I am spending a spot of time mulling the fascinating differences between perception and reality; particularly those that arise unexpectedly and more honestly than usual. I find that I am thankful for truthful insights, even if delivered late and only in anger.
There seems to be some degree of dissonance among a small circle of casual acquaintances that I find rather amusing; to wit, that my life is somehow bereft or otherwise empty of people or enjoyment. I suspect that some fall victim to the projection of perception (i.e., lacking facts from which to work, they engage in assumptions using their own worldview, winding up with a conclusion based upon their personal preferences and interpretations).
The interesting part about such things is that they inevitably speak far more pointedly to the one making them than the object of their effort (in Buddhist philosophy, this is an aspect of the subject-object problem, more commonly referred to as the delusion/illusion of duality). I often think that if people were more aware of how the things they say, do, or communicate revealed what is happening inside them, they likely wouldn’t do any of it as easily or mindlessly (versus mindfully) as they do.
I freely admit that I maintain a very small and particularly close circle of friendships and relationships. The primary reason is that, as part of practice, I am working on easing attachments. I’m fortunate in that I do not have much in the way of family, so practice in this area is quite simple. I do not invite “everyone I meet” into my life; in fact, I think I can count the number of times I’ve actually invited people for more than an hour or two (e.g., housewarming, share a glass of wine, etc.) on one hand, with the thumb down.
The degree of closeness required to engage an active friendship is easily treble that which I allow acquaintance. I may “know” you at distance, I may smile, nod, “be friendly”, et al when I see you, I may casually discuss any number of things at the cafe, outside in the courtyard, or in the hallways, but the overall willingness to expand my personal circle of devotions in life is quite slim indeed.
Add to this that there is a bit of difference between inviting people closer to be helpful and kind to them or inviting them closer because I actually want them in my life (I suspect that reads harsh, but I intend it merely as a statement of motivation and intent, not a judgement).
I am always willing to help someone. Always. I think it an important, imperative thing to do as a human being. The way I figure it, this poor, old dirtball isn’t going to change if the only people we are ever willing to really put ourselves “out there” to help are people we know or people who agree with our worldview. (Not to mention my core conviction that, were people to make a point of helping others “just because they can” on a regular basis, it’s pretty damn probable that much of the sorrow and need and hurt that exists simply would not.)
The above all said, I am very well aware of the level of time, care, commitment, and effort (i.e., “devotion”) friendship requires and deserves. I am not willing to offer that to someone if I cannot know to the best of my ability that I have it to offer. Frankly, I think it’s an ethical thing; friendship, as love without it’s wings (Lord Byron), holds at its core a mutual agreement to sincerely treasure one another. That’s just not something I take lightly and it’s not something I will engage with another who I see taking it lightly. It’s important. It matters. It is a thing that lends beauty and depth and meaning and purpose to life. Humans are woefully prone to feeling alone and friendship is one of two bridges upon which they walk through life. It is a thing to honor. This is what I believe, think, and feel so, yes, I tend to be a bit picky about it.
Sometimes, I wonder if I am too picky. After all, Buddhist philosophy also posits that one should treat all beings with bodhichitta (mindful love, care, and compassion). But the illusion of reality that we experience tends to ensure rare few manage it even intermittently, let alone consistently, so it seems foolish to attempt as if possible that which is known to be beyond the pale of human average experience.
Add to this that I am definitely not an enlightened being (chuckle), all the more reason to restrict myself from any but those with whom I can be truly beneficial and kind. The last thing I want is to knowingly add to the weight of another. I’ve enough karma to manage without that, thanks.
When it becomes apparent that I cannot find positive alignment with someone; I withdraw. I do it early, I do it often, and I do it without compunction. I know there are those who take that as some sign of rejecting them, or “thinking ill” of them and yes, sometimes, for a moment, it is…. but more often than not, the majority of the time, actually, it’s either that it is too hurtful to be around them OR that, seeing that their being around me is hurtful, it seems the only truly kind thing to choose/do.
I mean, after all, I can’t change others and I can’t always change myself, but I can at least work at making sure that I never cross the line of deliberately hurting others. At the end of the day, intention is all; everything and anything that matters is bound up in it. I can’t make others see or know my intention, I can’t always articulate it as I’d like, I can’t even guarantee that it won’t slip right out from under me in some moment due to an emotional reaction I don’t move fast enough to keep from getting away from me.
That doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t keep trying. It also doesn’t mean I have to accept the incoming perceptions in relation to my intention or motivation. As you can see, I have enough on my plate managing my own, thankyouverymuch. I’m afraid you’re just going to have to manage yours the best you can, too.
I’ll close this by saying that I often find it incredibly sad that it is so easy for humans to leap first and hardest and best to the worst possibly conclusions about others rather than to the best ones. I’ll add that I do it more than I like myself. But I think it’s kind of important to keep both in mind and remember more the similarities we share than the differences we bear because, at the end of the day, every one of us want the same things in life conceptually, even if our personal versions of what those concepts are vary considerably.
I reckon this is one of my ways of trying to manage it. I just wish I could manage it better and more often.