I used to think I had to rage against those who directly opposed my value system to maintain that system. As though that was my way of proving I wasn't like those people. It's been on my mind a lot lately and I've come to realize that there are some definite issues with the way I've approached this. The first problem is that it takes a tremendous amount of energy from myself and little to none from those I oppose.
As an example, take someone who cheats. I don't mean necessarily, "has cheated". I'm not here to judge the complications that arise in relationships. While I still hold to my belief that it's wrong, I've lost my certainty that I can so easily judge the validity of a relationship from the outside. It may not make it "right" for me but it does mean that there may come a time in my life where I understand how a good person could be driven to certain extremes and then take that last step against their better judgment. Humans in all their complexity were never meant to be perfect and I'm allowing that even of myself lately.
In this case though, I mean a person who cheats unabashedly and frequently; where the real issue isn't a latent need being unfulfilled in the relationship but a person who doesn't see (or chooses not to see) how their actions can truly harm the people in their wake. These are some of the people I've poured so much energy into hating. They aren't who I am. They aren't what I choose to be and it's my responsibility to hate and revile them, to not be duplicitous, to be unwavering in making my feelings known. Using this example I can certainly say I've given out way more energy than I had ever realized to uphold that standard. My ire means little to them, and that's if they notice it at all. So why am I spending that energy so freely?
In a way I believe it's to prove to myself (and to others) that I'm in no way like them, taking the polarizing stance to put myself in clear opposition. As though I'm afraid of what it would mean to be anything like them*. But I don't need that. My life IS an opposition to them. The way I choose to lead it, the way I treat people and the care I take in relationships. That is my way of "lashing out" against these people. Directing my anger towards them might feel somewhat gratifying but in a way it also hands them a victory. My energy spent at no cost to them. And it's not necessary.
The second reason this has become important to me is because in my life I've not just seen the wake of people like this, but been a part of it. I've been part of the hurt that gets left behind and I've been part of the clean-up that ensues and it's mostly just a blur of pain with little relief. If I meet someone who foots the bill I get a chance to pour all of that hurt, that injustice never reconciled into a rage directed at them. The problem is, it's misplaced. That deep felt anger is something I need to deal with, not direct at anyone who's ever hurt someone (including myself, and that's a post for another day). Even if I feel the person deserves it, it still doesn't belong to them. It belongs to me and it's for me to deal with. The anger, not the blame. The blame belongs to those people from my past I will never get to face. Such is life.
The last reason is, it's morally "right" to me. To be in this opposition is something I "believe" in. To harbour this anger and place myself on the other side of the table is what I've always felt was my responsibility. But you can't live a life in conflict, and the truth is, if you choose to actively oppose everything that's wrong in this world you will spend a lifetime in battle. There's just too much to do, too much wrong to right. The first step for a universal betterment isn't then to engage wherever you see injustice, it's to choose where you spend your energy wisely and more importantly, to engage yourself to be the change you want to see (as Ghandi so aptly put it). Not that the former isn't noble and necessary, but if you make it your life's work it will consume you. I've known those who live their lives in service to the cause and it really does offer profound meaning, but it can also limit being a whole person in many ways (a discussion for another day). All I mean to say is, I've decided my conflict doesn't reside in every man who has wronged a woman (although if you mess with my friends…), or every politician who has lied, every person who has held a weapon with the intent to hurt. There's a different and more personal conflict I need to resolve first and it's within. It's the conflict you've caught glimpses of over the last 60 days.
I'm starting to understand that I can even carry this over to small things. How many people do you know adamantly and publicly dislike Justin Bieber? As a musician I can say, A LOT. But to what end? To prove to everyone you have good taste in music? To show that you're in conflict against the over-produced product placement that has become the Pop Music industry? How about this. Why not ignore him? Why not write your own music, focus on your own craft, and lace everything you do with as much integrity as you can muster? I can personally say as an artist that having people simply not care that I exist is much harder to reconcile than having people vehemently opposed to what I do. To know that I could evoke ANY kind of emotion is a win for me, so why are we giving Justin Bieber a win?? More importantly, why are we angry at a kid for having success of any kind? We don't have to like his music. We don't even have to acknowledge it if it doesn't suit us.**
As far as I'm concerned, good for him. Will I see his movie? No. Will I buy his music? Probably not (although he works with some top-knotch writers so if I can swallow my pride I'm sure I could find something I like about it). But I don't think I need to express to people how much I dislike him to validate my musical tastes. People will know what I value in music when they hear the music I write, or when we talk about artists we love or hum a tune that's stuck in our heads. That's good enough for me. For now.
I'm still to understand this concept fully, but I think I'm getting there. Choose my battles and start with the man in the mirror (R.I.P. MJ, we miss your music and your voice). This also raises questions in me about how opposing something brings people together and when it's a positive mobilizing influence, but this is just the start. For now I'd rather focus on taking out the unnecessary negativity. I can't think of a post that's fit more in the theme in recent weeks. Looks like I'm still exploring. Day 66? Sure. Day 66, in the bag.
*Or more to the point, afraid of the fact that we all have a bit of that in us; the capacity to do harm, to be selfish, and that it is alive in us regardless of our "moral" choices.
**Clearly this whole paragraph I'm speaking to myself.