I once had a math teacher in high school whose classroom was a refuge to kids like me. I was a kid preferred to spend my afternoons in the company of thoughtful peers and elders who shared a love of the intellect. We were talking about our frustrations with the preachings of mainstream religions.
“I can’t love and forgive everyone,” I said.
“That’s why Jesus is God and you’re not,” she laughed.
I thought that was brilliant at the time, as the affirmation of my human limits to “lovingkindness” were affirmed.
One of the things that bothers me the most about religions, including Neo-Paganism, is the exhortation to “perfect love and perfect trust,” which I think is bullshit, because nobody can do that and nor should they try. I do not believe in universal love, the acceptance of all and everyone, or the knee-jerk command to “love” one’s enemy or even one’s neighbor. Your neighbor may be a nightmare who wants to hurt you. Anyone who thinks they can or should ever live in “perfect love” or “perfect trust” is lying to themselves and others.
Love is a personal and individual experience of deep fondness for another person or place or group of people. Even falling-in-love romantically is a deeply personal phenomena that cannot be commanded as an ethic. I agree with E. M. Forster when he said,
“The idea that nations should love one another, or that business concerns or marketing boards should love one another, or that a man in Portugal should love a man in Peru of whom he has never heard –it is absurd, unreal, dangerous. The fact is we can only love what we know personally. And we cannot know much.”
I also definitely don’t ascribe to nonviolence on principle. I am a basically nonviolent person because I live in a civilized society where good policeman and the law stand willing to do lawful and moderated violence on my behalf. All of us would be far more violent if we lived in other societies, especially in other time periods, where the murder rate sometimes reached 20 in 1,000 people. Even if we weren’t ourselves killers, we’d know this for sure: violence can be very good and necessary, because violence or the threat of violence underlies the legitimacy of self-defense.
If someone comes to kill you and you do not use violence to stop them, then you are still allowing violence to take place. Only, now, you’re the victim and the offending perpetrator has been allowed to do their evil work. You’re not stopping violence from existing, and you’re not even lessening its presence in the world, by allowing violence to happen to you, a violence which could be greatly decreased or stopped if you fought back. Injecting exhortations to love an enemy into this kind of reality is an insult to nature, including moral human nature.
The pressure to be perfect in stupid love and unfounded trust is a counterpart to this untested proclamation of support for “nonviolence” in all the wrong places.
It was a Thursday evening
when you descended into the earth
in the house of God,
now too quiet, dark.
I put all the end of my thoughts
in that place
where you fell down in a pool of red,
immense without words,
big as the silence of bullets.
Heavy death is in our useless hands,
our chests are full of stones
down deep in the quiet
where the bones of the loved ones lay,
where arguing ends and seeds
curl up to sleep and dream through all winters
and idiot words and deeds are made silent,
unwinding the choke-cord of ages
at wars’ end.
When I took the test, my Holmes and Rahe stress score was about 300 (pretty high). I didn’t take the student version because I didn’t identify with most of their questions about typical student life, because I don’t live a typical student life of an on-campus dorm kid.
What stood out to me about these tests was how frustratingly limited, how dully mainstream and worker-bee predictable the questions offered were about. They assumed a standard of normalcy that is only real for a certain percent of the population. I’m sure a lot of the situations offered to be officially recognized as stressful certainly do cause a lot of stress in real lives (loss of job, divorce, etc). Yet, I couldn’t help but wonder, with some anger, why the following type of questions were missing:
“Have you suffered the loss of a beloved animal lately (check: on-par with losing a human family member)?”
“We recognize that there are a lot of intimate relationships beside the strictly legally married ones: have you lost a beloved mate? This includes, but is not limited to, formal legal divorce.”
“Is one or both of your parents still living but are basically deteriorated into a state of violent, zombified walking dead strangers thanks to mental illness and poverty and now you’re an orphan?”
“Have you experienced a loss of a beloved community, a severing of ties with a cherished identity/tribe/lifestyle which was a foundational support to your wellbeing?” Why, yes, community actually matters as much if not more than biological family even though Americans are the only people in the world too fucking arrogant and solipsistic to even acknowledge that in their formal psychology.
“Have you been deprived of an important right of passage, the rejection from participation in ancient human life events? Are you suffering an inexplicable feeling of a lack of purpose and recognition of what matters in the world around you? In fact, is your whole society falling a part?”
“Are you suffering flashbacks of abuse and neglect?”
“Are you coping with the impending death of a family member, maybe the only one with whom you have a parental bond?” Grieving ahead of time is natural and a healthy way to cope with loss.
“Have your homeland and native ecology been devastated?”
“Have you experienced a decreased amount of time spent exercising or being in contact with nature or your understanding of the Divine? If so, this might kick your ass.”
Yeah, Christmas was a thing to be stressed about, but not separation from non-nuclear family. I’m not persuaded by much of standard psychology.
Power be to the poet,
and to the child without voice,
and to the wrongly accused.
Power be to those who cry out
in word or in silence,
who knead bread from
the flour of unrest,
who do so sweetly.
Power be to the brave girl
and to the lost boy –
they are crowned in saving anger.
Glory be to the white furnace,
God’s hand on the potter’s wheel
who will not give up
–Gentle J. Pine