My Therapist

I just got back from a long session with my therapist. Her name is Dr. Ginger. Actually, I just call her Ginger. Ginger is pretty amazing for helping a lady gain some perspective, and tonight I really needed it. My life is stressful in tiny, small ways – work, family, graduate school, the end of the semester, looming deadlines – in short, things that are really not all that stressful. Mostly these things are privileges that occasionally I forget to be grateful for.

This week started out with a terrible thing happening in my home city, Boston. As soon as I made sure that my friends and family living there were safe, the first thing I thought of was how unspeakably difficult it must be to live somewhere that such tragedies were everyday occurrences. My heart aches for everyone who has lost a family member to violence – whether they live in Boston, or in Syria, or in Mexico, in Japan, or anywhere. It’s been weighing on my soul, and I’m deeply conflicted.

I’m filled with pride at how Bostonians helped one another, and sadness upon hearing that a man in Malden attacked a woman wearing a hijab just a couple of days after the bombing. And now all the pithy memes are showing up on my Facebook page – status updates mourning the tragedy, triumphant references to movies set in Boston, not-so-subtly veiled hints that revenge would be sweet. They remind me of Welcome to the Desert of the Real!, where Zizek points out that the illusion of security is a thin veil, punctured by the reality that occurs daily in so many other places in the world, sometimes of our own export. It’s a shocking puncture.

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After such a shock, maybe revenge would be sweet, but human beings have been practicing revenge upon one another for millenia, and it appears not to have gotten us as very far. The only thing revenge begets is more revenge. Revenge is the easy way.

Most upsetting to me are the exhortations to “not make this something political” because that would somehow be disrespectful to the injured, the dead, and the families of the dead. That kind of automatic silencing of dialogue and dissent is the exact OPPOSITE of what we should be doing. In a nation founded first and foremost upon the freedom of speech and association, our first exhortation should be to engage – truly engage, not just pay lip service to the idea of “good listening – in dialogue with one another. We are all on this rock in the middle of space together, for crying out loud. There are so many ways of knowing in the world, and for everyone who just experienced a sliver of a different ontology, one intertwined with the bone-deep knowledge that life is fragile, I would have hoped that the response would be a spike in compassion, not the reflexive reaching for revenge. Don’t withdraw in fear of the unknown; expand into the newness of the unknown.

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C’mon, my fellow Americans. I know you can do better than this. I’ve SEEN you do better than this. You’ve reacted with compassion to natural disasters, to personal tragedies, to community struggles. You’ve raised love and support and money for people who are seriously ill, you’ve brought dinner to your family and friends and neighbors when you knew they were going through a hard time. You’ve donated money when tsunamis devastated communities on the other side of the world. You’ve responded quickly, surely, and well to so many difficulties. You’ve been so compassionate. Don’t lose that compassion because of some hastily arrived-at conclusion. Just like anything else, compassion is something that needs to be practiced, to be flexed and exerted to become strong. Just like aggression. Just like hatred. So choose. Choose which qualities to practice and what to enact.

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I started this post out talking about Ginger (my motorcycle). When I need to think, when I need to clear my mind and take the hurt out of my soul, Ginger and I ride into the mountains for perspective. It clears my mind like nothing else does, and brings me perspective. It reminds me that the fragility of life is really it’s essential quality. That there is power in the vulnerability of compassion. The example that came to my mind was of a motorcyclist. Many of us wear “tough” looking clothing while we ride to protect us from the road, the weather, the bugs that hit us in the face at 70 mph, and whatever debris might fly off the road or off the back of a truck. The toughness is there, but not in the way that it looks on the surface. Every time I get on my motorcycle, I know that it might be my last day alive. I know that there will be rocks and bugs hitting me in the face, and I do it anyway. I climb on my bike and literally put myself out there – anyone having a crappy day could choose to run me off the road or to sideswipe me and send me flying. And every day that I get home safely, I practice gratitude for my fellow humans who have been respectful of my vulnerability.

For motorcyclists, by living our vulnerability – accepting that even the most teensy of Kias or Fiats might be the thing that ends our life – we embody our toughness. Paradoxically, our toughness IS our willingness to live vulnerably. Because only by living vulnerably can a person ever experience change.

Love, peace, peace, peace, love, and some more love. To everyone, especially those who disagree with me.
Sumiko

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2 Comments

  1. I love and agree with most of this- especially about staying away from revenge, and about how wonderful we can all be to each other. I’m not sure that I agree with the idea of dialogue and engagement though. I strongly feel that a lot of bad things are given power and influence by virtue of discourse- that you get more of what you talk about. I don’t want to participate. When people speculate, I typically change the subject, because I believe that every conversation lends power to what it is trying to prevent. And then we have more bombings or shooting on the news. This has always been an intuitive thought for me, but now that I’ve read Foucault’s History of Sexuality, I see there is some academic reasoning behind it too. I advocate for disengagement from violent film, most television, dirty rap music (which is really freaking hard because I happen to love rap music, but I’m getting there) and conversations with people who have harmful, violent ideas. Support and nurture good ideas, good art, good people. Disengage with everything else. At least that’s my theory, for now. Thanks for posting.

    Reply
  2. One does not live if they don’t choose to put themselves out there.

    Reply

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