May 27, 2008

Emotional Insulation

Sometimes I think I’m really lucky. For all the time I spent whining about being lonely just a few months ago, sometimes I think I’m really lucky to be chronically single. Sometimes I think I’m lucky to be “emotionally stunted” and “hopelessly introverted” as a friend of mine once called me.

I see other people after breakups and the various emotional relationship ordeals and I just can’t imagine myself ever getting that worked up. Not to say I’m always all that relaxed. I get upset, angry, sad, lonely to be sure. The worst I ever feel is when I’m frustrated, when I feel like I should be able to do something I can’t, learn something I just can’t wrap my head around. I want to cry, stomp my feet, scream and yell. The difference is, that doesn’t generally involve other people. I’m upset with myself and I usually go out of my way not to pass on my frustration or take it out on anyone.

Sometimes I think my introversion, my lack of reference point, provides me with a kind of insulation, a bizarre form of equanimity or objectivity (as much as any such thing exists). I have occasionally hypothesized that this very thing is also a hindrance to my ability to develop compassion. I wonder over the confluence between suffering, motivation, equanimity, and wisdom.

It seems like suffering creates the motivation to be free from suffering. Wisdom shows us the links between our own suffering and that of others. Seeing these links and knowing suffering creates compassion. Yet wisdom also tells me that equanimity is the means by which to exercise compassion and that ultimately equanimity – true equanimity, that which accepts all happenings with neither attachment nor aversion – leads to joy.

Just thoughts going around and around.

1 comment:

mcarp said...

I totally understand what you're saying. I always thought the reason the Buddha encouraged celibacy was not because of 'sin,' but because of all the jealousy, drama, angst, rumor-mongering and suspicion relationships seem to cause.

We've elevated it to an art form in our culture, but it seems to exist almost everywhere, and I'm sure it existed in India circa 500 BCE.

But as far as compassion goes, there's the old saying about walking a mile in somebody else's shoes – you can't truly empathize until you've been there.

As I've gotten older, I'm less self-conscious about the dumb relationship things I've done, because I've come to realize most other people have done them, too. So I'm more understanding of what they're going through, and not as hard on myself as well.