“She openeth her mouth in wisdom
and the law of kindness is on her tongue.”
– Proverbs 31.
I saw that saying just the other day, for the first time. Its origin is in the Hebrew “chesed,” re-stated in the Christian tradition as above. I was surprised to see it. Law and kindness had never before seemed to be natural partners.
Now our subject, of course, is not religion or law but The Power of Cat.
Bugs, looking kind.
So I will getteth to The Power of Cat, yea even unto this post. But first, I’d like to be heard about where I’ve come from. It’s important to our subject because I started out, Cat-less, an awful long way away from the law of kindness. Many of you have enjoyed the natural state of cat-loving grace for a long time. Me, I’m the new kid on the block. I’m thinking if I chart the progress that has led me to become able to join your good company, some other poor sod might not have to re-invent this wheel.
Here’s a fair description of the emotional state that was pretty much it for me, in life as I knew it up until 1992: Hatred.
When hatred “occupies us entirely, the need for revenge crackles and glimmers among the flames that torment us. Passion has no footing in reason . . . . [N]o matter if all it receives in return is kind feelings, courtesy, friendship, or mere patience. Every great passion is hopeless . . . .” – Embers, by Sandor Marai
Hopeless vengeful hatred. Not much of a life as I cared to live it.
But when this subject came up? He decided to get while the getting was good.
I’ll spare you the gory details of where all this hatred started. You’re probably glad to hear that. But if you’re curious and you’ve a strong stomach, read Black and White, by Dani Shapiro. The details differ in my case, but the general picture is spot on.
I had an idea, thanks to my fundamentally kind father, that I wanted kindness instead. But how in hell’s half-acre do you learn that? Marinating in hatred? When reciprocal kindness, courtesy, friendship, and patience are not enough?
Short answer: Bugs (and therapy).
Longer answer: Become a student of the Law of Kindness. With a view to learning how to practice it in real time.
I’m just saying. I should put those law-school dollars (which I’m still paying off) to some good use already.
But to learn the Law of Kindness, you have to go to a different kind of law school.
First Law of Kindness: Mere Kindness Is Not Enough.
Kindness is too mild a concept. When you’re marinating in aversive feeling – be it hatred, grief, frustration, rage, despair, numb indifference, deep depression – for tough times like those, bartender, I’ll have a Concentrate of Kindness. Make it a double and make it snappy.
Concentrate of Kindness is empathy. Empathy is understanding. I’m talking about the jet-fuel variety, the empathy, understanding, that’s cultivated by:
Experiencing feelings (no matter how awful they may be) simply, directly, fully; and
Articulating those feelings to another person (but pick your person carefully; not just anyone will do); and
Being heard by the other person, who listens with the deep commitment necessary to grasp, accurately and directly, the essence of the experience being expressed.
If you want to know more about this, check out Marshall Rosenberg’s version of empathy in Nonviolent Communication. I’m here to testify that this method has been a lifesaver for me and many others.
This is not therapy, though therapy has been helpful too, once I found the right person. With Rosenberg empathy, there’s none of that let-me-explain-my-theory-about-what’s-wrong-with-you-in-exchange-for-you-forking-over-$200.00+/ hr thing that can go on, if you haven’t been lucky enough to find the right person. The empathy I’m talking about is one human being listening to another human being, with skill, some practice, and, most importantly, heart. Listening deeply and carefully; coming, with patience, to understanding.
The process, for both speaker and listener, can be a lot scarier than you might think. There is good and sufficient reason to inhibit the feeling I’m talking about. In my case, I needed a depth charge to blast past the final frontier of scariness. And that depth charge was the ultimate weapon, against which all resistance was futile, why, the very idea of resistance, where this ultimate weapon is deployed –
THE WEAPON OF PINK.
I mean, you get that, right? No further words are necessary on this point?