Thursday, April 9, 2015

Love is Action, and Action is Effort

I say "love is action" a lot. It's a useful mindset, in my humble opinion, because it neatly dodges some of the issues in abusive relationships (for any value of abuse). "Oh, but she loves me." Sure, but how do you know that? What does she do that's loving? (Swap the gender, it still works, I just default to "she" because I write for Onyx Pat.)

You can extrapolate that principle out to work in relationships beyond intimate ones, though. Not to get all Carlo Summers on you, but I really do believe in thinking and acting in friendly, loving ways. I fuck it up sometimes, I admit, I get angry or frustrated and I get grouchy. But I really do try to at least empathize with other people, even - especially - people I don't and will never know, even people who would probably hate me. It's hard to do sometimes (often), but I find it helps for a few reasons:

1) I don't want to be angry all the time. There are people in the world who, whether under the banner of race, gender, "ethics in game journalism," "real talk," or whatever else, actively make the world worse. Sometimes they do that by shooting people, sometimes they do that by making anonymous death threats, sometimes they do that by just propping up other people who do the really horrible stuff by saying "not all whatevers." Those people, by their actions, are clearly not loving, and maybe they don't feel any need to be. Maybe they feel the world hasn't given them their due so they don't need to give anything back. Whatever. I can't be angry with them all the time, and my solution to that is to avoid making judgments about what they are and stick to making judgments about what they do. Hair-splitting? Maybe, but it's helpful to me.

2) I like people. I like talking to people, I like hearing people's stories. I like learning about people's viewpoints and I like it when people are interested and enthusiastic and happy. And that is one of my biggest reasons for being as gung-ho about inclusion and diversity and feminism and so on: I want all voices at the table. But if your voice is mostly defined by what you don't like, what you don't accept, what you don't want to hear, well, I'm not as interested. (Yes, there are folks who are highly feminist who mostly define themselves by what they hate. I don't like that negativity, but I'm much more inclined to listen to it, because the truth of the matter is that some voices are routinely silenced and some aren't, and as one of the "not silenced" ones, it behooves me to STFU and listen.)

3) I find the following phrases to be lazy and unpleasant: "People are stupid." "I hate people." "Nuke it from orbit." I totally get where they come from, but I have no time for misanthropy. I say "lazy" because it's so damned easy to spout platitudes and to be negative. It closes you off, so that means you don't have to make the effort to understand people. Also, if you're coming from a place of hate, then you assume everyone else is either. No need to try and understand why people act the way they do if the answer is either "because they suck" or "fuck 'em."

I have a theory that a lot of modern-day stress comes from the fact that our social circles are so much bigger than our Monkeysphere can handle, because of the advent of social media. I have 717 friends on Facebook as of this writing. I have no idea who most of them are; they're folks that friend me because of my gaming work. But even if we strip out those folks, there are probably several hundred people that I do know or did know at one point, but that are not really part of my life. Can I, from a emotional/mental bandwidth perspective, care about those people?

No, not unless they become part of my life. I had a really interesting moment yesterday; I realized, actively, that there was someone on my feed that I wanted to know better. I thought about our exchanges on Facebook, and though, "I would like this person in my Monkeysphere. I would like to know this person in real life."

I don't have that realization often, but the truth of the matter is, I'm open to it from most people. It's not the active emotional investment with individuals that I cultivate, because that way lies madness. It's the potential for that investment, for not closing myself off until I have enough data to do it.

Positive outlook? Sure. But mostly it's about remaining emotional neutral, with a slight skew toward favorable, about any given person until I have a reason not to (or to feel more strongly).

That works for me. It might not work for you, but I'm happy to hear what does.