Sharing about developing empathy and nurturing my life experience in my community.
I had quite a shift during my day yesterday where I consider I finally understood what was missing in my life experience before, wherein I used to be very ‘utilitarian’ in a sense and judge things based on them being useful for something tangible or not and within this, write off a lot of experiences that had to do with what I judged as a waste of time like getting together in a concert to presence live music, or going to the movies, or seeing a play, or attending a conference about some kind of creative process.
I actually considered that the ‘click’ of realizing this emerged yesterday with a series of small moments of contact and connection with people that renewed this understanding that I’ve actually been expanding on throughout this first half of the year for the most part and getting to genuinely enjoy my human experience – at last – lol.
If anyone has a recollection of me, I defined myself as a Grinch, the person that hates family reunions, large crowds, having to ‘deal with people,’ would rather be alone and isolated from everything that didn’t just ‘make sense’ or ‘agreed’ with how I view things or would be zero productive in a utilitarian sense. I stopped watching anything entertaining and only focused on sucking all kinds of information I could and placed myself in a higher ground where I believed that ‘everyone else that seemed to be enjoying their life were fools and disingenuous about reality.’ Well, the joke was on me, because I truly got bitter and lifeless to say the least, and it was only through a decision to challenge this ‘me’ mindset that I’ve been – slowly but surely – cracking open from that hardened shell.
Now, this is something that I would not have been able to do alone at all. Yes, I had to make the decision to – as they say – put myself out there and actually give myself the time to stop moving from ‘task to task’ for a moment and give myself some time to stop and ‘smell the roses’ so to speak. For example, I’m so used to taking a walk everyday for over a decade now, and I had the phases where I’d do something ‘productive’ in it like taking pictures and videos and so forth – then It was just me walking, going to get things somewhere and come back, have the least contact with people throughout that and be quite generally ‘lacking’ something in my life in doing that, yet being very disciplined about it and believing I was achieving some form of self mastery in doing so.
Well, from the past year I decided to not only do the walk but actually use the time to also get to interact with others and actually establish relationships through that. It all started with opening up to enjoying listening to music in the street and standing there enough time where I’m not in my usual ‘rush’ of having to leave the place or having this race against time, but genuinely set myself to enjoy observing ‘life passing by’ which is something I had avoided doing – again – within the mindset of: ‘Oh this is just a waste of time, no one is getting anything out of it, I’m not getting anything done’ etc. But over time, I realized that it was through that sort of dedication and openness that I got to connect more with people in my environment and stopped seeing it only as a nice ‘background’ or ‘scenario’ to look at or walk by, and instead I decided to be more a part of it all, to actually stop seeing myself as an outsider, as someone that will most likely ‘leave at any time from here’ and actually grow some roots as I heard someone in a documentary I watched yesterday say.
Man, it’s been such a change and I don’t mean to turn my bleak view on the world into a suddenly rosy everything is fine now mindset, nope, because in actually getting to create relationships with people, getting to know more about their lives and relationships, one does realize a lot of messed up things going on, which have also opened up my eyes tremendously to realize how much I was sort of deluded into just blabbering these higher than life principles but in reality there was no actual decision from me to create an actual Empathy with people, to actually connect, to actually step out of my misanthropy and get to really connect and decide to care about others. That’s the change that I’ve been working on and has definitely changed my life experience in quite a significant way and I’m only starting with this.
How did I got to this? By deciding to grow roots, to finally settle in and ‘go out there’, and instead be more present, be more HERE which I thought I was doing by keeping myself in a semi-monkish way with little to not distractions and very few interactions that I could be perturbed by. I avoided people, that’s the reality – and now it’s sort of the other way around and it’s not a 100% change, but I definitely now push through to show up to meetings and places and family reunions that I would usually talk myself out of, giving myself certain excuses like being able to use the time for something ‘more productive’ apparently.
Looking back, I can see all the many things that I cut myself off from, like cousins that had kids and I wasn’t there at all when they were baptized or born or had their first birthdays, I always said no to any of it. Now that I’ve been rekindling those relationships, there is a bit of sadness about having missed out on all of that growth and now I see them with 12, 18, 5 years old and missed out on all of their initial developmental phases, including that of my direct nephew and niece because I was in such mindset of detaching myself from everything and everyone and believing that way I would not ‘be hurt’ if I had to leave this place that I live in. I deliberately created detachment to things and that definitely wasn’t the way… and yes, I’ve also gone through the route of being resentful to myself for making such decisions, looking back at ‘all that I didn’t do’ or that ‘could have been different,’ but, at the same time I’ve deliberately decided to not beat myself up for it, to make peace with it because that was me back then, having a very rigid mindset going on about my life and what I should do and how I should think, and yes I deliberately separated myself a lot from virtually everything around me, I was like an alien living where I am but not really TRULY seeing myself as a part of it all, I was just like an observer, a temporary observer. Of course this may sound like I didn’t connect ‘at all’ with people, I remember having had equally enjoyable time when being in art school, but once that was done, I did isolate myself quite a bit.
How did I come to open this up today at last? I was listening to Joe Rogan’s podcast, which is something I’ve been listening to for several months now and I’ve genuinely nurtured myself from it because I find that it is through people’s lives and experiences, the challenges they create for themselves that they create successful and enjoyable lives that do not come easy, they come with hardship, but see the benefit and satisfaction in doing so. So, yesterday’s podcast was about a guy that went to live with a certain kind of monks – not Buddhists – for 15 days and the stuff he gathered from it, and as I was listening to his description of how the monks lived, I realized that for quite a few years I lived like that, I’d like to say these past 7 or more years I sort of did that kind of detachment and unwavering discipline for certain things where one is living in the world and believing one is cultivating certain things – which yes I probably did – but are not really going ‘out there’ and really being a part of the world. I did this detachment for several years and I didn’t have to only go and live somewhere else in a similar seclusion for a year to do that as part of this process, but I sort of continued living that way even when coming back and I consider that was entirely my comfort zone and – still is in many ways – to not challenge myself further, even if I know that doing so is the most supportive thing to do.
Here I want to leave things clear that no one told me to do this but myself, that’s how I saw ‘the way’ to become a better person in this world, by not participating in a lot of what I considered useless, a waste of time, harmful, pointless, brainless, etc. And with that, I lost touch with actually being in reality and being able to enjoy and savor the various seemingly ‘meaningless’ living experiences.
I have to say that I actually have benefitted a lot from the various years I’ve spent going to documentary festivals now, like Ambulante festival here in Mexico, it was through that that I got back to seeing how people are living in the country I live in, the things that are unfortunately going on around me and that I was fully oblivious of, because I was focusing more on expecting some kind of world-reset-overnight-change in the economic and political level and a somehow miraculous ‘saving’ grace for this world to the point where I wasn’t concerned or rather interested at all in what was happening at a local level. It was through the documentaries and actually showing up to the screenings that I started getting ‘in touch’ with people in my community, it was a matter of deciding to care and push through the idea that it was pointless, that it was just entertainment and not judge it as that, and place myself there, learn to watch/hear/see the stories and kind of allow the idea to sink in that this that I am watching is not just some fictional story for entertainment, these are people’s lives.
It’s been such a nurturing process and it has assisted me a lot to finally develop that care, consideration, empathy and – god I will dare to say – affection for people. I never thought I would say that! Lol ‘so out of character’ and sure it damn is! It is as if the center of my being is finally ‘opening up’ in reality, not at an intellectual level in which ‘I thought’ that I cared about people and life on earth…. Seriously? By me having this constant ‘fighting’ mode and bitterness from the moment I’d step out of my home? No way, how could I have in fact been ‘best for all’ with that sort of misanthropy exuding from my pores? Nope, yet I thought I was the most caring and self aware person walking on the streets…
This is what I was chatting about with my partner today, how much I have benefitted from art or artistic expressions actually, specifically documentaries and going to screenings and start getting to know of my community, and start seeing people that are presenting their work and realize I know them from another contact and getting to see their work and what their interests are and their different views on life and things… it has assisted me a lot to slowly but surely be stepping out of this rigid mentality where I thought that ‘everyone has to be like me’ or ‘think the same way I do’ because ‘it makes sense and it’s best for all,’ and instead, realize it’s about me being open to the myriad of living-ways that each human being represents, each one has got fascinating stories to tell in their own way, their own struggles and motivations to live and with their own purpose. I am now definitely interested in getting to know them, and savor it, and enjoy it.
This is me here writing it out at last, but this has been an accumulation process of several years now, like 3 at least where I noticed that I decided to step out of this ‘Grinch’ mode and started opening up to few things here and there and currently I am a lot more settled into this ‘newly’ found enjoyment and interest in being a part of a community, which I just didn’t care at all to do before.
Yesterday I got to confirm and kind of finally realized why I started being so drawn to these activities like going to watch documentaries or certain live acts downtown and through that developing a kinship to people that are more involved with this kind of activities, people that I had always just ‘passed by’ that I am now deciding to actually talk to and get to know and possibly collaborate with. I went to this short film festival from locals and it is so out of character for me to say this, but it was heart-warming to see some of the youngsters share their story of why they got to do certain works like an animation – which I personally didn’t ‘get’ much – but I got a lot more from seeing the nervous-stricken guy tell the story about his dad leaving home to do some PHD and having certain legos left with him that he got kind of an obsession with and developing an entire animation with them which surely must have been a LOT of work to do, but it was a way for him to deal with that sort of situation of how he lives his life, his own ‘isolation’ if you will and how genuinely happy – to the brink of tears – he was to be able to show his work, his many hours of production to the people in his community, to his co-citizens, as he called us and at that emblematic place that is built for that kind of local reunion to watch certain acts live – music, theatre, movies, etc. His words were a way to finally ‘put words’ to the reason why I also showed up, it is a form of care and interesting in other humans and their lives and creations.
Lol, I kind of finally ‘got’ why art is relevant. I laugh because I ‘studied’ it and practice it, but I had not truly given words to the reason ‘why’ it is relevant. And this I also got from listening to someone in a podcast or so say that we need kids in this world, newborns, that will grow up to be the next inventors, the next artists that enrich our living experience – and that hit a core right there. See, I had no ‘clear’ idea why I would like doing art, or watching movies now on a regular basis as part of my time with my partner and going out to be a part of a communal show like it is to go to the movies, or going to the documentary festivals which I also very much enjoy as those activities that have genuinely made my life better, building myself as a part of the world through these activities. Showing up to all of these is a statement of ‘hey I’m here, I want to commune-icate with you, you are part of my community, we’re all here, let’s connect and support each other’ which to me, is becoming ‘the’ thing that moves me and drives me in my life: developing these relationships and connections with others.
This is quite a big change because I like being productive, there’s no way around it, I ‘dwindle’ if I just place myself in non-action consuming only information or watching something and not ‘doing’ something at the same time, which is why going to the movies is almost a requirement for me to watch something and be still, and it also forces me to go out, to meet with others, to be ‘part’ of a community for a moment, even if I don’t get to speak with the rest of the attendants, I’m there, we’re there and sharing a moment.
I guess that’s what it also boils down to. I was so glad to arrive yesterday to downtown’s theatre and see this long queue of people waiting to come in to watch these 4 short films made by locals. Sure, it could have been that each one of them invited all of their friends and family, but so what! It was such a nice thing to witness and again, be a part of, where I decided to make that time of my day to meet up with these other hundreds of people, fill out an entire auditorium to watch these emerging film makers that share the same city with us. It certainly isn’t the same as watching foreign films, because these are people around you, growing in the same culture, moving through the same spaces and seeing that on film kind of creates a form of bond that I had completely disregarded as ‘pointless’ or a ‘mind thing’ before.
I’ve talked about how I realized the actual care and enjoyment of people around me nowadays and how I went from hating crowds to enjoying the moment of standing in a crowd and watching musicians play, or being sitting around many that are there watching documentaries, and enjoying their laughter and their sadness which at times comes with watching these stories and knowing that we all got that experience right there to stay with us. And that’s – I guess – the power and purpose of the art sharing experience, or simply sharing experiences through film, music, seeing some visual art… but even more so, I get to enjoy hearing the voices behind those creations, that to me is essential nowadays. Yesterday I got to see that as well how some of the things that I watched were just ‘meh’ or not ‘my style’ but hearing the story behind it, about the connections they had to create to have it done, the challenges, the dedication, the effort, the resources pulled for it, that definitely became interesting and inspiring as well.
I was also very much touched by a guy that told his story of how he initially started his documentary wanting to share about how much he loathed his family – lol – because of a treason situation his uncle did, but through making the documentary and getting to know his friends’ stories about their relationship to their family, he realized that his initial premise for the documentary was going to be shitty and not inspiring at all. So through the making process, he literally said it was an act of forgiveness and him realizing the importance of family even if one feels like the ‘odd one out’ which I very much could relate to, so this documentary definitely spoke to me quite a bit because I had been so reluctant about family, family gatherings and such and it is only now throughout these past months that I’ve come to enjoy it and cherish it for what they are and represent, and this documentary also made me realize there’s plenty of people that felt like me, some that are still in that detachment phase – which seems to be related to being a young adult – and others that accept and have come to make peace with the variety of characters that a family represents yet, sticking together for the network of support and community that it is.
It was very cool for me to see this in the shape of several stories linked with this common denominator, somehow seeing people from your same city talking about these things turns a moment into an enriching experience where I felt a little more ‘connected’ to everyone around me and within that, taking one further step out of my bubble. Even with hearing another person next to me laugh at the same situation I could personally relate to from the documentary, became an ‘Ah! I’m not alone!’ type of realization, even if it is very obvious that we live in a city with lots of people and we barely communicate to each other – yet, it is in this kind of gatherings where to me the movie is a bridge to connect with each other, and that’s awesome. I’ve made a couple of friends now this way because of seeing what they created and wanting to get to know more about them and finding that kinship within their drive for this kind of creation.
After I went out from that whole after-film discussion, I was walking down the street with my partner and we saw one of his friends playing at a café, there was barely anyone there so we decided to join in. The sheer fact of seeing him see us decide to come in and drink a cup of coffee while listening to him play was enjoyable in itself, a decision to say ‘Hey I’m here, came to see you!’ and it surely was also enjoyable and ‘out of routine’ to do this kind of decisions, sitting there for a moment and share about our day became such an enjoyable moment as well, where we could later talk with his friend – our friend I’d say now – and get to give him some ideas of how to get out of a rut he was stuck with and impulse him to test out other ways to use his kills and make money out of it. It was a short meeting, a ‘moment’ only if you will, but to me this is the kind of substantial bits that make my life experience a lot richer… and it would not happen if I didn’t take the time to be ‘out there’ and actually have the disposition to connect with others too. I’m grateful for the connections like this that I’ve been able to make through my partner who is also very much linked to the local community and I am appreciating the benefit of having that starting point to be able to relate to many more people. In a way, I’ve come to definitely no longer enjoy myself only being ‘isolated’ and not having this sort of connections around others, and realizing more and more how no man is an island and when I pretended to be so, I definitely sank in it.
One thing I realized as well is that it’s not about creating ‘best friends’ with all kinds of people, but definitely relating to many more and being open to the variety of people in a community is part of what living life is… a complement to the rest of the personal doings, productive ways and personal achievements. I am opening my eyes to see how I definitely want to become a participating-part of my community and use the ways and means I have to start doing so, starting relating to others, instead of living like a hermit even when surrounded by people.
So, it feels like I had some kind of writing constipation for several months – I’ve certainly been processing several things and rerouting a bit my life and deciding to ‘grow roots’ here, which I am finally doing and looking forward to continuing developing.
I also realized that the most important thing is to share my story, how I’ve changed, what I’m busy changing, instead of wanting to come here and stand in a moral highground about how things should be or could be – I’ve been there and done that – so, there’s a tendency for me to want to end this with a note of ‘find your passion’ or ‘find your way’ to enjoy life, to genuinely get to experience that your life, your presence, your words, your doings are creating a form of meaning to you and others that is supportive, that is nurturing and expansive.
I am finding and developing that in ways that are very simple currently, as I shared in my past blog, that still stands and continues to be developing where the sheer process of getting to know one person and having that common stand point of creating a relationship in a way where living together becomes enjoyable and supportive IS worth living for, and seeing how that ripples out into the lives of others, without even ‘wanting’ to have an effect on them. That’s quite the remarkable thing I’d say and not to adjudicate any credits here to myself or anything like that, but simply seeing the effect of deciding to be a part of something and dedicate time to it, dedicate willingness to it, that’s quite an enjoyable thing to do.
This is currently the path for me, but I also understand it’s not everyone’s -and thank god for that, what would be the point if everyone would think or do the same things? – It’s all about being able to challenge ourselves, our ways, our ‘views’ and ask a very honest question: if we are dissatisfied about something in our lives, then what do we need to change and stop doing to stop making them shitty, meaningless and feeling miserable? And then dedicate the effort, time and actions to change that. I know the obstacles, I know the doubts, I know the fears, so, just taking the first steps over time is all I can say will open up new paths in how to get to enjoy living and seeing the benefit of it. I definitely am grateful to all of the people that have decided to share their music, share their films and documentaries, their stories with me and with many more. I get to enjoy my life more ever since opening up more to them and that’s great, otherwise, life would be too bland as I used to experience it.
Thanks for reading.
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