Friday, January 20, 2012

Hardening the heart

I am often moved by the stream of consciousness posts on Bruce Charlton's Miscellany website. Some of his posts soar over my head and I can only hope to learn something, others such the piece he called "Hard and soft hearts - and toughness" really got to me.

One of the hardest things to do in this modern world is to really feel something. We have become so desensitized to human suffering by the real and fake (and manipulated) images we see in the modern media that we are severely jaded. I struggle with this greatly.

Over the last 20 plus years I can think of only a few instances where I was moved to tears and outward appearances of compassion or joy. How sad is that? When my premature son was born and was OK I was genuinely moved with relief and joy for both my son and my wife. There may have been a few times when I was on stage and performing (as a musician) I was moved by the experience, but I can't pin point them today. The attack and tragedy of 9/11 greatly moved me. I was beside my self for many days, welling up with each retelling of personal tragedies and miraculous stories. I know I was profoundly saddened when several good, good friends were leaving the company I worked for, although I wept in private never showing my feelings aloud (what is wrong with me?). There were a few days when my marriage was very rocky before the decision was made to gut it out that made me actually "feel". That's about it. What a sad life if that's all I can remember of sorrow and joy.

Charlton says emphatically nothing ever justifies deliberate hardening of the heart. Deliberately hardening the heart is an act of evil. We see it everyday and sometimes even participate in the exercises that permanently condemn our own hearts to a thoughtless, compassionless life.

He also says: Because to harden the heart is to exclude love, to build a carapace of pride - it is, indeed, an act of cowardice: hard-hearted people are cowards, in the sense that they take the easier and more expedient root of not caring. I perceive many people, many intellectuals in particular, and perhaps especially intellectuals...

This I have found to be true. Many of the people I know who are well above average in intelligence (I put myself at just above average) have hard hearts. They have no time or do they care for people below them in intelligence or social rank - they would not give them the time of day let alone for a minute consider what they have to say. Politically or as a matter of esoteric policy they may have all the compassion in the world for the "underprivileged" but they actually loathe them. Preferring some government program to take care of their issues rather than actually personally engage with the low-life-scum. I have to fight this in my own heart when I deal with people who do dumb things out of ignorance but not malice.

The sin of pride is alive in me, I guess. I'm aware (usually afterwards) of my horses-ass behavior and feel bad about it, and for a while try to change. I pull this on my wife and kids mostly. Proximity will do that. These are the people that deserve it least but see it most often. Sometimes their sorrow and pain makes me angry - and I don't know why. I can say it's because that's what I saw as a child when my Dad dealt with everything with his anger. Surely I know better???

I have noticed that there are couple of songs I found in the last few years that struck a chord with me (pardon the pun). I liked the songs instantly and still listen and sing along because the message speaks to me. One is called "Car Crash" by Matt Nathanson:

I wanna feel the car crash
I wanna feel the capsize
I wanna feel the bomb drop, the earth stop
'Til I'm satisfied
I wanna feel the car crash
'Cause I'm dyin' on the inside
I wanna let go and know
That I'll be alright, alright

The other is self explanatory called "I wanna Feel Something" by Trace Adkins:

But I wanna feel somethin
Somethin thats a real somethin
That moves me, that proves to me Im still alive
I wanna heart that beats and bleeds
A heart thats bustin at the seams
I wanna care, I wanna cry, I wanna scream
I just wanna feel somethin

These songs talk about getting lost in uncaring indifference and knowing it's just not right.