Join me in a thought experiment. Nota bene that this thought experiment is in the setting of 20th-21st Century Western Hemisphere society.
Imagine there are people who have never had someone hug them, covering the someone’s face, smoothing back their hair, and say “there, there."
No one ever said to them “aww, poor [baby]" when they fell, brought home a load of homework, got in a fight--no sarcasm.
No one ever held their hand when they got shots and bought them a plush kitty afterwards.
No one ever baked cookies with them, even from a mix, to teach them how to measure and the fun one can have with raw dough.
No one carried them consistently through life’s tough times.
No one to slip them a fiver when they’re on tough times.
No one to spoil them, even a little.
No one with whom to make memories.
No one to take them to museums, orchestra concerts, art galleries, mountains, rivers, oceans, hills for sledding
No one to make them hot cocoa afterwards.
No one to make them soup when they’re sick, or make the ginger ale go flat to soothe a sour stomach.
No one by whom to be comforted.
No one answers when they wake up screaming from the nightmares.
No one to teach them the wonder of lightning, to calm them during a storm.
No one to surprise them with a toy or game or book.
No one to teach them anything about growing up.
No one to help them when school gets tough.
No one to cheer for them at the game.
No one to drive them to the SATs.
No one to pick them up in the rain from the bus stop, as a surprise.
No one to put them through college.
No one who even gives a shit whether they go to college or not.
No one who muses on their future.
No one who cares whether the someone even has a future.
No one to cry on, to lean on, to love just because they’re blood or something like it.
No one to tell them stories about how things “used to be” fifty-aught years ago.
No one to console them.
No one to chase them down when they’ve ran away.
No one to come home to.
It’s very people and food and stuff-centric list, from someone who has had all this, by whatever twist of fate blessed me so much.
My partner is someone who has had little to none of the good things in life.
It’s not a lack of the people, physically. It’s a lack of compassion, brought down from generations on each side, a lack of being taught how to care because someone, somewhere, stopped caring. For probably practical, survival-centric reasons, in order to protect themselves, such a person turned inward. The consequences of such action is that everyone thereafter becomes so protective of himself, and no one else.
It’s a lack of compassion.
I've been thinking on mental illness after researching a nationwide mental illness advocacy organisation for a work project. From a Buddhist, Metaphysical perspective, MI can be seen to spring from a lack of compassion: for oneself, for others, for all sentient beings. Hell, now that’s psychotic—and the psychological experience of Hell as well. Which probably begets the physical experience of Hell for self—and others.
Mental illness is not an individual problem. It’s an individual manifestation of a collective problem. Whoever’s in the collective, whatever the problem(s) of said collective is/are, the problems will manifest in individuals, given time and the right environments.
Compassion is the antidote. The fill for the void. Not just any fill, but a warm, loving, kind, caring fill that starts with self-care.
When individuals fix themselves, they can fix the collective.
Since this is the 21st Century, we can still do this compassion-generation thing in the format popular in the fourth century BCE: lists.
- Show kindness to self, compassion
- Expand the feeling to loved ones
- Expand to enemies
- Expand to all living beings
What is compassion? Latin, “ com” (with) + “pati” (to suffer): to suffer with, to be able to feel what others feel. The practice involves first being able to take what you feel and seeing it objectively, outside yourself; this is meditation. Noticing, without judgment, having awareness and nothing more. Then you begin processing the feelings, without judgment, seeing with your mind's eye all that's there. You will feel sympathy for yourself. Not “Why did I do that I’m so dumb,” but saying, “Oh you poor poor child." Doing unto yourself as you, deep down, want others to do for you.
Then you practice letting go. You sit and practice compassion generation until you can metaphorically walk in any sentient being's shoes. And you keep practicing. And practicing.
The above list is from the teachings of Bodhidharma, founder of the Ch’an (Chinese; Zen in Japanese) school of Buddhism.
With that, cookies.
These coconut cookies are from the Detoxinista as they are very "clean," i.e., no processed ingredients. Detox your soul, detox your body.
Chunky Coconut Flour Cookies
Modified from Detoxinista
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons psyllium husk
- 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2/3 cup coconut flour
- 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- pinch salt
- 2/3 cup cacao nibs, raisins (chopped), or currants
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat.
In a large measuring cup, combine water and psyllium husk and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Stir in the cacao nibs or raisins.
Add wet to dry and mix well. Drop about 1 1/2-inch balls of cookie dough on the sheet and flatten (they don't spread).
Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the cookies spring back in the middle. Cool on the rack and store in a sealed container in the fridge once cooled.