“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them, the human race cannot survive.”
(The Dalai Lama)
My husband, Amari, likes to do this thing he calls, “Turning the cube.” Whether it’s a news story, something he just read in his ravenous study of history and humans, an encounter he had with someone, or really, any situation at all, it’s like he imagines the situation as a cube in his hand: Whatever way he saw it at first gets turned so that he can see it from different angles. He is rarely satisfied with what he sees at first blush.
It’s a handy tool. It expands his view, his knowledge, and sometimes even his compassion. As we continue to marathon in this weird world of blatant uncertainty, and as the humans consequently continue to human pretty poorly, it gets harder to find compassion. It’s also more important than ever before, for all of the same reasons. I’d like to invite you to take a note from Amari and get in the practice of turning the cube.
Here’s an example based on a true story that we can use for practice.
Imagine there’s a woman in your neighborhood who always seems unhappy. As in… always. You say good morning, she glares at you. You park your car anywhere near the end of your driveway, and she rants that you are intentionally trying to make it “impossible” for her to get out of her driveway.
She has a little dog. One day you see her driving the dog very slowly around the neighborhood. She seems to stop in front of houses where neighbors have dogs, setting those dogs off barking.
What do you make of that choice? What do you think she’s up to?
Now let’s turn the cube.
You find out that the always unhappy woman lives alone and has cancer. She is taking very large amounts of pain medications to get through her days, but she sometimes gets confused and either doesn’t take her meds because she can’t remember whether or not she took them, or she takes twice the dosage, because she can’t remember whether or not she took them.
Her system is all out of whack and sometimes leads her into paranoia. She can’t trust her body and now she can’t even trust her mind.
If you know anything about pain meds, (or even if you’re just subjected to certain TV ads,) you know that they often have the unfortunate side effect of completely backing up our GI systems. I’ve always thought that was insult to injury. I mean, isn’t it bad enough that you’re in enough pain to warrant heavy duty medications? No, we’re going to add constipation to your pain. Stellar.
So this neighbor is in pain, confused, dysregulated, constipated, and, she’s dealing with the likelihood that she will die of cancer… alone in her house with her little dog. I don’t know about you, but I’d be more than just “unhappy” if it were me. I wouldn’t be too happy if I were the dog either.
And another ¼ turn…
That little dog still needs to go out and be walked, even though she no longer has the physical stamina to take him. She knows the dog needs social interaction too. It appears that she doesn’t have family or friends she can ask for help with the dog or with her meds. Or perhaps the growing paranoia has made it impossible to trust anyone’s help. Maybe she really doesn’t want anyone to see her like this or doesn’t want her children to know how bad it is. We really don’t know. But we do know that she and the dog are alone.
So she drives around the neighborhood, slowly enough for her dog to still smell the smells. She stops in front of dog friends’ houses so that the pups can at least see one another even if she can’t give them a chance to greet or play together. Her dog is her only steady companion. It’s the least she can do for him.
How does that cube look to you now?
The behavior is still not alright. She is still rather unpleasant and setting every dog in the neighborhood off to barking is still very annoying. At the same time, didn’t you find you had some compassion for the person behind the behavior?
The next time someone rubs you the wrong way, I encourage you to turn the cube. You might still need to protect yourself from their behavior, but when you consider that there may be a backstory you know nothing about, perhaps you can soften your heart and consider the human in front of you. I hope that someone will do the same for you when you’re having a bad moment, a bad month, a bad chapter, or even a bad ending.
Turn the cube, friends. At the end of the day, we are all just human.