The first time I was aware of the brain as a part of the anatomy and not just an abstract thing I was often reminded to use, was in a psychology class, my freshman year in college. The year was 1967, I was a wide eyed, naive, country girl. I fell in love with psychology and was on a quest to figure out what makes us tick. I saw a picture of a real brain that was labeled mid- brain, fore-brain, frontal lobe and brain stem. Very elementary as compared to the models of today. I was not as interested in the anatomy aspect as I was in the functionality. I majored in psychology, but found the very organ that I wanted to understand, had a profound effect on my learning ability. I was on the dean’s list for several quarters, no not the good one, the flunking out, one. I have always had a hard time recalling information. I read constantly and did well on multiple choice type tests or if there were cues to the information. I had trouble recalling facts or dates or putting together a paragraph summarizing events with cause and effect. It was so frustrating to me because I did due diligence and read and studied the stuff I was supposed to, yet I did poorly regurgitating it. I still have the problem to this day, but now I blame it on my age. LOL. I have studied the brain over the years, pouring over studies and recent breakthroughs. I can visualize the areas of the brain and know what that area controls. I understand the basics of the electrical synaptic system and the brain chemistry balance we need for it to function properly. Yet, I have trouble retaining and accessing the information stored. Gotta be there somewhere, right? or did the information get lost in the process of going from working memory, to short term memory to stored memories. In spite of all the information now available about the brain anatomy, about the electrical circuits, and all the theories of behavioral science and so on, the brain is still, a new frontier. Memory, thought process, patterns of behavior, our whole human experience is dependent upon one thing, our brain.
Well versed in America?
Good vs evil. Real vs false. Conservatives vs liberals. Rich vs poor. Educated vs illiterate. Black vs white. Me vs you. Dark vs light. Truth vs lies. Control vs freedom. Haves vs have- nots. Male vs female. Native vs immigrant. Trump vs civility.
I have not written anything for awhile. My couch swallowed me up and I have been in the belly of the beast for several weeks. I found myself unable to motivate nor do I have the energy to do so. I find I sleep more than I am awake. Yes, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder has grabbed me by the ass again. Finally I am starting to come to life, although it feels like the pins and needles stage of a limb awakening.
I have always had a hard time knowing the difference between compassion and pity. I learned, compassion is good, pity is bad. Pity implies a victim. We even say “they’re having a pity party” or “it’s a pity they didn’t get caught”, to imply it’s a bad thing.
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pity– early 13c., from Old French pite, pitet “pity, mercy, compassion, care, tenderness; pitiful state, wretched condition”-(11c., Modern French pitié), from Latin pietatem (nominative pietas) “piety, loyalty, duty” Replaced Old English mildheortness, literally “mild-heartness,”
As you can see, the word has transitioned from meaning compassion, mercy, and even piety, all positive, to present day’s negative slant. Pity, now seems to imply that our compassion is tempered by contempt for those in need of it. Pity implies the other is less than us. Compassion on the other hand puts them on the same plane as us.
We become incensed by what we perceive as someone’s pity. “I don’t want your pity” and “I don’t want your charity” has placed these words of positive qualities in a bad light. We seem able to accept compassion and relish support in our times of need, but sense when it is insincere and condescending. The ability to see a need, realize it is also our need and make no judgement of “the other” while trying to be supportive, is true piety or pity. If it puts it in a better light, a more positive concept, then call it compassion. Call it what we will, we all need to receive and to give it.
It’s a pity that pity has a negative connotation.
It’s hardest to pity or have compassion on ourselves. Suffering brings pain, pain gets our attention and demands relief. If we could look at ourselves with the same love and compassion as we do others, we would be able to lessen the suffering in the world. How? When we see ourselves as connected to other humans, that we are a web of life, we are able to accept the compassion of others. As the web comes to each of us, if we cannot accept the compassion we block the flow. The universe has an abundance of compassion available, we have to learn how to be in it’s flow. Until we are able to accept compassion for ourselves we cannot feel compassion for another. Without self compassion, (self pity), how can we be a part of the web? Only by opening the valves for compassion to flow through us, can we keep the flow going. I just finished putting new faucets and drain in the bathroom sink, so my mind is thinking in terms of water flow. Shut offs, from the main valve and individual line valves, control the flow of water that comes out of the tap. Unfortunately, one of the valves under the sink malfunctioned and did not shut off, unbeknownst to me when I went down stairs to turn the main valve back on. I came back upstairs quickly in case of a leak, saw a geyser instead and run faster than I have for years back down the stairs to shut it off. After that I took a nap and finished it later. As I ponder compassion, the analogy of the pipes seems appropriate. If I shut off compassion to myself, I have shut off a pipeline from the universal source. Opening my heart, allows compassion to flow through me freely.
“Where mercy, love and pity dwell, there God is dwelling too”
My mind is my own worst enemy. It lies to me, distracts me, condemns me, inflates me, and gets me in trouble. Taming a troubled mind is no easy task. Many reactions are defaults co-set with parents, teachers and friends. As children, our brains are wired by both nature and nurture. In my estimation and experience it is not a question of either or but a marriage of both. From conception onward we are formed and shaped not only by the internal environment of the mother, but also by her external world. The dynamics of the mother’s environment, her interactions, her feelings about the pregnancy, the father’s relationship to mother and baby, the support of family and friends and so many other elements affect the prenatal development. Once we enter into this world, take into our lungs the first breath of earth’s oxygen, we begin to personally take part in the pattering of our brain. From the first gasp of breath and the cry of life, to the need for the connection to the mother’s milk, touch of skin, and eye contact, the instinctual (mammalian brain) has guided us to birth and survival. It seems the brain is malleable and very little is written in stone. There’s a saying that “neurons that fire together wire together”, meaning the brain is not necessarily as hard wired as once thought. Pathways can be changed and neurons affected by both internal and external means. Repetition, muscle memory, pattering, meditation or any number of techniques can be used to change behavior patterns. But one thing is for sure, once a pattern is formed, a behavior established, it is very difficult to change. I find even in the areas I have and am working on, I still revert back to the default. I do, however, find the duration of the response is shorter and less severe. Change is hard, but it begins by changing our mind.
Suffering is one of the hardest problems of humanness. It touches every life in one way or another. Many books, articles and opinions have dealt with this phenomenon, yet it continues to haunt our existence.
If we aren’t personally touched by tragedy daily, we see it aplenty on the news. We see wide spread violence, starvation, floods, fires, natural disasters, domestic violence, self inflicted pain, and numerous other results of our human condition. We can feel overwhelmed by the negative side of humanity, while ignoring the kind, compassionate, and positive side. Even in the midst of the worst suffering, acts of kindness are there to provide BALANCE. The universe seeks balance.
When feeling like the “world is going to hell in a hand basket”, I try to listen to the personal stories of those who have been through hell and come out the other side with their faith intact and stronger and more compassionate. Suffering can either make us bitter, and destroy us or it can give us insight into ourselves and others, and make us better humans.
The news has become more of an opinion reality show than just reporting the goings on around the world. It’s like the sports format; several hours are spent telling us what could happen, game time spent telling us how they feel about what is happening, and more hours spent talking about what happened and criticizing every move.
There are news channels biased to the left or right that will support our own points of view and feed our own biases. I support freedom of press and think it is important to be informed, but I can not help but feel that as a common citizen, I am not getting a clear picture of what is going on in our government. We want to blame “the government” for the ills in our lives but my understanding of a democratic republic, is that we are all “the government” How can we keep ourselves out of our own lives? Do I believe the people we elect to office should be held accountable to find out what the public really wants? Yes, I do. But here is the problem, The United States of America is not a united nation. It is very diverse with many voices clamoring to be heard. It seems that those with the loudest voices are those who can back it up with wealth. It seems we are being managed, not governed.
What do you think?
As a woman in the autumn years of life, I have been thinking and trying to make sense of the experiences of life. I am mostly a watcher, a seeker and a ponderer. Writing has always been an avenue of release of all the noise in my mind. My mind and my fingers work together so much better than my mind and mouth. My fingers seem to know the words while my voice searches for them in the air. Words meant to be spoken aloud swim around in my vision but are allusive to my voice. I know there is a word that is perfect to express my point or my reference, but by the time it comes out of my mouth, I have lost my timing in the conversation. Conversations have a life of their own, they are fluid and any lull in the conversation is the opportunity for someone to interject what they have been thinking about while you were speaking. While I’m searching for words, the conversation takes a turn and I am left holding that damn perfect word and no audience.
Woke up early, about 2:00 a.m. Watching the devastation that Hurricane Harvey left behind. It is just too big to get one’s mind wrapped around. I have experienced a home fire and a city flood but nothing was even close to what even the least affected in the wake of Harvey is experiencing. I find myself teary-eyed a lot. I weep for their loss and pain, I weep for their feeling of displacement, and I weep when they reach out to help each other. It is a “real time” test of the human spirit, of what can happen when people reach out to each other. There are many heart-warming stories as well as heart -wrenching ones. I am heartened by the stories of courage and compassion shown by a majority of those involved.
Why do I watch the coverage if it makes me weep? I watch because they are not separate from me. I refuse to turn a blind eye to what others are experiencing just because it is difficult to witness. I watch because I choose not just to look, but to act, even in the smallest way, to be kinder and more aware of the needs of those around me. Because I watch and insofar as I can, act, I am blessed and it and changes me.