Distant from others suffering …

“Empathy makes you more aware of other people’s suffering, but it’s not clear it actually motivates you to take moral action or prevents you from taking immoral action.” David Brooks

At this time of the year we are quite naturally reminded to “count our blessings” – with or without anyone inspiring our consciousness to do so. In December there is a holiday for many. In order – Mawlid an Nabi, Bodhi Day, Yule, Hanukkah and Christmas. The latter, even to this non-Christian has always been a time I have enjoyed due to the enhanced mellowness that exudes from so many even during wicked rush-hour traffic in Toronto during a seasonal snowstorm, such as we experienced last week. I surmise this personal observation is true for many of you as well – Christian or otherwise.

For me this year, despite it being December, I am in a sulking disposition all too aware of the suffering of others – but is that enough to matter? The daily tragedies I am reading about and brooding over from Aleppo Syria in particular are beyond heartbreaking – they are demoralizing. I know that some will claim “Fake News” reporting is coming out of Aleppo – fine. That is all I can say of that to those holding such viewpoints. Aleppo is a chilling reminder that man’s inhumanity to man is not a relic of the past but is still dishearteningly present today and must be fought and contested whenever and wherever it is surfaces.

The story of a child dying in Santa’s arms in a Tennessee hospital now appears to be a deception and those of us who were so moved to tears are now supposed to feel bad for feeling. The very act of feeling is now unhappily to be questioned and needs authentication first before we display our emotion.

And certainly other tragedies have befallen previous Decembers, but it feels different this time around.

I am fretful about the state of the world and the United States in particular. More than anything, I am despondent about my observation of a dismissive callousness towards minority groups and individual rights and the feeling of suffering many of them / us have. I recognize these serious apprehensions from within; the LGBTQ communities, Mexican and Latino groups, Muslims, Jews, Pro-choice groups, women, African-Americans, immigrants, people representing freedom of the press, liberals, those genuinely anxious over cyber security, native Americans and more. Most ominous perhaps emanating from some quarters is a collective obliviousness over the famous passage; “First they came …” by Martin Niemoller;

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Some people who should know better seem to have forgotten.

Thankfully, many remind us of what they see as being wrong in the world. One may at times object and find disfavour with their words, but they have the bravery, determination and audience to be heard and for that I applaud them and hold immense gratitude towards them all. I am speaking of insightful writers and thinkers like; David Frum, Summer Brennan, Peter Daou and others. Then there are the more apolitical types who simply write from a universalist heart embodying their fortified truth, like Sheri Eckert (aka Dear Human) and Monique Hohnberg.

But the words of David Brooks above still bewilder me. Are we even making a difference when we have genuine empathy for the suffering and the vulnerable amongst us or far from us? Are we accomplishing anything by raising awareness of peoples suffering anywhere on this planet, whether within our respective local and national jurisdictions or abroad?

So I am not able to offer up an answer to Brooks’ quandary. My only wish is that through our societal consciousness, a resurgent attentiveness of the marginalized or perchance could be marginalized and by the inculcation of Martin Niemoller’s warning, may we all have self-awareness and mindfulness to somehow come closer to other peoples suffering – as a start, through empathy which is a fundamentally good place in which to dwell.

“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.”  Moshin Hamid





Trying not to be a Hypocrite …

Definition of Hypocrite;

‘A person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.”

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

I have been nonexistent here for over a month … but not on social media. It has been perhaps the most challenging period for me since I began sharing my written thoughts with you eighteen months ago.

Like so many of us, the American election, for Americans and non-Americans alike and its excruciating aftermath, has consumed me, infuriated me, emboldened me, depressed me, “created” acrimony amongst friends/acquaintances/relatives/strangers and has left me with an omnipresent feeling of guilt.

These are not the mindsets I want to hold as I wholeheartedly believe in my “new view of the world”, as one friend recently pointed out to me in deriding fashion, however, he is correct – in a manner of speaking. Fortunately, I recently caught myself spiralling into a trough of vacillating bitterness with my cousin on the other side of the pond and on the other side of an issue. We both stood down and pursued love and respect – which I know we both have for one another. But it was work! Should it be?

If you haven’t yet followed me on Instagram – I hope you will. And if you have not hitherto embraced Instagram I encourage you to do so. On that platform, dissimilar from Facebook, Twitter or to any number of morose pundits one may subscribe, I for one have been able to perfectly insulate myself and escape from divisive politics, rancour, or any debate and instead, have been successful in submerging myself into and/or posting only “good vibe images” of love, peace, universal friendship and the power to change ones life through resolute personal choice.

My dilemma and guilt is found between what I have been sucked into on Twitter and Facebook (my choice entirely – my bad) and the dichotomy of my Instagram activity. In a nutshell – I felt my varied actions to be hypocritical.

Do you agree? Or have you similar personal misgivings about your own inconsistent actions and thoughts? We all strive to be the best we can be within the current boundaries of our imperfect amalgamation of knowledge we have acquired thus far. Is it fair however to be so self-critical?

Endeavouring to be consistent in our lives has a number of meritorious elements for us. People understand what we stand for. There should be no surprises. One would expect fewer misunderstandings and mixed messages (my issue). Perhaps more people would respect our views despite the fact that one may genuinely deviate from them.

On the other hand – we are complex cognitive beings. We are multifaceted in thought, actions, love, empathy, jealousy etc.

We are naturally wired to think critically and therefore I believe, that as a cognitive mammal it is unnatural or better said disingenuous to force oneself into a hermetically sealed box (blindly or otherwise) of one politically or socially circumscribed philosophy. I am quite sure I would make for a lousy politician.

So in this doctrinally polarized environment, if one takes a stand where one feels, “it is just too important to be silent”, personal assaults will be inevitable and one must be prepared for them. If I am sending out peaceful vibes on Instagram and sharp digs out on Facebook or Twitter, so be it. It is what I believe in. And, notably – I am prepared to face the music. It is our choice that allows people to get “under our skin” and feel unsettled. In the international best selling book, The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz expounds on the Second Agreement, Don’t Take Anything Personally.

“There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. You become immune to black magicians, and no spell can affect you regardless of how strong it may be. The whole world can gossip about you, and if you don’t take it personally you are immune. Someone can intentionally send you emotional poison, and if you don’t take it personally, you will not eat it.”

Being authentic is not being hypocritical. Being a critical thinker is where we find genuineness and objectivity. That is what I always strive to uphold. If I remember that, I might also remember ALL of Ruiz’s four agreements.

Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.




So there …