10 Terrible Words that Shouldn’t Exist in Any Language

Digital text-illustration: 10 Terrible WordsOne person who hates is a Weapon of Mass Destruction. One who cares and shares? Perhaps the only antidote.

As I recently said to my friend Maryam: poverty—both of concrete, material resources like food and shelter, and of intellectual and ephemeral resources (education, spiritual enrichment, the arts, community engagement, etc)—seems to me to be perpetrated and perpetuated more by selfishness than by an actual shortage of any of those resources. The rich and powerful always want more riches and power, and what they do have makes them able to afford and acquire more and to keep their feet firmly on the backs of the have-nots. Plenty is never enough. The resulting imbalance is as old as history, and rotten as ever. Only those who will speak up and resist entrenched inequities and injustices will have any hope of making change.Photo montage: Wolverine & Badger

The badger and the wolverine have a reputation for being among the most tenaciously savage brutes of all the mammals. Yeah, Honey Badger even has his own meme to show for it. But let’s be honest: no beast of earth, air, or sea has a capacity for vile, rapacious cruelty rivaling that of the human animal. Even creatures of the natural enmity of predator and prey compete, fight, kill, and are sated. They have little apparent ideation of hatred and war to match people’s. A wolverine or badger will fight to defend, or to kill for food, but unlike the human, doesn’t seem inclined to attack indiscriminately outside of its primal needs for safety, shelter, and food; when the skirmish is done as efficiently as possible and the need assuaged, the sharpest of tooth and reddest of claw among them doesn’t do an end-zone dance to celebrate its pleasure in winning but will usually depart the scene or go to rest for the next time of need. The remaining food and shelter and other resources stay in place for whatever creature comes next, hunter or hunted, cousin or not.

Can we humans not learn from such a thing? I’m pretty sure that if we destroy each other and ourselves in our constant self-righteous, self-congratulatory belief that we deserve everything we can get our hands on, Honey Badger won’t be the only creature that doesn’t care.

Expensive Tastes

Digital illustration: The Jeweled WhatsitMy magpie nature challenges me. I don’t see any particular inherent problem with being attracted to shiny objects or distracted by what sparkles and catches my wandering, curious, childlike attention. Most of the time, anyway. But when it comes to how I respond to those attractions and distractions, I think I’m pretty weak-willed. I’m easily enchanted by the handsome and impressive, the glimmering and magical Stuff that catches my eye.

What is complicated is not that I like such things, nor even that I waste many a waking hour on admiring them. It’s when I covet them. When I spend resources more precious than my pining glances on them. When I fill up space in my home, my bank account, or my heart with them that would be far better spent on more substantial things. Love. Sharing. Living.

I hope that recognizing the flimsy character of such tinfoil treasures as most Things are is at least a healthy step toward not letting myself be led too far astray by them. But there is always danger in admiring any sort of tempting prettiness. My inventory of belongings is proof enough, especially when I go about tidying the house and come to the end of the day with boxes or bags full of books, clothes, kitchenwares, electronic devices, decorative objects, or any other kind of trinkets that are no longer so shiny and have fallen not only out of my favor but completely off my memory’s radar. Perhaps what I need to do is to train myself to look at such tempting collectibles as catch my eye with a magical pair of glasses that allows me to see how short their lifespan of use and pleasure will be, and how little the return on time, money, and energy I spend on them can possibly amount to in real terms. My lifetime’s garage sale value must be worlds smaller than what I invested to amass all of the frivolous wonders that ended up in it.

…What was I saying there? I just happened to look out the window as a dazzling butterfly tumbled past, and of course I had to follow it, and then that made me notice something red and glittery off in the distance…

Abundance and Gratitude

graphite drawingAmong the essentials for a happy life, I consider the above named items some of the most meaningful. But I am often, rightly, reminded that these are as much matters of attitude as anything. Much easier, both of them, to qualify than to quantify.

Abundance, as experienced and demonstrated by many people I’ve known and seen who would be considered below a desirable economic level, is seen as having enough to survive, and just a touch to bring a guest to the table as well. That this means the main family’s subsistence is so much the sparser while a guest is on hand means little, except that the gift is commensurately so much the more generous.

For those of us with more considerable resources, I think the same attitude is worth the attempt. I should think through the difference between my actual needs and my wants, live within my means, and delight in the ability to share what I have with others. I’m not always nearly as good at this as I’d like, but think it a practice worth pursuing and improving over a lifetime.

Gratitude needn’t be limited to feeling I’m in the center of abundance, anyway. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be thankful for any and every good thing in my existence, even when the tenor of the times is set in a sparer and more trying mode. This, too, is simply a survival tactic on my part, as giving in to my dark instincts at bad times has no logical outcome but that I’d lie down and die. By choosing to actively and attentively seek out and recognize whatever kernels there are of goodness and light, I take away my focus from what lessens me and give myself a chance of relief. Better, I may see the glint of otherwise forgotten abundance, and that always makes me more grateful.digital illustration