We Become That Which We Hate

“Like many Americans, I am very impassioned and distraught over the situation with children separated from their families at the border, but I went way too far. It was wrong and I should not have done it. I immediately regretted it and sincerely apologize to the family for what I said and any hurt my words have caused.”

–Peter Fonda

 

“I didn’t think it was possible but @iamfonda found a way to be as disgusting as his sister Jane was when she stood with the enemy in Vietnam.
Doesn’t get more vile than wishing for a young boy to be raped by pedophiles.
There’s a special place in hell… “

–Donald Trump, Jr.

 

Reading these two tweets, and observing the events of the past week, reminded me of an important spiritual lesson. We become that which we hate.

Peter Fonda, like most decent people, was distressed by our country’s callous response to the immigrant situation. The fact that children were being put in “camps” and separated from their parents – regardless of the legality or illegality of their parents’ actions – was abhorrent to most. Most of my friends were distressed to the point of distraction over this.

However, Peter Fonda went “too far,” with his revenge Tweet because he began to focus too much on what he hated – and not enough on what he wanted. Donald Trump Jr.’s response was just as silly. Jane Fonda’s activism in the 1970’s has nothing to do with anything. Trump II used the remark against his half-brother as a means to advertise for anti-liberal sentiment. He even repeated the vile remark, giving it more energy and exposure.

Trump Jr.’s focus on revenge also motivated him to distort the truth: “Doesn’t get more vile than wishing for a young boy to be raped by pedophiles.” Um, it does get more vile – actually leaving small children in the hands of alleged pedophiles. That is definitely more vile.

But, this is the distorted thinking that comes from anger and revenge. Instead of dealing with facts and solutions, our leaders sound like elementary school students: “You started it!” “I know you are, but what am I!” “Who cares? I don’t. Do you?” “Liar, liar, pants on fire!” What’s next? “Yo mama?”  We should be able to expect better from grown-up people in positions of influence.

When we react with passionate hatred toward that which we despise, not only do we not help the situation. We come to resemble that very thing. Just like two people who love each other passionately will eventually become more and more similar, people who hate each other will eventually engage in remarkably similar behavior.

If you hate someone or something, don’t focus on the hate. Focus on what you want to experience. It’s okay to speak out against immoral situations. It’s okay to avoid toxic people and the drama they create. Noticing what we don’t like, or don’t want, is the beginning. It sparks anger, which motivates us to come out of our comfort zones and do something. But, the next step is to put all our efforts into creating what we do want.

This also applies to interpersonal relationships. If you are in a toxic relationship of any kind – romantic, family, workplace – focusing on how much you hate a particular person will slowly turn you into that person. Anger is good for motivation. Anger helps you realize you can’t tolerate a situation any longer. It gives you the energy to change the situation, or get out of it.

But, once that decision has been made, and a plan is put in place, the focus has to change. The focus has to shift toward who and what you are becoming. If you continue to focus on the person or situation you hate, that emotional energy will eventually attract that type of person or situation back into your life again.

As Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith often says, “the Universe doesn’t deliver what you do or don’t like. It delivers what you are interested in.” Try to become interested in who and what you are becoming, not the people and situations you’ve left behind. They are not invited to come with you on your new journey.

The new journey will require you to shed old, bad habits formed during the past. The intolerable situation, or person, caused you to adopt coping mechanisms that will no longer serve you. Let go of any thought pattern or habit that doesn’t match the new experience you want to have.

And if you are still stuck in a situation or with a person you can’t stand, don’t wait for things to change. Begin to heal yourself now. From a healed mental state, you can work within the current situation to effect change, or figure a way out.

If you are in a toxic relationship, for example, don’t wait until you’re out of it to heal your mind. Begin to take care of yourself now. Your improved mental and emotional condition will bring things to a head sooner. Before you know it, something will happen that will provide a way out. Lasting change occurs from the inside out. We change inside first, then our circumstances change.

So, when an unthinkable, hated problem presents itself, here’s the plan: Notice the problem. Let the anger generate the energy to move you to action. Allow the anger to fall away like scaffolding. Focus exclusively on what you are trying to create. Forget about the people who harmed you. Leave them to stew in their toxicity.

That toxic situation has become no longer good enough for you!

Whenever we want to punch a racist in the face, or feed the son of a wanna-be dictator to pedophiles, we need to check ourselves. We need to step back and follow the path of peace: Anger to Action to Attitude Adjustment to Alignment with the All-Good.

Much love to all my Peaceful Warriors out there! And, as always, happy writing!

 

Raven

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The Shape of Water – a Critique of its Love Story and “Representation”

*spoilers*

I read an interesting article about The Shape of Water the other day. The article 18_05_05_The_Shape_of_Watercelebrates the idea of “queering” in the movie – non-traditional love between “queer” bodies – in this case a mute woman and a “monster.”  The author, Stephanie Monteith, seemed to love the movie as a discussion of the monster as “other,” as a way for us to examine our own humanity through the idea of the monster.

I like Stephanie’s point, but I didn’t really like the movie. It didn’t work for me because I thought the theme was too blatant and simplistic. It felt like Oppression Olympics. The movie had pure, uncomplicatedly good characters: a mute woman, her black female friend, and her gay best friend, all struggling on the brink of abject poverty to save the sweet, loving monster from the horrible, uncomplicatedly bad rich white man who practices unflinching bigotry and cruelty.

I think humans (and monsters) are more complicated and faceted than that, so I tend to get bored with statement pieces that have angel and devil-people functioning as stand-ins for a discussion about social justice. I have no problem with movies that discuss themes of social justice, as long as the story and characters ring true.

The exception, for me, are morality tales, which I love. These stories tend to have very simple plots, and a main character who struggles with his own contradictions. In these stories, the main character is usually the only complicated character, and the plot may or may not be plausible, but the moral struggle rings true. The movie A Simple Plan is my favorite morality tale. I think Fatal Attraction and The Firm (the movie, not the book)  also fall under that category.

The Shape of Water appears to be using the love story to make a statement. But, the love story didn’t quite work for me either. I believe the notion of pure unselfish love would have been more powerfully advanced if the woman and the creature had not had sex, at least not until she had been transformed into a sea creature.

The Inter-species sex introduces a strange element that takes away from the idea of love being selfless and sacrificial. Picture Rise of the Planet of the Apes where Will fought for the life of “Serena” instead of Caesar, and they made love in a tree. Will’s love for Caesar was no less poignant without the “love story,” and Elisa’s love for the Amphibian Man would have been no less touching without the sexual component.

Once Elisa dies and comes back as Amphibian Lady – since their true love had already been firmly established – sex makes sense at that point. Before that, you wonder (well, I wonder) if she was simply horny and desperate. She was a daily, vigorous masturbator, after all.

Having Elisa and the Amphibian Man consummate their relationship in the water – as equals – would have been a lot more beautiful and romantic in my opinion.

So, while I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the more obvious “messages” in The Shape of Water, and while I found the inter-species sex a little creepy and unnecessary, I love it when something unusual gets top honors. I hope the success of the movie will inspire the industry to continue thinking outside the box.

Incidentally, I believe that no group can claim true equality until the individuals in that group are looked at realistically – not all good, not all bad. Not villains. Not angels. Not comic reliefs. Not magical saviors. Not innocent victims who need rescuing. Not sexualized. Not asexual. Not serving merely as support props for the mainstream (white) character. And not as quirky side-kicks who appear when needed, and conveniently disappear when not. Three dimensional characters, just like real people, hold multiple and contradictory characteristics at once. There are no saint groups and no sinner groups.

We’re getting there, but I believe we still have a ways to go.

Peace and love,

Raven

 

 

 

 

Marriage as Portrayed in George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda

Daniel Deronda, a Victorian novel I am currently reading, is one that was considered controversial in its day due to its sympathetic portrayal of the Jews.  Set in England, the novel’s events are described chiefly from the perspective of the upper class white Gentile community. I’m too early in the book to have experienced any of the material regarding Judaism, but I think its depiction of marriage as the end of freedom for women is still, in some ways, controversial.

The stereotype persists that men view marriage as the end of freedom, while women crave the institution the way thirsty desert wanderers crave a cold glass of water. The latest spike in reality shows featuring plural marriages – one husband and several wives – as well as the tireless Bachelor franchise, and the jokes that permeate most sitcoms seem to support this stereotype. I think the truth has always been more complicated.

The novel’s author, George Eliot, sums up her narcissistic, manipulative protagonist, Gwendolyn’s, view of men with the following statement (though she’s talking about gambling, not marriage): “she cared for the excitement of play, not the winnings” (p. 6). Gwendolyn loves the attention of being pursued. She callously enjoys the fact that she can break hearts. She has no real desire to be tied down, though she knows that it’s inevitable at some point.

The patriarchal and hierarchical society of the Victorian age put women in two unfortunate positions: they needed men for their economic survival, and they were expected to be the passive recipients of male desire. It makes marriage the ultimate goal for women – the way an interesting, lucrative job is the ultimate goal for men. However, it deprives women of the opportunity to go for it, as it were. They have to look pretty, wait, and hope to be chosen.

This understandably bred resentment in many women, which, of course, could not be openly expressed (not if they ever hoped to be chosen). So, as annoying as Gwendolyn is, her response is altogether reasonable, given her situation. And the reality, even today, is that marriage tends to be more work for women than it is for men. There are still many men who view marriage as the procurement of nursing care, maid services, and a personal chef – and in response the man brings home a paycheck. Hopefully.

So, while the stereotype of women being desperate to get married persists, it persists, I believe, out of habit and tradition, not out of a rational response to the status quo. Unmarried women tend to live longer than married women. Although most married women work outside the home, they still do most of the childcare and housework. Perhaps, like Gwendolyn, it is the “play” that we really like – the attention, the romance and the drama of a wedding, for example – not the “winnings” – a man who sits on the couch waiting to be fed.

I’m being facetious, of course. I’m not knocking marriage. It’s wonderful with the right person. It’s a chance to grow and mature as a human being. Through the power of synergy, two people can do more together than either one alone. The legal commitment brings a certain sobriety and sense of family to the couple, which can be quite rewarding. But marriage for marriage’s sake is no bargain. As Gwendolyn says “…what is the use of my being charming, if it is to end in my being dull and not minding anything? Is that what marriage always comes to?” (p. 23).

That is not what marriage always comes to, but, if we don’t question society’s narratives and group-think, we can naturally fall into some pretty unhealthy patterns. In 2018 we can surely do better than that.

Peace and love,

Raven