I dwell on empathy a lot these days, dwell on kindness and goodness and usefulness too. And although I don't necessarily believe that the amount of dwelling I'm doing is good or useful, it is certainly leading me down some interesting, and odd, avenues of thought.
One such avenue is the avenue of behind things. This is the investigation into what actually lies behind those four words mentioned above: empathy, kindness, goodness, usefulness. Very often, what's lying behind is just that, it's lying, a fact which can make it difficult to maintain one's spirit of investigation. Behind empathy, I've decided, is very often heartbreak, or darkness, or longing, or a fear of never finding someone who feels in similar ways to you. We empathise with other living or non-living things because there is an inherent generosity contained within our own emotions—think of it like recognising clouds for what they are even though you've never seen them before.
Behind kindness you can get stuck. You can get stuck in refined sugar, you can get stuck in small, grating abuses and in notions of pleasing or deserving, or of not deserving. It is possible to recognise behind kindness a thousand different breeds of rejection, and of wanting to tie things up neatly for other people while letting your own edges erode.
Goodness is the hardest of these words to see behind, because it is very good. But I have been patient, and so last night after closing the last pages of a novel, I was able to see behind goodness. What was there looked peculiar at first, without shape or breath, but as I waited shadows fell away and then I was able to see great absences, great and beautiful withdrawals, great givings-up in response to the overwhelming universes we are dissolved by—good is just good.
I have not yet been able to see behind usefulness, likely because I have not been able to settle on a definition for useful, or even a container for it. Lately the task became even harder because it was December before we knew it, and a December you perhaps won't know very well at all.
THIS WEEK I FELL IN LOVE WITH:
Dream-like paintings of people-together-how-unfathomable-right-now by Lisa Golightly. Somehow, they all feel like places I have been to.
This was brief, yes, no news of work or whereabouts or much at all. Time is stranger than I thought possible, and consequently December seems full of promises but also of waiting. Next week I will intentionally gather together more things, more thinking—I am also happy with less.