December 07, 2010

On people

I read a card the other day that said 'Sooner or later, everyone hurts you and that it is up to you to decide whose worth the pain'

The problem with this brand of Hallmark advice is that it is trying to reach out to such a large audience, that it forgets to be specific and ends up being vague and therefore, unhelpful. There's probably another card jumping to its rescue right about now saying, 'Well, hey its better to try  and fail rather than to never try at all.'

Without any criterion specified, how do we decide whose worth it? How do we decide who is our friend or predict which one of them will eventually hurt us? And how does one calculate if a person adds more value than they do, pain, in one's life?

When you're younger, these decisions are easy. In nursery school, you are friends with the first person who shares their goodies with you. In high school, your friend is the first person who smiles kindly your way. In university, it tends to be the person who likes the party in the same way as you do.

Then you cease to be young. I did not add 'one day' to the beginning of that sentence because that is like saying 'once upon a time'. There are no fairy tales, this is one of the things you learn in the painstaking process that is adulthood.

During this process, the same kid who shared his chocolates with you in kindergarten may have grown up with a desire to share more than you are willing. Is he still a friend, even if he no longer wants to be just so? The girl who smiled at you sweetly in school now tries her best to frown you down at every turn. Is she still a friend, even if she is not behaving like one at this time? If along the way, an enemy accidentally does you a good turn, is he your accidental friend?

Perhaps the easiest thing to do, would be to look at intentions. Then again, so many good intentions translate into ineffectual actions, one has to wonder if this system of rewarding intentions rather than results is really working to our benefit.

Still, perhaps we should assume the simplest path as Ockham did. If we were to do this, we would tell ourselves that the kindergarten friend knows everything about us and loves us. Then we would try and reciprocate. The frowns that are directed our way could be protective shields and we will hide behind them.

Then one may think,  what about love at first sight? or perhaps that we needed support at the time and not a shield. Picking your friends on the basis of what you need is a dangerous thing too. Just as we sometimes do not know why we do the things we do, we are not always the best judges of what we need either.

Which brings us back to - how do we know who to let in and who to keep out?

You know, the truth is , I don't know. What I've observed though is that you cannot control who enters your life or even the lives you stumble into. What's more, it seems to me that people cannot add or subtract value from your life. The only person who can bankrupt your life is you. I've never met an accurate accessor of the human spirit either. Whoever tells you that they can gauge the worth of a human being or encourages you to try to do the same thing, is lying.

People are unpredictable and usually so complex that their motives are hidden even from themselves. People will hurt you, love you, bring you pain and pleasure simultaneously, make you laugh till you cry, bruise you with their hugs and push you around with a kiss on your lips. Basically, people will bring you the broad spectrum of life, sealed and stamped right at your doorstep. There is no avoiding them.

This may perhaps be the best way to judge if a person is your friend- have they offered to or do they share a part of their experiences with you? Are they a part of your life? If the answer to these questions is Yes, then you must stop bucking, stop judging, stop examining and accept them as they come- because that is what friends are for.

and if the answer is Yes, then you must take deep breaths and remember the times that you inflicted on your friends, not so pretty parts of yourself. If you're really a friend - and you have to be one to have one - you will not tally the times against each other.

I think what I've concluded is that: people being people and life being life, one can not control either or bog them down with our individual expectations. One must simply allow each to run the course that they are. For the days that this current runs rough or inexplicably against you, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by the support you receive, from unexpected sources.

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