Let me start with the premise – if something feels good, say, my dog’s smiling face when I return home from work, then surely this is a good thing; I feel happy, my dog is happy, (presupposing she has a sense of happiness) and the world moves-on.
Now, let’s think of a scenario when I return from work and my dog is smiling, tail wagging, joy expressed through every inch of her body – and I don’t feel anything.
I guess that is detachment; perhaps a symptom of being distracted, or not in a good place.
Now, think of me coming home in a mood or positivity, happy to be returning to my family and my dog approaches the door full of glee. This time I know it is different – this time I know that although she is happy to see me, she doesn’t realise that something is wrong – specifically with her. Say, she has cancer.
How do I subvert my feelings, my awareness that all is not well and focus on the positive? We all know what the right thing to do is – behave normally, as if everything is OK, smile back, wag my own metaphorical tail and get on with things.
But is this real?
The cognitive scientists will tell us that if we follow this modus, and behave as if things are good, even though they are bad, we will eventually perceive them as good, or, at least in a less negative way.
(Keep watching the (black) dot… it’s purple… it’s purple… and voila – the purple dot!)
How important is it for us to be true to ourselves; if, for example, you swap my dog for a person, someone who not only is having a bad time but is also aware of that bad time – they, unlike my dog have consciousness in the human realm.
When we see that those around us are suffering – perhaps worried, anxious, bullied – yet, despite this most of life is good, is great, what’s going-on?
Say, you work in a kitchen and the chef is a bully – a measly minded soul who picks on the weak, takes advantage of those who can’t stick up for themselves, but that chef has renown – reputation – they have Michelin stars outside their front door.
How does the suffering of the staff affect the dish delivered to your table; you might be unaware of the turbulence that went into the creation of your food – the human misery – the long hours, poor wages and torment. The soup tastes fantastic!
Does the cultural milieu that synthesises the meal or the service, the car you are driving – or the clothes you are wearing, matter?
We talk of Fairtrade food and ethical clothing.
How much do we really know about what goes into the creation of all that we consume? The company might be Fairtrade because they don’t destroy too much rainforest and pay their staff a minimal wage, but what if other torments or unfairnesses are foisted upon them; does the Kenco still taste as good?
If the artist is a fiend, is the painting or the melody still beautiful?
And back to the work –
Perhaps moving away from my dog and her comforting stare.
Surely bread, or care, or support, or whatever, that is delivered in love, with love, with care and feeling and generosity, with the person who is expressing the holistic art of their human body (as Bruce Lee used to say), brings something to the table that is missing when there is fear, worry or resentment.
There is perhaps both a physical and metaphorical flavour to what we see and do.