Empathy hurts. It is – or should be – a natural human emotion, but sometimes I think it can take the front and centre seat for too long, and then you are going to have problems. Just like any other feeling, if it hangs around all the time it’s going to make you a very unhappy bunny indeed. And I think that all the growing problems and evil things going on in the world right now are making for quite a little colony of unhappy bunnies on this rock we call home.
There’s no doubt that we have made a serious mess of things all over the world, and that if we haven’t already crossed the point of no return we can’t be too far away. Some people are very good at not seeing cruelty, and avoiding the thought of it to save themselves such empathetic pain, or feelings of guilt. I always look though. These days with the wonders of the internet, those of us who might get a little carried away with the empathy, and who choose to eyeball all of these terrible things can end up in states of really rotten helpless pain and futile fury. And then you’ve seen what you’ve seen, and you know what you know, and you can’t ever un-see or un-know. After you do whatever little thing you can to help, you really have to take a step back and do something totally different for a while. Something happier, and without feeling any guilt at not being able to cross the globe like Superman and rip whatever cruel sod’s doing whatever cruel things arms off and feed them to him with a teaspoon.
I wonder sometimes about this old free will thing that we humans are entitled to. I especially wonder about why anyone would want to get up to a tiny portion of all the things we get up to, and then I think that maybe as a species we are collectively off our rockers. It stands to reason. Most of us KNOW when we’re doing or about to do something wrong. We’re born with that ability, but as we grow, and learn the things that we do from our family and environment, we also learn how to squish those twinges of guilt when we’re doing something that we know is wrong, because we like doing it, or because it makes our life easier, or it tastes better than celery.
The world that we live in becomes more and more chaotic, and everywhere you look there is pain. The pain we inflict on each other, and the pain we inflict on every single other species on the planet. If we all used our free will to stand up at the same time and exercise whatever large or small power we do have, we probably would make an impact, but instead we lean much more towards hiding our heads in the sand. We have no control of the family we’re born into, or the way we’re treated by them. We have very little control of where and how we choose to live – finances and society dictates that. We have no choice but to work in order to remain part of this society, and our lives are so full of activities and thoughts that sometimes we never see our actual lives happening as they do. It’s no wonder that we have no more room in our noisy minds to really, really take note of the things that we do, and the impact of these things on others. Empathy tends to get pushed aside, because when we do see something as wrong, we keep it to ourselves, in the knowledge that a very common side-effect of guilt is anger.
That’s where a lot of deeply empathetic people can find themselves in trouble. Everyone has their own opinion and set of beliefs, and they aren’t going to like being told that what they’re doing is bad – especially if they have a little niggling feeling deep down that it’s true. Heels get dug in, battles are waged and enemies are made that way. Love it or hate it, each and every person on this planet gets to figure out how they choose to live and behave on their own. Personally – mostly – I choose subtle ways to share what I believe. If I come physically face to face with actual abuse, especially of the animal variety, I have absolutely no qualms about inflicting a little abuse of my own on the abuser. But I truly believe that most of us are more good than bad, and that with a bit of luck we’ll stop doing the evil things that we do because we want to – in time – not overnight. Even if stopping these things is inconvenient or causes new challenges.
When I write some of the things that I do, I get totally and absolutely immersed in them, and considering some of the things I’m writing right now I get myself tied up in knots sometimes of rage and empathy. The same thing happens when I see all the vicious cruelties happening to millions of beings all over the place. I know though that me shouting from the rooftops isn’t going to stop them, but I also know that there are many people out there that want things to change, so I choose the sideways route in the belief that the pen really can be mightier than the sword. So I don’t shout, and I quell my rage by doing something else – something that I can do.
What brought this on? Princess’ recipe. I stopped eating meat years ago. I still cook it, and I still mention meat dishes and recipes in the stories I write. I don’t lecture anyone that does eat it, and I never will. I’ll give them a recipe. I’ve been pondering this a lot just lately though, and wondering if I’m somehow being dishonest with myself, or encouraging people to eat more meat. Promoting the suffering of animals. After quite a lot of mulling over this these last few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not. I’m a writer. I spent much of my adult life eating meat without any remorse whatsoever. I catered for quite a few years, and I’m a BRILLIANT cook. Also very humble as you see. At the end of it all I keep coming back to free will. For me I think, living in Zimbabwe where you didn’t get neatly packaged bits of meat that didn’t put you in mind of anything warm and alive, but instead were presented with whole carcasses that you had to cut up, made the reality of what I was doing put me off doing it. I personally don’t like anything about animal husbandry and slaughter. But that’s my belief, and I will not impose it on anyone else. Personal choice. We can all do only what we can, in ways that we choose, and whether those ways are loud or subtle, is all down to choice and the free will to do it.
So yes – I’ll carry on writing about anything at all. I write about abuse and psychotics, murder and the inflicting of pain, but that doesn’t mean that I’m encouraging anyone to do these things. Free will. Just as well I get to escape to Lapillus and its dragons now and then, or I sometimes think I might just explode my own cranium.