It is our psychic needs and the feelings that accompany them that are at the root of human nature. (Mary E Clark)
My Gran is old and frail. For 90 years she has been tough and fiercely independent but today she finds herself in an old people’s hostel. She eats what she is fed, goes to bed and rises according to the routines of the institution and occasionally needs assistance to bathe and dress herself. Despite the pleasant and caring hostel environment, this has not been a happy or easy time for Gran, so her extended family makes the effort to support her as best we can. We visit Gran daily, provide her with little luxuries, and bust her out for a visit to the hairdresser or cafe.
Taking care of Gran in the midst of all our other responsibilities can be quite an effort. And yet we do it. I think it is a normal human activity to look after the elderly as best we can. If you disagree, think of the deep emotions – sadness and outrage – expressed by the community when elder neglect and abuse is reported. However, looking after the frail elderly contradicts accepted understandings of human nature as expressed by Richard Dawkins that is, that human nature is essentially selfish, that we are motivated to act only to further our own interests, to ensure the survival of our offspring at the expense of others. Our behaviour makes no sense according to the selfish gene.
So, are we human beings intrinsically selfish, competitive and even violent? Mary Clark argues no. We are in all likelihood evolved with more capacity for kindness, cooperation and reconciliation than for aggression. There is much hope for those interested in nonviolence in her book: In search of human nature.
I’m working to expand my understanding of peace beyond being a mere absence of its supposed binary opposite: war.
I associate peace with words like freedom, choice, opportunity and growth and also community, mutuality and even spirituality. Then there is justice. And safety and inclusion… It’s getting to be an all encompassing mess really and I’m nowhere near a neat definition…
Yes, I would love to appear all sweetness and light but I am Christmas-ambivalent. I like shiny sparkly things, but when I see tinsel and lights I wonder what this display is costing the environment? Gifts can be great when given from the heart: they can be an expression of love of recognition of who you are and an acknowledgement of what is alive in you. But so often it seems to be a ‘check off the list’ activity. And something that is demanded of me. Worst of all I love my family but am not looking forward to seeing them all at once… shouting over the top of each other, asking mean questions like “so where are you travelling to this year?” when they know I can’t afford to travel. And they compete over the behaviour and characteristics of their children. And talk about politics! Continue reading “What to do with my Christmas ambivalence”
actively engaging with nonviolent communication, reading, doing exercises, writing in my nonviolent communication blog and just feeling my feelings as they occur
allowing myself to really enjoy and appreciate my relationships with my partner and children and to express that to others even when it feels awkward
being creative when and as I feel like it, enjoying having a number of crochet and sewing things on the go and attending to each whenever I feel like it
getting outside for a stroll around the block, or moving my craft stuff into the sunshine and working there
keeping things in order at work with weekly and daily to do lists and if stuff does not get done bumping it to tomorrow and going home on time and not thinking about it even if everyone else works a bit over
feeding the chooks and spending a little time with them