Compassion, the Difficult Emotion

compassionAlamyI grew up being ostracized everywhere I went. I was picked on and bullied for being different from the norm, often cast aside like a used dish rag. Not only did this happen in the home but also in the schools and street. There’s no way, I thought, I was meant to live a strong, healthy life. Not only did I think I was going to die early but, at times, I thought about bringing it on just to get it out of the way. How did I make it to 18? 21? 30? At 30 I really, really tried to take myself out of this world. Drugs and alcohol had taken its inevitable toll and I thought it was time to say sayonara. Well, for my troubles I received 2 full months in a psych hospital. I did write a collection of fairy tales while I healed so I guess it was a bit of a productive stay. The torture didn’t end, though. As long as I worked at a job I despised, just to pay the rent, my only panacea remained drugs and alcohol. How was someone like me supposed to learn compassion? Why should I have compassion when, as far as I was concerned, I was born to die or live a miserable life?

I look around now and see that conditions in life are no different than in Mahavir’s time. People were deceitful and backstabbing then as they are now. The rich oppressed the poor. Lands were conquered by violent raiders as they are now. Mankind’s atrocities to one another was way beyond comprehensible, yet there it was, signaling its presence like a flag flapping in the breeze just like it is now. But here I am, struggling to apply compassion for my fellow man. This is very hard to me; really, it seems impossible. I’m supposed to forgive you if you cut off someone’s head and throw those pictures on the internet? How am I supposed to forgive you if your government oppresses your people and cut off their tongues if they dare to speak up for themselves? I wonder where the limits of compassion ends and vengeance begins? I supposed I’m not supposed to harbor vengeful thoughts because they can eat me up from inside. I guess that’s what meditation is all about – having a closer examination of your own feelings and behavior. Right now I’m struggling with compassion and know I’m just a work in progress. Since, like they say, practice makes perfect, all I can do is practice small acts of compassion here and there and, in the end, hope that matters.

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Information Overload

data_overloadOne of the curses, if you will, of autism is information, or sensory, overload. That’s when bright lights make your eyes water, multiple sounds from various sources at a mall can give you a splitting headache, or idle chatter in a moving vehicle can make the autistic driver crash. If I step into the dining room downstairs, and it’s crowded, I’ll back away and haul ass as quickly as possible. This “thing” where my brain is constantly surveying the area or analyzing people in order to understand them can lead to information overload. I don’t talk to people so much as unravel them leaf by life like they were lettuce and I’m trying to reach the core. It’d be nice to switch that curiosity off but it’s impossible. No wonder a lot of folks with Asperger’s isolate themselves. The world can be overwhelming and is probably best avoided.

I’ve been sober for about a year and a month now. For 35 years I drank like a fish. Not only did drinking allow me to socialize and relax, it also “turned down” the world. With my senses dull I can face situations I’d normally have difficulty approaching if I was sober. The lights, sounds and smells of a nursing home or hospital can wreck havoc with someone prone to information overload. No wonder that, as soon as I left work, I made a beeline to the liquor store. I’d unscrew the cold, sweltering bottle and gulp down as much as I can. The liquid courage now coursing through me worked wonders. It’s the best invention ever. Of course, it led to other damaging things, so there was some bad mixed in with the good. These days I wear sunglasses when I leave this room. People question why I wear them all the time. I simply remove them and show them my reddened eyes. They understand right away. Yesterday this guy got pissed at me because I reached over and grabbed his bowl of food to read what was written along the side. I didn’t know it was his because it was about two feet away from the cup of soup he was consuming at the time. Sorry, pal. My bad. I can’t turn my curiosity off. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s how I try to make sense of the world. I can’t help it.

On Forgetfulness

swordIsn’t man’s ability to conveniently forget a necessary survival instinct? For instance, if you were continually assaulted by a certain race, you won’t forget, and chances are you’ll shun that race forever unless someone comes along to change your mind. And who knows? Maybe they’ll save your life one day. Or you “innocently” forget the miss’s birthday so you save yourself a small fortune on candies and roses. However, when that faux pas is brought to your attention, all manner of hail and brimstone will come raining down upon your errant head. One stiff crack upside your noggin, though, and you’ll probably never forget her birthday again. Even salmon, with the sinuous and arduous route they travelled their entire life, can remember to return to the field that first gave them life. How is it that human beings, so much more advanced than all lower life forms, can so easily forget the people that helped them out when they were down, when they were in need of inspiration? You can do your best to help someone out, befriend them, console them, comfort them, assist them financially or otherwise, but as soon as they meet someone new they abandon you like a dog in the street. Why is that? It’s happened to me so often that I now approach all potential relationships as being merely transitory. I’ll laugh with you today but tomorrow you’ll have me crying. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe one good helping of Robin is enough for anyone’s lifetime. I blame myself for putting people up on pedestals, though, for convincing myself that they’re good for their word and will do what they say and say what they mean. Of course I’m finding all of this to be false. It appears that people often make promises simply for how mellifluous it sounds to the ear while secretly crossing their fingers behind their backs. This tangent makes it hard to trust people, to care for them, to lay your soul bare to them when, in all reality, they’ll do is just stick it to you in your back and keep on twisting till all your nerves have been severed. Mankind. Love ’em or hate ’em, they bear scrutiny, for their forgetfulness is like a double-edge sword – it can serve to protect you or, if mishandled, easily pierce and slay you.

The First 10K Ahimsa Walk Was A Success

Robin at Ahimsa 10K Walk, Marymoor Park

Robin at Ahimsa 10K Walk, Marymoor Park

Us Jains, and friends of Jains and ahimsa (compassion), congregated at Marymoor Park in Redmond this morning for the first annual 10K Walk to raise awareness for non-violence and compassion. I’d say it was a success because about 100 people showed up. The beautiful weather was amenable to it, too. On a personal note, today was a spiritually successful day for me because, for the first time, the established Jains in the community called me a Jain. It feels good, like I graduated from a seminary school or something. I consider this a turning point in my life because I’ve been diligently studying the doctrines and tenets of the Jain Dharma, so spreading the word of compassion and non-violence should hopefully become second nature to me.