Archive for October, 2005

I've been kind of neglecting posting lately, instead using self-portrait Tuesday as an excuse not to actually write something in this space. I have been enjoying putting together visual images, but it's not really why I wanted to create this space for myself. I may post something photography related over the weekend, but I might just skip this last week altogether. Perhaps it's for the best for now.

I wanted to write about something that has happened in my life recently that is very personal and very difficult for me, and that has given me cause to pause. This week, I made a decision to walk away from a very close long-standing personal friendship, based on something this person did that I believe to be detrimental to herself, and indirectly, to me and our friendship. I won't go into details, of course, but this person is very dear to my heart, and I think our friendship is a bit more complicated than most in many ways, so it was a difficult decision, and it has made me quite sad.

Rather than going into reasons why I felt I had to walk away, I'd like to work through my feelings about the idea of unconditionality in regards to love and friendship. I think unconditionality is something that is extremely hard to reach. It's the idea that no matter what another person does, you will love them and support them. In the case with my friend, my love for her is absolutely unconditional. I will never stop loving her, no matter what, and although I don't feel I can be friends with her now, I will always cherish the friendship we had together, and I really feel that this is the best way for me to be her friend, which requires more explaining than I am willing to do here.

When do you stop loving someone? Is it when they are no longer interesting to you, when you don't feel any fire or passion for that person? Is it when they have done something that hurts you very much, or when they do something that is hurtful to someone else? Is it when they hurt themselves? I guess everyone has their personal dealbreakers, things they simply cannot tolerate from another person. But does that mean you can continue to love the person – love the sinner, hate the sin?

These questions are rolling around in my mind, mostly because I tried to be very clear with my friend that I haven't stopped loving her. I'm not sure if she understood that or not, but I hope so. I don't even love her any less. I do, however, feel that there are things I can't stand for, things I can't accept from another person. Some of these things have to do with harms I couldn't bear for myself, like physical abuse or emotional degradation, or lying. But others have to do more with my own personal moral code, and whether or not I can stand by and support someone whose behaviour is not in accordance with what I believe in. If, for instance, I had a friend whom I knew to be a criminal, I could not sustain the friendship anymore.

I guess what it comes down to for me is consistency of moral character, or integrity. It is the things I strive for in my own life everyday – to be exactly who I puport to be, to be myself and honest in every situation, to be true to my own definition and not act in ways that subvert my sense of who I am. I think integrity is something you can take to the bank in many ways – the emotional bank, that is. When someone does something that shows me they are other than what they say they are, I lose faith and trust in them. I just don't know how to reconcile that with the idea I have of who they are, who they have said they are, who they always have shown me they are in the past. And I begin to doubt myself, my choices, my sense of character. I begin to think of myself as naive, gullible, a chump. It's important to me that I be able to trust the people in my life to be who they say they are. In that way, when I find out something about someone that makes me question who they are, it makes me question everything about them, all their reasons for behaviours, and it makes me question myself.

I know I will always love my friend, even if we are never close again. I hope she is well, and that in time we are able to mend our shortcomings. I don't feel like I have put conditions on my love for her, but perhaps I have put conditions on our friendship. That makes me feel sad, because I never thought I would have to do that with her. But, as another very dear friend pointed out, the love I have is my own: It was never hers at all, it was always mine, always in my heart. And I will continue to have that love in my heart, and own it, and that will always make me happy.

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Well, here in Canada, it's Thanksgiving today. I'm happy to have the day off, and the chance to reflect a bit on what I'm grateful for. Here's a short list of some of those things:

  1. I'm grateful that I am healthy and able-bodied.

  2. I'm grateful that I have two parents who love me.

  3. I'm grateful that I have a home, and comfortable things.

  4. I'm grateful that I have food in my belly.

  5. I'm grateful that I have two best friends who love me like a sister.

  6. I'm grateful that I have three cute and sweet kitties.

  7. I'm grateful that I am able to go to university and study what I love.

  8. I'm grateful that I am breaking out of old patterns.

  9. I'm grateful that I have lots of great friends who care about me and love me, and who are examples to me in so many ways.

  10. I'm grateful that I have a strong sense of morality.

  11. I'm grateful that I'm sensitive, and that I feel things deeply.

  12. I'm grateful that I have loved someone more than myself, more than the stars in the sky, more than all the oceans.

  13. I'm grateful that I can make music.

  14. I'm grateful that I have a healthy mind and the intelligence to examine my life, see what isn't working, and change it.

  15. I'm grateful that I can be alone and not feel lonely.

  16. I'm grateful that I live here in Canada, where I get to live the life I want to live without fear of persecution, where my government allows me freedom of choice, and where I can mostly support the actions my government takes and say I am proud to be Canadian.

What are you greatful for?

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One of the classes I'm taking this term is called Justice in Global Perspective. Basically, it's an ethics course dealing with global issues such as democracy, various forms of justice, globalization/Westernization, human rights, and international politics/development. This class is cross-listed with both the philosophy department and the international development department at Dalhousie. It's a very interesting course for me, because I am an idealist, and most of the theorists we are reading present and defend idealistic views on these subjects.

The class is structured so that once a week, we have an hour for more in-depth group discussion on the subjects we covered during the week. Students are asked to email the professor with questions to bring up in the discussion. Last week, our prof, Sue, said one question that kept coming up was "Why do these theorists keep discussing subjects in a way that is idealistic or utopian? Isn't that a bad way of going about trying to change things?" This same question was brought up again this week, but was reframed. The subject was epistemology (theory of knowledge), and the author's view was that in order to gain true knowledge, there has to be a commitment to understanding beyond one's own assumptions/life story: we all start out with assumptions that shape the way we learn and inform what we choose to learn about. The author's view is essentially that we only choose to learn about what we already care about, so to be truly knowledgeable, it is necessary to gain information from a framework of caring about the subject – the commitment is not to the subject necessarily, but to knowledge itself. The question became, "Isn't that just moving from one bias to another?"

Essentially, the question is one of objectivity. Is it possible to be objective? Philosophers, of course, disagree on this point. Some have a view of objectivity as a sort of "god's eye view". (You'll notice in this blog I often choose not to capitalize the names of gods, countries, religions, and even some people. This is a conscious decision, not a mistake. It is not necessarily meant to be disrespectful, but rather to level the ideological playing field, in a way.) This "god's eye view" is that we as people can be and are able to step outside ourselves – our skins, our global locations, our positions in society, our experiences, our religions, our beliefs, our cultures – and view the world in a neutral and inclusive way, as in the way the christian god would do, looking down on the earth from heaven above. Other philosophers believe objectivity is not possible at all, because it is impossible for us to leave the various lenses through which we look at the world at the door; we always see the world according to our own skins, global locations, societal positions, experiences, religions, beliefs, and cultures. This position is that of the "situated knower".

The particular theorist (Susan Babbitt) we were discussing shares this view, but is slightly more optimistic on the question of whether we can actually be objective. The idea is that while we may always be "situated knowers", that does not mean our story ends there, or that we are trapped by this. We can still gain knowledge, and become more objective knowers, by becoming committed to knowledge that is not based only on assumptions; that a process of critical analysis can be employed to help us move past our assumptions about a subject and that through this process we can become more objective.

As an idealist, I'm used to being ridiculed a little bit by those who prefer to be mired down in the pragmatic truths of the matters at hand. I believe that ideals must be defended in order to know where we are falling short in practice, and to have something to both inspire us to improve and measure our progress. Sometimes it's tough being an idealist. It gets discouraging sometimes to look around the world, because sometimes all I see is our failures in society. But, I am committed to the idea of gaining knowledge and understanding. I agree with Babbitt. I don't think we are able to ever step outside our own frameworks completely, and that the ways in which we see the world are directly related to our own experiences. However, that "god's eye view" looks very appealing to me. It would be so nice to be able to step outside of the things that negatively inform my views of the world, and see from a neutral vantage point. For me, I think recognizing myself as located in the world in a particular way is a stepping stone, a starting point. You cannot change what you don't accept.

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us and the world will live as one." – John Lennon, Imagine

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