It always seems like there’s something to complain about. Today, it’s the weather. A rainy day which is providing fresh water to our ground sources for drinking, to the crops and gardens that will nourish us through the winter, and the living systems that generate oxygen from our carbon emissions. So is the rain really something to complain about?
I have been circling around the desire to stop engaging in complaint wherever possible. The trouble is, it seems to be something that our culture does so well. We seem to love to retell the ‘terrible’ things that have happened to us. But this serves little purpose beyond calling the same energy back toward ourselves. Conversely, I often don’t want to share too many positive stories either, for fear of coming off boastful.
So with either extreme as something I don’t want to engage in, I find it difficult at times to relate to others. Much of our relational time is spent complaining or giving each other advice. These are two things which are not part of my landscape anymore. I have made a strong distinction between advice giving an empathizing. People don’t want me to find a solution to their problem. Anything I could offer they’ve likely thought of already anyway! That having been said, I do offer advice when it is solicited. There is something to be said for ‘venting’ – being heard when we’re in the midst of turmoil, but that’s a search for empathy. So why do we need to wallow in the empathy? Perhaps because we were deprived of it as children in a culture and educational system that pushes you to ‘suck it up and get on with life.’ We are culturally depriving our younger generations the ability to sit with their feelings and learn how to move through their temporary appearances.
It’s so easy to get caught up in drama. Our own, and other people’s. People love to talk about other people. I’m not sure I understand this phenomenon. Perhaps in an effort to understand the ‘other’ we re-frame who they are through our own lens and use this to relate to others at the someone’s expense. One thing I do know is that this type of communication does not create a climate of community. What I want most when I’m going through something difficult is empathy. Not a fix, but just someone to really hear what I’m saying, and try to understand my perspective. No solutions necessary. When I feel I am being understood, it is so easy for me to let the dramatic parts of an event fall away.
So if I don’t want to talk about current events (because I choose to disengage from most of it), or complain about the weather (or any other object of disdain for that matter), or commiserate over what someone else should or shouldn’t be doing, or engagement in consumerism, then what do I have left to talk to people about?
What about sharing joys, gratitude and dreams. If human energy was directed toward that which we value, love and desire the world could be a much different place. Much of our collective consciousness is directed toward getting stuff or complaining about things we do not like. But the conversations I want to have with people aren’t always available. There are so many things I want to talk about in life, but certain relationships don’t afford the opportunities for them. I want to continue to engage with our current world, and not completely hermit myself from culture at large. But I also want to protect my own energy stores, choosing carefully where to engage. Not everyone understands my perspective. It is here that I remind myself that I love to listen to other people. I love to hear their stories. And that I am always able to choose silence. Listen with presence but without engagement. Empathize without commiserating. Perhaps if we treated each other a bit more like books, we could learn a whole lot more in a lifetime…