Sunday, February 3, 2019

On Compassion

Drops of Rain. Clarence H. White.
Yesterday, the rain splashed against my bedroom window - and the splatter created a drizzled pattern. It looked like crystal pearls formed on my window - as morning dew forms on fallen leaves. This is supposed to be the last great storm coming through Los Angeles this year.

I generally don't like the rain, but it was Saturday yesterday, and because it drove out the crowds - I was grateful for it. When I visited all the busy supermarkets, nobody was there. People are like cats. Cats hate water. They hate water too.

Speaking of cats, I found a new hobby with my cat. He likes to be with me when I read in the living room.

Some time ago, I realized that I wasn't getting through enough reading. Even though my friends, peers, and colleagues think I read a lot, I would say it's not sufficient - for sure. My three topics currently are (1) health and nutrition, (2) criminal psychology (3) misfits and tribes, and (4) compassion and justice. Some of the reading is laborious, and some of it is bedtime reading.

I was getting frustrated with myself, because I wasn't getting through enough. For sure. But how could I read more? For some reason, I realized if I treated some of the books like actual labor or work, I could get through more. Like work, I admitted to myself it's not necessarily all that fun, and I needed a workspace for my most difficult reading. I clocked in like it was job. When I treated the most difficult texts like this and not pleasure, I was able to acquire information faster.

So at night, I choose to read the lighter works, because I'm already mentally exhausted from everything else that's happened in my day. That's improved my reading a lot.

Funny enough, I was reading a book at night, and I fell asleep while the lights were on and a candle was burning. I woke up at 2A, realized what happened, and it reminded me of days in college - where I would read and fall asleep with my textbooks in the living room. My roommate was very nice, and he'd see me and take my blanket from the room and put it over me. I never knew who was doing it, until one day I woke up and caught him.

Going back to my blue Siamese cat, he's learned to be with me. I mean he's really present, not texting someone else, not thinking about something else, no; he's with me when I read in the living room. And by presence, I mean, even though he's not talking (which he can do quite well), he knows how to keep me company.

I do my medium-difficulty reading in the living room. I play some classical music, and Jeh Pan (my cat) lays on the blue rug by the huge aquarium. (I like Bad Bunny too, but it's not the right music for the reading.) It's during these times, I feel like I'm in a French or German saloon. Think about that. My little inner city living room gets transformed into a magical artist gathering place for the time being. I imagine that people around me would be playing the violin, viola, and cello, and other artists would paint, and other writers would write poetry and books - while I read. And of course, Jeh Pan would be there to keep us all company and inspire us.

The blue cat watches the silver fish, while lying on his blue rug. He looks like a little sphinx, and he closes his eyes in pleasure once in awhile. I can't tell if it's from the fish tank or the music, but he's enjoying himself. Perhaps, like a sphinx, his presence is guarding my mind and my space from intrusive thoughts and evil spirits.

The aquarium is beautiful. The water is so clear it looks like the fish are flying in air and not water. Some of them remind me of missiles being launched. The fish look like dwarf tunas - whose bodies are designed specifically to propel with rocket speed across fluid. There are two tetras like this, and they swim together. Once in awhile, when they circle each other they look like they're dancing a waltz with each other.

I have other fish that tend to be more playful and careful and don't dart through the entire tank. Jeh Pan enjoys watching them in fascination - while I read my book. I've been interested in the biomechanics of fish for awhile. Did you know, the streamlined fish, like tuna, can swim ultra fast, but can't swim backwards? Likewise, more nimble fish, can swim backwards, but can't swim so fast.

So, what have I been reading? I've been reading a lot on compassion lately. I think it's changing my life. Now that I'm in the middle of the book, the author's thesis is becoming clearer. He argues that the core problem with poverty is that the poor believe themselves to be worthless. This is the essence of shame. He argues that the problem only gets better when we invite the poor to be are equals - which he calls kinship. I'm moved by his stories of rehabilitating gang members. I'm processing them. I'm thinking about these stories. I wonder if the cat knows I'm reading something important.

I tell Jeh Pan reading time is over. I turn off the lights. I tell him it's time to go to bed. He walks to the garage. I let him in. He finds his bed and sleeps on it.

Some times, I tell my mother what I read on - like why Kenyans are so fast. I tell her about how a three star French Michelin rose to fame, even though he came from an abusive household. She listens.

After our chat, I make a list of what I need to do tomorrow. There's more to learn.

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