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Learning to love

Let's start with two fictional stories

Jon and his car
"Ah! My very first car! I'm so proud of it, it is such a good car! I'm going to take good care of it, and I'm going to drive up and down the streets of our village so that everyone sees my car!" thought Jon, a young man. And so Jon drove just for the sheer pleasure of it, and sometimes his friends joined him, they listened to the car radio and felt the freedom of rock'n'roll. Definitely, owning the car made Jon's life better - he was enjoying more company, got to see girls, went to see different kinds of events. Jon took a good care of his car - cleaning and polishing, painting and waxing, installing shiny accessories and always re-filling with the high quality fuel. The happiness lasted bit more than two years, then suddenly the car suffered an engine failure. Jon was sad and angry: "Why did the engine break down! The car cost me a lot of money, I used so much of my time taking care of the car, and then it just goes broken. This is not fair!". Well, Jon's friends told him to get over it, so Jon took a small loan from the bank and bought a new car.
Once again his life was filled with joy and freedom. And this time Jon spent even more time polishing the car. He liked his new car so much that he even rented a carage - when he didn't use the car he put the car in the carage and locked the carage door so that no-one can steal his fine car. After a year the car broke down, again due to an engine failure. Jon was pissed off, and he complained to everyone how unfair this is, and how unrealiable the modern cars are. One of his elder friends asked:"Well, you say that you took such a good care of your car. But may I ask, did you ever check the oil in the engine?" Jon replied: "Check the oil? That's a dirty thing to do! I wanted my car to be shiny and polished, and I invested so much money for decorative paintings and all that - it is just unfair if the car goes broken for unchecked oil!". His friend was smiling and said: "Oh sure it is fair. The engine needs oil to run smoothly, and without oil it will overheat and that leads to a sudden engine failure. Look, kid, you are making a lot of noise about how unreliable cars are, but the problem is that you fail to understand some essential basics of maintaining a car. If you don't like to chekc the oil yourself, you should consult a professional and pay someone to do the regular maintenance." Jon shook his head: "Nope. I'm never going to buy a car again. Cars are wicked."

Cindy and her boyfried Alf
Cindy and her boyfriend had been living together for two years. One day Alf bought a pair of jogging shoes and said that he is going to start regular exercise. Cindy just nodded, wondering if there is something more behind Alf's new hobby. At first Alf went jogging once a week, spending 45 minutes running in the nearby park. Cindy felt bit hurt, thinking to herself: "Maybe he doesn't like me anymore, as he wants to spend all that time away from me. We used to go to cinema together, and go dancing and all that nice stuff. And now we don't do that so often, but instead he wants to go out alone. But maybe this is just a temporary phase. I don't want to hurt his feelings, I'll stay strong and wait for him to return back to me. After all, he has said that I'm the most attractive girl he has ever seen."
Well, but after couple of weeks Alf was jogging more and more. He ran for nearly two hours on one go, and went excercising three times a week. Every time he returned he was happy and energetic, and usually he felt like he'd like to spend some good time together with Cindy, doing all the nice things what men and women sometimes do together. But every time he got back home he found that Cindy was distant and non-talkative. Alf thought that maybe Cindy doens't want to enjoy his company, and Alf decided to be a gentleman and not to put pressure on Cindy. But slowly frustration was building up inside him, he felt that jogging brings him more pleasure than being with Cindy, so he went jogging more often, thinkin to himself that maybe this is just a temporary phase, and if he manages to control his nerves, then pretty soon Cindy will again want to spend quality time together with him.
After a month or so Alf felt that he can't take it anymore. He decided to do something about it. Instead of the usual park he ran to the village centre and bought some roses for Cindy. His idea was to give the flowers to Cindy and ask her to go to the movies together with him. Just like they did in the beginning of their relationship. He got back home, and handed the flowers to Cindy, saying :"Sweetheart, I'd like to go to the movies together with you. Just you and me!". Cindy tossed the roses on the floor, screaming: "You liar! How do you ever dare to say 'just you and me'! Now I know that all this time you haven't really been jogging, but dating someone else. Those flowers are just you trying to cover your filthy fiddling. I see you have found someone who is more attractive than I am, so go ask her to go to the movies with you. Just you and her!". And with that Cindy left.
Alf stood there, dazed and confused. He reasoned: "Women, they are always so sensitive and emotional! It just doesn't make any sense. Where is the logic and rationality? Heck, I'm not going to pick an attractive girl anymore - if I ever date a woman again, goddamned I'll make sure that she is not any of those emotional disasters, but a reasonable, rational girl!" (but I'm afraid that Alf never found that rational girl. And none of his elder friends could offer him a piece of advice. Instead they all gathered at the local pub, complaining how difficult it is to deal with women as they are always so irrational, over-sensitive, illogical and whatnot.)

Now, reading the first story it might be easy to see that Jon is more or less over-reacting. With his manly logic he reasons that a car is an unrealiable tricky bitch, just taking all of his caring and money, and then quitting. I know people might have differing opinions here, and I'm fine with that. But personally I think that Jon's life would be easier if he learnt some more of maintaining a car. His problem is that he has a limited concept of what it means to "take care of the car". All that waxing and polishing is nice, sure thing, but is of little help if he fails to check the motor oil. And checking the oil is a perfectly rational thing to do, but because of his feeling of disgust Jon avoids doing that and restricts himself to doing only the nice decorative stuff.

Then what about Alf, who reasons that the problem is with the over-emotionality of women? I see his reasoning being somewhat illogical, too =) Actually, once again he is using this primitive pattern of "I saw one bad instance of X, therefore I believe that every X is always bad and nothing but bad. To keep my life on the safe side I'll stay away of any and all of the X." - that kind of logic might have kept a cave man alive, helping him to avoid eating poisonous foods etc. But with a little of rational thinking it is pretty easy to see that it is all too clumsy pattern to effectively understand the world we are living in. Like Jon, instead of abandoning the whole stuff, Alf would do better if he learned to better understand emotionality and communication. Naturally, the same goes for Cindy. At the moment she is propably hanging together with her female friends, and together they are complaining how irritating it is to live with a man, as men are always so emotionally distant and never pay enough attention to the woman, and are always so quick to pick a new woman when they see someone who is more attractive than the current one... Well, dear Cindy and your fellow females, what about taking a look at your own emotional patterns?

As a brief side note: I have never quite understood the age old claim that men are cool and rational, opposed to women who are oversensitive and irrational. In my eyes it is more so that it is very common for both men and women not to understand emotions (or, at least, this was the case in my family when I was a kid. I'm perfectly aware that there is a danger of over-generalizating based on ones personal experiences). Not to understand their own emotions, nor the emotions of others. For example, I have hear that it is "only natural" to react the way Cindy does in that story. That if you are sensitive, you have emotions, and you care about somebody, then it naturally follows that you feel hurt and get upset if your loved one is paying less attention to you. Sure, I do understand that it might be easy to feel that way. (And once again, in my experience I see men reacting that way as often as I see women doing the same. I believe that there isn't that much gender difference here, at least not in Finnish culture, where a lot of people feel unsecure and are constantly afraid of being rejected or dismissed by others.) I think this is just a case of misunderstanding emotionality.

Let's get back to Jon. He could say: "It is just natural to get pissed off when my car goes broken! After all, I care a lot of my car, my happiness depends on having a car, and gave so much of my resources to keep the car happy, and now all that is just gone! I feel robbed and betrayed!". So should Jon care less about his car? What would happen if he were emotionally distant and non-caring? This, taken to other extreme, might lead to him understanding that the car needs motor oil to run smoothly, but because he just doesn't care about his car, he doesn't feel like checking the oil. He might be rationally calculating that it is economically more effective to buy a cheap car, drive it without any maintenance until it goes broken, and then just buy a new cheap car. I'd call that an uncaring attitude. And it might be a perfectly fair and reasonable attitude when it comes to owning a car. But what about if Jon is all the time calculating: "I paid X amount of money for this car, so if I check the motor oil regularly, I can keep on using this same car for a longer time." and then just maintaining the car in an adequate manner? Sure thing, his car would last for longer. And propably it doesn't matter if Jon is checking the motor oil because he loves his car, or only because he is rationally calculating the pros and cons of doing so. But with living creatures it might make a huge difference. And, actually, if a person is OK with treating others as mere resources to be exploited, then I'd call him/her a psychopat.

So, what I am trying to say that if Jon understood his car better, he would encounter less problems with the car. And if Cindy and Alf would be better at understanding and communicating their emotions, they would be experiencing less problems in their relationship. In a way, Cindy's over-reacting might be a natural reaction, but it doesn't mean that she is pre-wired to react like that, so that the only options are either to control her irrational emotions or to let the emotional hell loose. No, with a little of self-reflection, some good discussion, and with a healthy amount of patience it is relatively easy to adopt new emotional patterns, to find new ways of reacting. Instead of trying to become "less sensitive", I'd say that it is better to become more sensitive - to sense ones own inner emotions with more detail and with more understanding.

I think I already mentioned that quite often I have heard that a sensitive person can't kill an animal. That to butcher a lamb I have to be insensitive and non-emotional. But I never experienced it that way. The moment I deliver the stunning blow, the very moment I drive my knifeblade through the throat veins, I'm deeply sensitive and touched by the emotional content of the moment. It is only that the emotional content does not knock me down nor render me unable to act. And that is not because I'm controlling my emotions with my rational mind. It is because I have a deeper and stronger feeling of being connected to The Earth, a sense of being nothing but a tiny part in the Great Flow of Life. My body is nothing but a temporary form in this big current of shaping and re-shaping of energy, and to maintain that form other forms must disintegrate, and one day my own form will disintegrate, releasing my energies for others to feed on. Yes, I can express this in words, and this might sound like a somewhat rational argument. But what is essential is the feeling of it, finding this emotion being so deep and strong that the temporary shock of having warm blood on my hands is not going to disturb my peace of mind. - Sure, this comes dangerously close to being a psychopat. As a psychopat can kill another human without being emotionally disturbed by it. So am I just a psychopat in disguise, inventing funny stories to make my own actions to seem somehow more acceptable?

Well, I think that it would be once again an example of primitive logic to classify people as "us good" and "them psychopats". It might be more accurate to see that every one of "us good" might have some slight features of psychopathy in our psychic build. And that it is not always easy to draw the exact line, telling what is "normal" and what is "insane". It would be tempting to say that "the world would be better if we get rid of them psychopats, or at least lock them up somewhere." - that might help, but after that we would still have to face our own inner psychological build, asking if there is something to change in our own emotional and cognitive patterns. But this is exactly what a psychopat fails to do. He or she believes in being a perfect being, and refuses to admit that it would be better for him/herself to adopt some new ways, to put some time and energy in self-reflection, to allocate some resources for inner growth. Hey, now, wait a minute - didn't we see Jon, Cindy and Alf doing exactly that? They were ready to blame the others for failures they experience, refusing to ask themselves if the problems are somehow partially caused by their own lack of skills? And this, dear readers, is my only counter-argument to defend myself =) I'm aware that suffering an unhealthy dose of domestic violence in my childhood sure has left it mark in my psyche - and that has been the main reason which has kept me on the path of self-reflection. I have painfully learned that "to love" doesn't just mean to feel a strong emotion inside oneself - as failing to understand some basics will just lead to a failure. So, for me, learning to love is essentially about learning to better understand the emotional layer of existence. And the horses are masters in that - they don't mess up things with inaccurate verbal descriptions, they just offer plain and clear bodylanguage and emotional presence. And the more I learn to meet and to communicate with them at that level, the less we experience problems.

ps. Instead of posting a yet another picture of Raiku, I'll attach a picture from last Sunday. It was a busy day, there were a lot of things to be done. But since it was a beautiful weather, I decided to spend some time cooking outdoors. It was canned moose meat together with onion, champignon, tomato and buckwheat - served with a pint of beer. "Here, Erkka, have a nice meal! I made it for you because I like you."

sunlight, steam and smoke
sunlight, steam and smoke
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