Hi Ho and heLLO! To all yet again. If my editor will allow it, I’m taking today’s “Look” off of fashion and towards the human experience once more. Those looking for a garment-oriented put on, tune in next week; those considering the ever-changing and oft challenging circumstances of living—and being fashionable while doing it—let’s go.
Love and kindness are at the core of today’s query. Specifically, when and how do we engage in them, in our everyday relationships?
Here are my thoughts: Building off my article, “Look Within,” from a few weeks ago, in which I quote Nietzsche to the tune of suffering being our best teacher, it seems fair to admit that life is a series of hard knocks. And I couldn’t agree more than I do—though life is suffering, it would be nice to have some ease sometimes, sheesh!
Shifting locality and looking at an Eastern relationship to suffering, Buddha talks about metta— Sanskrit, Maitri—which in English translates roughly to “loving kindness,” or the feeling of benevolent affection. Similar to Rumi’s “meeting each moment with friendly curiosity,” this state alchemicalizes the experience of suffering into something not quite so painful. It’s the whole “life is difficult, suffering is optional” concept, which, without denouncing the Nietzschian value of growing through tough times, leans less on brittle acceptance and more on engaged resilience.
To wit, there is an invitation to meet bad things with a good nature. This is to practice metta in the face of an angry partner, a negligent parent, a racist neighbor, and to witness an outcome that ultimately serves us and them better than meeting them at their level of anger, hurt, bigotry or any other pain-afflicting circumstance. Instead of rejecting, we love; we are kind.
The question is—how deeply do we take this? I have had people mockingly refer to my efforts to lead with love as “the martyr act” or the “Mother Teresa act” or “spiritual bypassing,” and further, I think of the bruises on my own heart. Are we really better off smiling at our assailants, offering them patience and second chances? Does this do us or them any good? And what about when we are the ones on the stand?
I have always been an active student in the school of loving kindness, yet I both constantly fall short and, when my heart is bruised and battered, begin to wonder, am I misunderstanding something?
I am earnestly curious, readers, as to your thoughts. How kind, how loving, ought we to be?
As ever, love always and to the best of my abilities,
JaneJane Vick is an artist and writer. View her work and contact her at janevick.com.