, while writing this, I told a friend what today's topic was (humans) and she said "such needy dramatic things". Which we are, sometimes. And that's really hard work.

I've said it many times, but once more won't hurt, I love people. All of them. I am a real sucker for humans. I am a humanist, a humanitarian, I am humane. This is why I'm a left-wing loony. Politics is just one way of dividing up human idea into little boxes, and I don't fit into any of them, but because I love my fellow man, I have been placed far left. Which is fine. I don't care what labels you put on me, they'll all fall off at some point when I say something out of line. Then you'll get mad, but I didn't put them there.

Can we briefly look at love and hate? I'm not sure I know how to hate. I know how to dislike and avoid, but I don't think that's the same thing. I may say I hate things (food flavours, certain types of music, or whatever) but that's just colloquial language. I have been blessed with never having a reason to hate.

Love is easy. It only requires tolerance. There are levels of it, obviously, I don't love total strangers as much as my own family, and many steps in between, but it's still there.

That doesn't mean I like everyone. Not even the people I love the most, some of the time. These are very different things.

I'm not huge on emotion, (range of a teaspoon). I don't get angry very often and when I do it's all over quickly. If it's even anger. I stay in control so maybe it isn't  But love is the one I prefer the most. That obviously colours everything I do.

What happens when you get a lack of other emotions, and a lot of love? Well, if you've met me, you know. You get the desire to understand other people. It can take over.

It manifests in many different ways, in my choice of friends, in my choice of reading materials, in my attitude, in my "autopilot" way of accepting people as who they are. It doesn't mean I'm always nice, because nice isn't always appropriate. In my world where tolerance reigns, I can still  be pretty shitty if you are not doing it. 

Saw this recently:

That's a good one. It looks at two sides to each of these. We could add more. It's all about intent really. But it's also about perspective because we may SEE timid when a person is just being humble, and so on. It's all so complicated.

When Tom, my Aspie, was around the age of 13, decided to use his intellect to overcome his difficulty with social cues, and started to study human behaviour as if we ("normies") were some sort of alien life form. The end result of this is that he now spends most of his spare time writing, and the main theme in everything he writes is human behaviour. He's a long way from published, but if he isn't a famous author before he dies I'd be very surprised, because he is so perceptive. He took what could be a disability and turned it into a method of interpretation.

We teach each other stuff. He helps me see the world very differently. There is no way I'd ever have figured some of this stuff out myself, I'm too balanced! And in return I have spent a lot of time helping him not to take things literally, which is a feature of Asperger's. I won't say he always gets it right, it's a struggle, but he knows it's important. He, more than the average non-thinking "normal" person, knows that thinking in terms of either/or is a mistake.

OK, so what makes us human? What makes us different to the animals? Are we better, ethically? No. Quite often we are worse. The simple, loyal love of a dog makes us all look like arseholes, actually. And it's no good saying that's just instinct, based on the need to be part of the pack. It's far more than that. Animals do both far better (altruistically) and far worse things than we do, and they all have their reasons. It's not our ethics that makes us human. It may be that we examine ethics, but that's because we examine everything.

We do this because we look ahead. We plan. We have expectations, wishes, hopes, dreams. We also have fears. We don't live in the moment. By the time we reach the age of just a few months we already think in the future (babies will show surprise if an expected event does not occur, I can cite the study if you are into this). It's true that animals plan ahead just enough for a hunt strategy, or salivate before the food is served. But they don't save up to go to college, or on vacation, or to retire. Their world is far more immediate.

Some of our plans are not realistic. Doesn't matter. The fact that we do it demonstrates a special type of thinking, including imagination.

We think in terms of what went before (and some things we "get over" better than others), what is happening now (we are actually very bad at this), and what will happen sooner or later. It's why we fear death so much, and consequently why we have religion. Animals don't. They have no need for it. Religion is about connection (religio = to re-attach) and however humans see their connection to whatever else, even if it's just one another, animals are already so deeply "in" that, they don't even think outside of it. Fish don't talk about water.

I won't trouble you with pantheistic philosophy any more than that, but this really is important stuff. So, I'll probably come back to it at some point, maybe next week.

In the meantime, because we are aware of this separation from one another, we have favourites, we tell lies, we cheat each other, and we try to impress each other.

Animals do those things too, obviously, but it's far more instinctive, which is not to say we think carefully about it......sadly. All too often we are very knee-jerk, which is why you get annoying people like me trying to make you think.

So, you have these lists really, stuff we do because we are animals, and there's nothing wrong with that. It includes sex and food and fighting. And stuff we do because we are "above" all of that. Nothing wrong here either. Unless it is wrong. Which is a matter of perception. And argument. That's something we are really good at. Arguing. When you see two animals having an argument the reason is usually pretty obvious. Territory. Jealous mate. My dinner, not your dinner. You tend not to see cats arguing over the ethical implications of hierarchy. They just beat the crap out of the runt.

I like that we rise above some things. I also like that we do animal stuff. I am not a "lady" in the bedroom. OK?

I even like that we sometimes do really stupid stuff. That too makes us human.

I don't like absolutes, and I don't like hate. So I don't like prejudice. You know that. I cannot abide it.

And yet I'm sometimes guilty of it, because we all are. Because we are complicated.

I'm actually, since we're discussing this, one of the least complicated people you'll ever meet. I'm not moody, I'm not secretive, I don't have any "issues from childhood", I am really rather boring. If you piss me off you'll know all about it, and I don't get mad, I get even. All things considered you know where you stand. But I'm also rather laid-back and see the humour in most things.

I am aware that not everyone is like that. Not even your fault. You are a bit messed up because of past experiences, and so long as I know about it (warn me, huh?) I can tolerate most quirks. Unless you are a real arsehole.

What I don't do well is forgiveness.

No secret. I warn people of that! I talk about this openly. I am extremely tolerant (to a fault sometimes). Very, very long fuse. Patient. Not easily annoyed. My dears I've raised 6 children. If you don't learn to let it all go whoosh over your head with a large family, you go stark raving mad. And I just take it as it comes. If you don't get all bent out of shape over every little thing, then there's no need for forgiveness. People think I'm very forgiving, and the opposite is true, simple because I don't get upset in the first place. Honestly. It's not always even tolerance, it's actual acceptance, which is a much better way, where possible.

On the few occasions where you go too far, and am annoyed, chances are I won't forgive. Ever. No, I don't suffer from "bearing a grudge". It is possible to just remove someone from your life, or where that's not possible, just decide they are in your bad books and leave them there, without any harm done to EITHER of you. If you don't know how to do this, try my Short Course in Mindfulness (in the old blogs list, I'll add a link here later).

Let's play with an analogy. Let's look at a garden. You have all sorts of things growing there, including weeds. A weed is an uninvited guest in your garden. Like some of the people in your life. They cause a minor issue but.....pff. Just don't take over the entire garden and we're cool. Then there are thistles. I even allow ONE of those to stay. Goldfinches like the seeds. But the rest? I dig them up and burn them. We all need one thistle. When I am in the garden I do not seethe about weeds. I do not gnash my teeth or wail. I have other things to do. I either remove them or ignore them. It's actually easy, with the right mindset. Honest.

Once in a blue moon I forgive.

The person must have actually changed deep inside. Not in all ways. That's not necessary. Some changes won't even win me over, if the inner person hasn't. Leopards spots and all that. But if I see that on the most important stuff, usually the stuff that was the reason I defined them as a weed in my garden in the first place, then I may find myself saying OK, we're cool again. 

No, an apology isn't required. And it may not even help. Until I see that real change has occurred, not a chance.

And so it was that I forgave Cat Stevens.


Sorry, woke you up. Yes, he of many names. Guy with the beard.

Once upon a time he was young, and made beautiful music. And he was hot too. He wrote songs that touched my soul, enabled by a voice that was so rich it had colours in it. And, due to several weird experiences and a personality quirk, he went in search of meaning and all that stuff, and after a few experiments he converted to Islam. At the time, I'll be honest, all I could think about, selfishly, was "NO MORE MUSIC". Yeah, selfish. Like most fans of any singer, musician, songwriter, actor, director, comedian, writer, whatever......I treated him as a commodity and I wanted MORE. So I was a bit cross about that. I remember feeling like he'd died really. The music stopped.

But that was nothing compared to this.

(If you aren't familiar with the entire issue it's covered quite well here:

How can you tolerate that? How can you accept that? I couldn't. I put him in the composter.

Even when, a few years later he grew up a bit (yes, I said that) and started performing again, I wasn't over it. I think at the time I called him a fucking hypocrite actually.

You know, we all grow up at different speeds. We all get "into" things. Then over time, well, time happens. Beliefs make people say silly things. Sometimes, over time, they soften up on some things.

Did he mean what he said then? Did he regret it afterwards, and just backpeddled? Who knows. What I know is that he's an old man now, and now, which is now, which is not then, he is obviously* a man of peace and love. And wisdom. Age doesn't bring wisdom, but life experience does. I'm old enough myself to know THAT.

And I've bought some of his new recordings, so I have. The composter obviously did him good, he has bloomed.

And as always, he taught me something.

People are complicated. They really are. We love them anyway, and now again we can even forgive them.

The hardest thing for any of us to tolerate/accept/forgive is repeat offences. Fool me once, etc. And in fact it's a good rule of thumb, that if a person hurts you in any way, multiple times, dig 'em up and get them on the burn pile. Feed 'em to the pigs. You don't need THAT in your garden.

But in the general course of events, with no real harm done, it's possible to overlook a person's peculiarities, repeated, even if they are annoying. Be they family or strangers.

I am pretty good with money. I'm not ultra frugal, but I don't spend money I don't have (except occasionally on eBay), and I prioritize. Life is for living, so I also spoil myself and I'm not afraid of impulse buys, but if I won the lottery I wouldn't be one of those "bankrupt a year later" statistics. I'd have lots more, and that's even after a shitload of charity.

People who suck with money bug me. Especially if they are indebted to me, LOL. Yet, because I love and pre-forgive I keep handing the money out. I know. I KNOW. It's only effing money. But even if it doesn't affect me, when I hear about people who are already borrowing money to pay off debts, going out and spending more on things they really don't need....not just pizza and beer....but utterly frivolous things, I say nothing and spit. I shouldn't. I shouldn't.

They just have a different attitude to life. It goes beyond micawberish too. And it's none of my damned business.

There's a favourite story in one of my beloved Victorian social history books, I think it may be in Mayhew actually. And I'm sharing from memory so this isn't word for word, just the gist of it, but some of you will be familiar with it. It's well-known. It's about a woman found dead in a doorway, from poverty/hunger/disease/cold, wearing a brand new ribbon in her hair.

This story is often used to make a point and not always a kind one. I've even heard it used to explain why the poor should never be given any kind of help, because they just waste money. But then I've heard it told as a touching example of how somebody can still buy from a street hawker when they could ill afford it, i.e. she knew that farthing wouldn't save her, but it helped somebody else out.

I think it tells us who we are. Even if it was bought out of sheer vanity, at that stage vanity becomes dignity. It is why doddery old ladies still wear lipstick. It's why we brush our hair for photos holding a newborn. It's why we wash, really.

And I think that's what makes us human. Rightly or wrongly, doesn't make any difference. We need that dignity to be our best, and when we are at our best we can do amazing things. Oh, it's easy to say we should do them anyway, and maybe we should, but just like systems work best (and people follow them more) if they are easy, we "rise above" more when we feel good.

If this all sounds like me trying to justify what I do for a living, well, I can't deny it is involved. But I do know that long before people wore clothes for warmth or "modesty", they wore beads and feathers because.....................because they were people. Or even Goblins.

* my perception, if it's not yours, write your own blog.

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