Tag Archives: empathy

81. Soldier (Empathy, Lent 22)

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My ideas of what constitutes a good military are probably laughable to most people. I would defend others but am a pacifist at heart. Of course, that’s a lot easier to say in an untested situation. Writing a blog isn’t usually too dangerous (though you might be surprised!). My heroes are of the peace movement and non-violent protest, so soldiering isn’t something I think of much apart from in the sense of spiritual warfare. So today I want to think of it from a different side.

It’s not really about Queen and country for me, though I do think our values are worth protecting. It’s really about freedom. That might sound odd, but I believe democracy, the right to do what you want to with your life, and say what you want to, and indeed fight for what you believe in, are precious things. I consider it a self-sacrificial role in some ways, and in others, a pragmatic one, as it was a career cut out for my particular skillsets.

Defending the realm and the interests of stability both here and abroad, countering terrorism, these things are noble aims. I don’t pretend that I’m happy about everything I’ve ever done on a tour of duty. But I believe it all balances out for the good, and some things are worth paying a price for. No-one can ever say I didn’t stick my life where my mouth was.

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

80. Earth Mother (Empathy, Lent 21)

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I have realised a painful thing about these posts. Whilst it’s true that I am trying to look at points of view that are difficult for me, with a few of them I think I might be choosing people I secretly want to take the rise out of. I think a little of that is coming out in the writing. Maybe that’s understandable up to a point, but real empathy wouldn’t do that. So, I need to watch myself. Interesting, isn’t it, that in compassion for others the person we need to be judging is our self?

We had Mother’s Day in the UK yesterday. It’s a tough day for lots of people, for a myriad of reasons. I won’t bore you with mine. But when I think about mothers, and what I don’t understand about some of them, it is that whole “my amazing experience of this is superior to anything you could possibly grasp” attitude. It’s fairly rare in that form, thank goodness, but I find it hard to stomach. So, here’s my (hopefully rise free) attempt to “borrow” that sight.

I feel like I’ve had this incredible experience that is right at the heart of the world’s meaning, and nobody talks about it. Giving birth was not just a physical thing for me, it felt like a spiritual release as well. It opened up something in my heart and mind and centre that I am struggling to quantify or articulate. It was so life-changing. So much joy and wonder and pain all at the same time. Like an epiphany. And it has made me different. And that’s why I talk about it so much. You know how some religious people go on and on about their conversion? It’s really like that. I can’t help myself. I feel like someone let me in on the deep secrets of the cosmos, and I try to tell people about it, and they mostly just roll their eyes. It would be so great if I could process this into language or art, and get others to understand. But all I get is, “Get over yourself,” or “You’re not the only woman who ever gave birth, you know!” As though I didn’t know that! Women’s wisdom and insight is so unappreciated, and this is a source of grief that dampens this incredible joy in my soul.

 

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

79. Loudmouth (Empathy, Lent 20)

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Due to energy issues, I speak even more quietly than I used to when I was younger, and have often had to resort to whispering. I even lost my voice for a whole six months during a bad stage of the illness. For me, people who shout everything, INCLUDING ON SOCIAL MEDIA WHERE THEY CONSTANTLY USE CAPITAL LETTERS as though everything they have to say is much too important for the lower case, are tough to understand. I will try, today, though….

IF I DON’T SHOUT NO-ONE WILL TAKE ANY NOTICE. THERE IS NO POINT WITTERING ON QUIETLY IN OUR HOUSE, YOU WILL BE IGNORED. A FEW CHOICE WORDS WILL DO VERY WELL, AND THE LOUDER YOU ARE, THE MORE LIKELY YOU WILL BE HEARD OVER THE DIN. I DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. I’M NOT LOUD,OTHER PEOPLE ARE QUIET. I STAND IN THE STREET AND TALK, I DON’T THINK ABOUT WHO CAN HEAR ME. I’VE GOT NOTHING TO HIDE. WHAT YOU HEAR IS WHAT YOU GET. MAYBE I’M LONGING TO EXPRESS THOUGHTS THAT WON’T COME QUIETLY. MAYBE I NEED AS MUCH ATTENTION AS I CAN GET BECAUSE WHEN I WAS SMALL THERE WAS NONE TO BE HAD AND I DON’T WANT TO RISK BEING IGNORED ANY MORE. IF I CAN SAY IT FIRST AND LOUD ENOUGH, MAYBE I’M TOP DOG. MAYBE I’M THE LEADER NOW INSTEAD OF THE RUNT. MAYBE THIS WAY I CAN GET IT THROUGH TO PEOPLE THAT I MATTER.

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

78. Telltale (Empathy, 19)

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Okay, I admit, as someone who was a goody-two-shoes at school I do have a little empathy already on this one. Being faultless at school was all about fear, I was terrified of being told off. But I don’t recall ever “dobbing” anyone in, as we called it then. Well, only myself. I was always saying everything was my fault. But what moves someone, particularly an adult, to be a “grass?”

Got to help the system work properly, and it can’t do that whilst people are continually breaking the rules. Cruel to be kind really. Plus why should I slog away and burn myself out trying to make ends meet as an honest, hardworking citizen, when other people are just lazing around and living on handouts? Course I’m going to let someone know. That’s what the authorities are for. It’s the same as saying about a dodgy bloke who lives in your road. You suspect he’s dealing drugs, you tell the police. It’s obvious, isn’t it? And if someone at work is fiddling, I’ll have a quiet word with the management. Can’t be doing with that. Rules are there for a reason, to keep us all safe, to keep the world bang to rights. I’ve lost friends of course, colleagues don’t talk to me much, my neighbours are polite, but cold. It’s a price worth paying, to keep the cogs of society turning as they should. I’m doing my bit.

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

77. Scrounger (Empathy, Lent 18)

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As a long-term receiver of benefits, I am deeply grateful. In so many other countries in the world I would simply not have survived. It makes me sad when people judge the sick or the disabled, who so want to be useful, or the unemployed who are desperate for work, thinking that we are taking the easy road. It is anything but. There are people in our society who live ungraciously off the backs of others, and I want to try to understand how they justify that to themselves…..

I claim everything I’m entitled to, of course. Wouldn’t you? Everyone does it, after all. I have an extremely well paid job (actually several, if you count the directorships and the quorums), but the expenses and the second house allowance and even the family credit and so on are there to be used. If I don’t take the money someone else will. It would never be shared out with the poor, it’s too well protected for that, so I may as well take my share and keep my loved ones in the luxury to which they are now accustomed. You wouldn’t believe how much private schools cost these days! So much more than when I was at Eton. One must keep up appearances, that’s the name of the game. If I gave any of it up, or didn’t claim it, it would just sit there in the accounts making interest for someone else. One is charitable of course, but it is really the system that is at fault if any of it is unfair. And for those on the bottom rung, there are plenty of benefits. They can have what they are entitled to, and I will claim my rights too. That’s how it all stays afloat.

Photo (from the cover of The Magic City by E Nesbit) and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

76. Chancer (Empathy, Lent 17)

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Much like gamblers, people who chance their arms at things, tell wild fibs or exaggerate, are beyond my understanding. I am painfully trusting and naïve most of the time, and chancers, bounders and charmers find me an easy target. I AM learning, but I’m slow. But where does all that bravado come from?

The thing is, most of the world is a fabric of lies or hyperbole anyway. Nothing is really what it seems. So, adding a few twists here and there isn’t really going to hurt anyone. If it helps me get what I want, so much the better. If people believe I’m rich or clever, educated or confident, when I’m none of those things, they’ll treat me far better than if they knew the truth. Sometimes I even believe my own hokum, and the small, insignificant person at the centre disappears and I can really be free to live a fantasy of success. And often enough, that success comes. No-one is interested in you if you are depressed or needy or you aren’t already on the up. Chance your arm a bit and you’ll be surprised what falls in your lap. You don’t win them all, but you win enough. The truth is a very pliable thing, what’s the harm in moulding it a little?

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

75. Cold Fish (Empathy, Lent 16)

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This is a horrid thing to call someone, isn’t it? It’s not a phrase I use very often, but as a highly sensitive person who feels deep and complex emotions about pretty much everything, people who aren’t moved easily are really hard for me to understand or connect with. If I hadn’t been poor and ill after my degree, I might have gone on to academia, but looking back I am glad I didn’t. I have learnt to develop emotional freedom, I wear my heart on my sleeve, and passion does not often translate well to such fields. Today I’m wondering what it might be like to have let logic override wholeness.

If I got worked up about things, it would affect my results horribly and I’d be accused of letting my hormones get in the way. So, I keep all my feelings at bay and just look at the words as though I were looking at germs through a microscope. I was brought up at an emotional distance and it suited me just fine. Histrionics are an anathema to me. First sign of Mediterranean passion or a temper tantrum and you are in danger of losing the plot, and me.

It’s not that I don’t feel things, but it’s better to train yourself to hide what you feel, and to minimise it where possible. For instance, I love my kids hugely, you wouldn’t believe how much, but I know that to bring them up well, great demonstrative gestures are not a good example to set them. If you fling it all out there, people can hurt you. If you lay your heart before someone, sooner or later they will trample on it. Best to stay cool, calm, collected, and let everything else out in my tae kwon do. Control is everything. Focus is undistracted and sharp, like steel.

 

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

74. Carnivore (Empathy, Lent 15)

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I’ve been a vegetarian and not quite vegan for most of my life. I stopped eating red meat at 15, and white at 16. I had a few years in my 30s where I ate chicken and fish at the insistence of a nutritionist, but never felt happy about it and gave it up again. My reasons are mostly moral and just, really simply, that I love and respect animals. But I know there are many people who eat meat, who would say the same. I rarely push my views about this (if you want to know my opinion, and my ecological and Biblical arguments for vegetarianism, you can read them in Positive Sisterhood) because I feel what a person eats is between them and their own conscience. So, time for me to look at how the other side sees it.

Eating meat is natural, we have teeth made for tearing flesh. It’s part of who we are. It is up to the law to make sure animal husbandry is up to scratch. I’m just the consumer. Not my job to tell farmers how to treat their property. There are tonnes of safeguards and loads of animal rights groups keeping it all in hand. Just as I love my dogs and abide by the laws that protect them. To be honest, I don’t really think about cruelty, because why should I? Pretty much everyone eats meat. We always have. If we didn’t there probably wouldn’t be any sheep, cattle or pigs. If you want to bring God into it, he said we could eat meat after the flood, and Jesus certainly ate fish. So I don’t really see there’s any big deal about it. My body craves it, I give it what it wants.

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

73. Flibbertigibbet (Empathy, Lent 14)

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Some people seem to flit from one thing to another, without settling down, seeming not to take any one thing too seriously. As someone who never does things by halves, I have always found this hard to empathise with. So it’s a good exercise for me to try to do that today as part of our Lent series on turning the tables.

It’s not that I can’t stick at things, I just get really, really bored. And unlike a lot of people, I’m honest with myself about that, and about wanting to get more out of life. I guess really it is that I am a kind of explorer. I do like to go deeply into subjects or activities, but once I’ve mined them or mapped them out, made sense of them, it’s time for me to move on. I have an insatiable curiosity. I want to know what things feel like, what makes different groups of people tick, and I want to try most things: experiences, languages, cuisines, cultures. People call me flighty but I am just fully alive to all the different ways of being. I need to figuratively roll them around on my tongue and see how they taste, and then on to the next.

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

72. Troll (Empathy, Lent 13)

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I’ve seen a lot of trolling on social media this week, and sadly I don’t mean of the Round the Horne variety. Some people seem to take a perverse pleasure in people-baiting. I decided to give my imagination over today to wondering why.

Some people are so sure of themselves and I see how superior and self-righteous they are, they need taking down a peg or two. It is fun to poke them with a stick and see how far up it they will bite. Some won’t let go until they choke. It’s not cruel, they deserve it. My life is so full of pain that I need to goad others to let some of it out. It helps a bit to be nasty and swear and torment. If I didn’t do it on the computer I’d maybe get my air rifle out and go shoot some birds. Then they’d really have something to whine about. Why? They’re just birds. None of it means anything. These people with the comfortable mind sets and the pretend love of the “politically correct” garbage are so full of crap. I hate them. They are like piñatas just waiting for me to whack hard, I love finding out where the fault lines are, where they crack open like shells. It’s all bull.

Photo and text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt 2017

NB I know that Moomins are nice “trolls”, that’s why I chose them. Also a nice troll (if you like mad songs stuck in your head, is this Troll Song:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkTb9GP9lVI