January 23, 2010
Our Gregorian calendar nearly demands us to start over each year, new beginnings, and fresh attitudes. This is all well and good in some respects, but it seems to beg a negation of our past. The past is what made each of us uniquely our own person. Those events and actions formed our personalities and bred our strengths. The negative moments are as important and intriguing as the perceived good, happy instances we experience.
This led me to think about one way in which we handle the distressing times. Anger. Tears. Aside from the biological reasons that we react with tears, a mechanism of the nervous system, crying is associated with loss and mistakes, fear as well. Yet tears are a release, a release of powerful emotion that reveal to oneself and witnesses that one feels. Tear streamed cheeks are an affirmation that one is truly alive.
A blessed life is not a continuum of beautiful moments, unless one can accept that sadness can be a beautiful expression of life as well. A blessed life is a life that has been experienced in all of its extremes. Extreme bliss, passion, despair, love, intensity of all emotions. Those experiences perceived as bleak, as well as those optimistic, make for a life passionately lived. I would like to clarify something. In no way am I suggesting that someone can turn negative occurences into small instances of beneficial ones during the real event. The despair needs to be felt. Momentous occurences leave us, the receivers, in shock for a time, as a protective numbing to what has happened or is happening. As time heals, we are more capable of rationalizing a distressing period and finding the beauty of living in all of its forms. Revealed is the good that is shown by others, revealed are the lessons learned. Revealed is our strength to pull through. Many tears may fall on the path of reconciling our own or another’s pain. During such a sad and overwhelming time period, we eventually find that we have never felt such a part of life and the world around us.
We cry for varied reasons, but is doing so selfish at all, in regards to someone else? I have often wondered about the answer to this question. In a very basic way I believe the answer is yes. When we shed tears for another’s pain, whether it be heartbreak, illness, others’ trials and tests, yes it is somewhat selfish. My tears are the result of my hurt in witnessing the sadness of another person, in a small way. I want to believe my tears are fully genuine to another’s hardship, but they are also a release of my distress.
The thought then occurs, when giving to another, is that action completely without selfishness? We have all come to know that this is not completely the case. Very few are acting with pure altruism. For most of us mere mortals, we get something back. This knowledge cannot be swept under a rug. In fact, the thought of receiving ourselves motivates us more to help those in need. Positive feedback in the form of a gracious smiling grandmother that receives some of our used clothing makes us in return feel good. A child’s hug when food is brought brings us joy for the child but also for our act. This helps keep the cycle of giving alive. There is a selfish satisfaction in doing something good, whether that be helping a friend when her car has broken down, rescuing a homeless animal, or bringing food to a family during the holidays.
Do we feel any guilt, any disappointment that we cannot be completely selfless? Of course the majority of our thoughts are those of compassion and empathy. Of the small percentage that helps our own minds and emotions, is that a flaw? No…it is survival for our human race. We see a need, respond with compassion, feel satisfaction in doing such. We will then act more to help others. If we are here for a purpose given us by a higher intelligence, I would tend to think that nothing could be as virtuous as giving without one miniscule thought to ourselves. That seems to be a place that is difficult to reach if we are truly honest with ourselves.
Selfishness is a part of animal nature. Rationalization of that quality finds it a necessary survival skill, not just for our own person but for all people. It does indeed work with compassion, empathy to help those in need, in the smallest of amounts.
Be they fully empathetic or no, tears guide us to make changes, selfishly or not help others, and handle the tough parts of our lives. In their most basic form, tears are an expression of ourselves in a moment, a moment of intensity that reveals our humanness in one of its most raw forms, and, as well move us forward in life.