Tag Archives: kindness

Kindness is The Shit

If you were to accomplish nothing more in life than treating everyone (including yourself) with GENUINE KINDNESS, you’d have fulfilled your ultimate purpose on earth — at least as far as god is concerned.

June

As a teen and a young alcoholic, I poo-pooed kindness as a prissy bow that conformists like June Cleaver pinned on their words. In the atheist home where I grew up, I got the idea that achievement was all that mattered — getting to the top, impressing the right people.

But I was never smart enough. Never fast enough, never funny enough, never liked enough. I felt empty and alone. So I needed to tap-dance harder, always harder. And I needed that warm haven alcohol granted me to shut down the show every night.

Emma

“Thank you, it’s good to see you, I’m so sorry for your pain, is there something I can do to help?”  — fluffy phrases like those, they were useless. James Dean and Emma Peel sure AF didn’t waste time on shit like that, and I wasn’t going to, either. I was going for badassery, not nice girl.

Flash forward through hitting bottom, getting sober, and staying sober 23 years; toss in a Near Death Experience (NDE) and 15 paranormal after-effects that have happily married to my every thought an awareness of the afterlife and omnipresent spirit world, and you have a grateful woman who views life quite differently.

Kindness is everything.  It’s why we’re here.

Writing for the Seattle IANDS newsletter this past year, I’ve interviewed six people who, like me, have died and come back with memories from the other side.  All bring back the same message of kindness; so did all the NDE speakers I heard at the IANDS conference this past summer.

These people, who told me their stories over Skype, had died in various ways: in car accidents, from severe illness, drug overdose, hyponatremia and other causes.

Life after Life: Artwork by Cory Habbas

After recognizing their own lifeless bodies below them, several encountered spirits who showed them “life reviews” — more or less movies covering their lives from birth to the present, except that now they could feel the experience of everyone their actions touched.

For every person who has reviewed their life with loving spirit guides, the focus has centered on one issue only: did they help or harm?  Were they loving or selfish?  In most life reviews, NDErs were shown how the kindness or cruelty they passed to others, even in the most casual interactions, rippled out throughout the world to endless effect.

For example, Howard Storm, an atheist prior to his NDE, an ordained pastor since, told me this:

“They showed me episodes starting when I was born. Watching each scene, I could feel not just my feelings but the other people’s…. Events I thought of as the entire goal and purpose of my life got passed right over — first art exhibit, big promotion, zzzip!

“They’d say, ‘Let’s get to something really important!’ and show me interacting with my kid or talking with a student. There I’d be sitting in my office with a student coming to me with a personal problem, and I’d be looking compassionate, but on the inside bored out of my head, you know, checking the ole’ watch under the desk and thinking, ‘I don’t have time to listen to this drivel all day!’  I could feel that my lack of compassion and kindliness for others caused [my guardian angels] great sadness. They never said ‘That’s good, that’s bad,’ but I could feel it – almost as if I were gut-punching them.”

True kindness is the flower of love.  Love is what animates our bodies and, in fact, what powers the totality of the universe. Notice that Howard faked caring toward the student who opened his heart to him. The student couldn’t read Howard’s selfishly impatient mind, but god and the guardian angels could! What gut-punched them was Howard’s indifference — his missed opportunity to share the flowers of Love.

Another NDEr, Barbara Ireland, told me this:

“I said, ‘If I choose go with you, what happens to all my half-done screenplays, to all the music I want to put out?’ And the voice answered, ‘Oh, Barbara, those things don’t really matter!’ And I was like, ‘—Really?!’  It said, ‘What matters are relationships. If your work opens someone’s heart or connects you to them, then, yes, it’s valuable. But the main thing is what you leave behind you in everyday life, like the wake of a boat on the water. Do you leave behind happiness, do you lift people up? Or do you judge them, bring them down, compete, compare yourself with them?”

Recovering alcoholics, life reviews should ring a bell with you.  Of what could this possibly remind us, this looking back at one’s life to see where we’ve shown up in a spirit of compassion, kindness, and usefulness to others, versus where we acted with selfish indifference?  Hmm…

Could it be Steps 4 & 5 — seeing how our self-centeredness, our resentments, our fears kept us from offering love and tolerance? When we read a thorough Step 5 with a wise sponsor, we’re getting the benefit of a Life Review without having to die.

For me, working Steps 4 through 9 brought amazing freedom. Recognizing the fear-driven blinders my ego kept putting on me, then extending human decency to those I had harmed — these actions sprang me out of the guilt and shame of knowing I’d left a trail of garbage behind me. They cleared away burden I’d been drinking to ease time and time again.

Kindness brings self worth. When we grant every person who crosses our path dignity and respect, whether we silently wish them well, offer a smile, or go so far as seeking to be of service, we’re becoming that “channel of thy peace” that opens the Saint Francis prayer.  As god flows through us, the light we convey to others heals us as well.  AA’s “one alcoholic helping another” is founded on this very freebie.

Sometimes others aren’t ready to receive the goodwill we offer.  Oh well.  Flowers emanate beautiful scents and colors regardless of whether any bees are around.  It’s just what they’re here to do.

 

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Filed under Alcoholism, God, NDE, Near Death Experience, Recovery, Self-worth, Spirituality

The Ultimate False God: Coolness

What is “coolness”?

Words are tricky.  This philosopher guy, Derrida, once pointed out that words and ideas are all attached to one another like a big web or network, but the web itself is attached to nothing.  The word/idea “rock” has nothing do with an actual lump of minerals, except in our collective memory.  The whole mass of meaning floats.  There’s no anchor.

So when I say “coolness,” we’ll have to at least take a second to figure out what I might mean.

No culture worships this quality more ardently than ours in the US.  The vast majority of our cultural icons embody it – figures emblematic of wild West lore, gangster lore, entertainment industry lore, and so on.  John Wayne.  Al Capone.  Drake?  We foist coolness on famous figures who eschewed it in real life, like Einstein or Lincoln, and even on certain animals like panthers or falcons.

Coolness is an aura of infallibility that rebuffs any weakness – including fu insecurity, confusion, or dependence that makes one vulnerable.  Coolness implies the individual is a source, a sun of personal charisma.  Even alienated characters, if they’re cool, attract the audience who “gets” them, just as each peer group defines its own style of cool.  Across the board, though, cool figures exude confidence – an immunity to bungling, embarrassment, and indecision that elevates them in the eyes of others.

But because words float around, we sometimes conflate coolness with positivity.  In conversation, we use “cool!” as a synonym for laudable, so we might potentially mix it up with goodness.  However, there’s a world of difference.  Take Mother Teresa for instance: what she did in Calcutta was “really cool,” but did she embody any of the “coolness” described above?  Would Kanye West rap about her?  Not exactly.

Alcoholics often drink to feel cool.  At least, as a practicing alcoholic, I did.  And you know what?  I succeeded with flying colors – again, and again, and again – in my own mind.  Of the thousands of drinks I took, the only one that failed to cool-ify me… was my last.

snoopy_joecoolToday, when I try to go back mentally and recreate that sense of “coolness,” what I arrive at is a sense of a force field, a glow of indifference highlighting me as subtly superior.  Louisa with a few drinks in her was undaunted by whatever (imagined) disapproval mainstream dolts cast her way.  Fuck ’em!  Some part of me watched myself and approved, finding ways to make you think I didn’t care what you thought.

Shitfaced, I was even cooler.  I became a rugged individual, a Rambo against social decorum, yet slinky and wily, sorta like Catwoman.  Your cool may differ.  Yet whether boisterous or aloof, we all seek the same sense of impervious, indifferent badassery – a condescending dismissal of the humanity around us.  We’re keen.  We’re cocky.  We know shit.

But all we’ve done, in reality, is swallow some liquid.

Sobriety, on the other hand, demands rigorous honesty.  People who cannot recover are “constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves.”  In my eyes, coolness comes down to a form of inner dishonesty which, for us, can be lethal.  The friends I see struggling most in AA – the ones who keep relapsing, almost dying, or who eventually do die – are the ones I sense still worshipping this false god.

As hard as it may seem, rigorous honesty means giving up the illusion of coolness.  It means ceasing to worship at that altar, unmasking that ideal as empty and pointless.  It means grasping and accepting that everyone – not just us, but everyone – is fallible, vulnerable, incomplete, and often scared.  Sure, some people with emotional defenses close their minds to these flaws, but they still suffer them, and to the degree that they deny them, they will never find peace.

To be human is to not know what the fuck you’re doing at least half the time.  It’s struggling with worry and insecurity, wanting to be liked even when you don’t want to.  It’s meaning well, but having stuff not work out, and looking stupid.  We’re vulnerable, fragile, and frequently lost.  Coolness pretends to banish all this – but it lies.

To be human, fundamentally, is to be incomplete.  We are each of us a tiny bubble of life, little princebroken off from a greater source that is living-ness, the whole of god.  Being isolated is painful.  It’s hard to be sealed off in our yardage of skin, encapsulated in our lonely skulls – because our true essence is we.  God is we – the manifold of all beings.  For this reason, what fuels us most is connection to others – compassion, collaboration, love – not in our glory, but in our humbleness – our simplest human state.

Those who can’t stay sober – many are trying to worship both gods: the god of love and the god of “fuck off, bitches.”   Some are addicted to imagined admiration, but most are simply grasping for a life-ring.  A few still glorify partying as a form of rebellion: “Fuck, yeah, we gonna rip it up tonight!” (meaning they’re going to ingest things).  Others retreat into the cool of morose isolation, of just not giving a shit.

The antithesis of coolness is caring deeply.  That means we do give a shit about what matters, including others’ welfare.  We’re forever working toward something constructive, remaining true even when the going gets tough.  For me, the source that loans me the power to care passionately is god.  I have enough; I can take a risk and reach toward you.  Ironically, the more we renounce coolness, the greater our capacity to generate acts of goodness that could be deemed “cool.”

Only when I acknowledge that I’m not an island, when I admit to god all the weaknesses and wounds my ego denies, do I open myself to a loving power that completes me, rather than the drink that only  seems to.  Love – that energy we can pass on in a thousand forms, not of coolness, but of warmth – is ultimately the power that keeps us sober.

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Filed under Addiction, Alcoholism, Faith, God, Recovery, Sobriety, Spirituality