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Out Of The Blue

My favorite comic strip is Pearls Before Swine. It's not just because it is hilarious and deadly accurate in its observations about human nature and life. I view Rat as a warning. I see a lot of myself in him. Rat views himself as genuinely superior to humanity in general, a perspective I sometimes share. People have a tendency to want to be fooled. They want things simplified. They want to remake the world into their own personal space, where the things they disagree with or that make them uncomfortable, whether because it offends their sensibilities or reminds them of things they'd rather not think about, at the cost of those who they are required to share the world with. Talk shows are full of people who don't discuss issues so much as bring on guests that they can shout down and ridicule. TV shows celebrate reprehensible qualities such as vanity, greed, and pride, from The Hills to the Kardashians. People talk about how the world is going to Hell, blaming everyone’s bad behavior but their own. Taking pride in their willful ignorance, their lack of civility, their complete and total inhumanity, and presenting themselves as wonderful for doing so.

It's VERY easy to feel superior to these people. And that's the part that scares me. Rat is completely blind to his own faults while gleefully exploiting those around him for personal gain. There are times when I can tell my perspective is slipping into his form.

That's part one. Part two is my environment. My family is full of people who will take casual advantage of each other, never doing anything explicitly rotten and will make amends if caught, but actually hoping no one will notice or bother to call them on it. I work with people who are hypocrites themselves, like the one boss who wanted to fire me for learning programming because he didn't think I should have an outside hobby that could lead to some extra cash while he has his own DJ business on the weekends. I am surrounded by such people. I recognize the flaws and mentalities that make them do the things they do. And that’s why it scares me.  Because I see that potential behavior in myself.

In the early days, when I started studying under my teacher, she asked her students to describe themselves in a sentence. Some said they were smart, or they were funny, or they were going to be stars someday. I thought long and hard. About a week later, I gave her my sentence – “Light and dark both exist inside me, and I never know which one will win.”

She has always taught me differently from the others. They were fine with regular religious instruction. My questions were complex and deep. I was encouraged to learn and understand all I could about other things. One time, I asked why I couldn’t just go to church and be a good Christian that way. “Because you aren’t operating at that level. You can’t find the peace and answers you seek there anymore.”

She had observed something about me that I didn’t realize for almost a decade – I am not cut out for a peaceful existence. I have fully embraced my anger and my outrage and my hatred of the world. Trying to give them up, to ignore them, I cannot do it. Maybe for about a week I can, but I’m soon looking at the world and people and wanting to scream, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?”

Because I see the darkness within me, I wondered why my friends like me. And why my teacher even bothered with me. I asked her once as we sat sharing tea. She said she cares for me as she does her own son.

Why? I asked.

Because I love you.”

That’s it?

Shouldn’t that be enough?”

Sometimes love isn’t enough.

You’ll understand one day.” And she just sipped in silence after that.

I have always been afraid that I am what I hate. The tendencies I see in other people I see in me, and I’m afraid that someday I’ll become just like them.

And today, the revelation.

I noticed that my teacher has never tried to get me to shun my darkness. She has never made me feel bad for embracing it. What she has been teaching me to do is to channel it as a force for positive change. Whether to take action, to help people, or even just do the right thing, my hatred for the negative side of humanity spurs me to do right. Whether helping friends in need or creating a comic strip that gives voice to modern frustration or a comic book about a little girl that tells stories instead of presenting cheap identification or questionable sexuality or serving as an election judge or even just helping someone whose car isn’t starting. I am aware of how callous certain behavior is, and I seek to act in a way that keeps me from being what I hate. Light and dark exist within me, but they do not co-exist. When it comes down to it, light will always win.

Because I want it to. Unlike the people I am afraid of turning into, my darkness does not control me. I control it. I determine how much to release and when to lock it up again. It doesn’t guarantee that I will never go dark, but it reduces the odds of it happening substantially. The people I choose to be with reflect me, not the people I’m stuck around.

I’ve tended to keep my friends at a bit of distance because I worry that I’ll do something that will change their perception of me and make them think I’m a stuck up, arrogant asshole. Where all the friendship and great times become insignificant compared to whatever I did to them. That being friends with me is a mistake they are going to regret some day.

As of today, I’m not afraid of myself anymore. I honestly believe that I wasn’t supposed to be born into this life. But even if my life is a mistake, how I’m living it is not. My teacher told me the difference between belief and faith is belief is passive, faith is active. If you believe something, you just accept it. If you have faith, you do what you can to keep it going. I no longer believe in myself, I have faith in myself. And it’s an amazing feeling.

I’ll write more stuff about other topics later. Right now, I have a self-image and world view to reshape….

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