Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Loving and Caring

I've looked for this story off an on for years.  It was right on the edge of the internet age, something I read in the local paper.  It disturbed me much at the time and still does.

Police were called to an apartment somewhere in the metro Portland area.  Neighbors had noticed a smell.  In the apartment they found a baby, maybe two years old, wearing a disposable diaper packed with waste.  Bowls of milk and stale peanut butter sandwiches were on the floor.

The mother, it seems, was afraid her new boyfriend would leave her if he found out she had a child.  So she didn't tell him and when they went away for a weekend or a week, she would put out bowls of milk and plates of sandwiches.  And put on a clean diaper.

She was indignant that she was charged with child neglect, even more indignant at people who said she didn't love her baby.  As near as I can remember she said, "Of course I love my baby.  Anyone who has seen us together will see that!"

I'm going to make a value judgment here: Immature people confuse their feelings with the world.  And feel that the feelings are more important than the physical world.  You feel a swelling chest and your throat gets dry when you see your main squeeze.  Must be true love, so it's okay if you slap her around occasionally. Bullshit.

Feeling good doesn't make an action good.  People who feel pretty damn good about themselves (anti-social and narcissistic personality disorders, for example) leave trails of broken hearts or broken bodies behind them.

It hit me hard in New York City.  Everyone I talked to loved the The City.  They gushed about it.  They told me all the ways it was wonderful.  

Not once did I see a single person, except for me, pick up some trash.  It may be wonderful, but it was filthy, with people throwing bales of advertising leaflets to the wind and puking in the streets.  A lot of people expressing love, no one showing simple caring.  Is it really love if it never involves lifting a finger to help?  Or is it the natural self-centerdness of people who can feel their emotions and decide the feeling is enough.  "I feel love, so I don't need to express it."

Thoughts tangle here-- people who have never volunteered to help in a major disaster but need therapy for that disaster, even though they weren't there and knew no one who was.  People who express a rage about a group or political party, but they express a rage about the other's rage that they only imagine, sublimely showing that they are, at a very deep level, what they claim the other to be.  Is it their righteousness that makes their animosity and bigotry acceptable in their own minds?  Or do they simply not see it?  People who want to be loved and appreciated and feel oppressed when asked what they have ever done that is worthy of appreciation...

Dark thoughts, perhaps.

Self esteem, self love, increases violence in people who are already violent.  Of course, the counter argument is that high self-esteem that increases violence isn't self-esteem at all but narcissism. Tomayto, tomahto.


Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of that (TOTALLY UNTRUE) line from "Love Story", "Love means never having to say you're sorry.

WRONG. It means you say it more than ever, for having screwed up, for fearing screwing up, for things you realize you screwed up in the past. It takes LOVE to person up and find the strength to admit it.

zzrzinn said...

"People who" that a black and white categorization of "people who do x"?

Because I think if we are honest with ourselves most of what's in the post describes everyone at one point or another, aren't a whole lot of folks unsullied by those kind of personality flaws..

Obviously the extreme example of child neglect is one thing, but the talk about personalities,t hat doesn't describe some outward "other" who is doing things wrong, taht describes the human condition.

Tiff said...

I think the quote from "Love Story" was referring to the fact that, if you love someone, you'll try your damndest NOT to do something that you'd have to apologize for later.

Immaturity? Maybe. Or maybe it's just ignorance. I wonder, are the two synonymous?

"Dark thoughts." Yes, but there's a lot of darkness in the world.

That being said, without light, there would be no shadow -- the fact that parts of our existence are dark indicates that some exist that are beautiful and redeeming.

Like righteous anger. Good post, Rory.

Michael said...

This is a little off-topic, but this is happening right now. A 16 year old kid and his family are being harrassed by Mom's ex boyfriend, and the police won't do anything because said ex-boyfriend is a police officer.

What would a law enforcement officer say to this kid?

His post to "Yahoo Answers" is here:;_ylt=AofkhZdPtogSxC22.a8zcCgYDX1G;_ylv=3?qid=20101104001537AApEkh2

Anonymous said...

Its a fundamental belief of mine that you are what you do - you can have all the good intentions in the world, but they're no where near as important as the actions that you take.

Thanks Rory - good post.

Michael said...

The TV show "Dexter" plays with this idea; a sociopath who feels no guilt or empathy with others lives his life acting like a good person. Is he a good person or a sociopath?

Lise Steenerson said...

well said Rory.
I would probably label that last point as self importance more then self esteem... but again... to-mah-to... tomato... ;-)

Travis said...

Andrew Vachss phrases a similar idea as "love is not an emotion, love is behavior".

(Of course there is an emotion that we call 'love' and experience internally. I suspect this a deliberate overstatment simply to make the point).

My 2 cents on actions versus words: action shows not just what we think intellectually (or what we know we are 'suppossed' to think) but also our emotions and subconcious views. I think most people aren't trying to have a disconnect between their words and action but rather that they don't understand themselves on a deeper level. (Habit comes into play as well.)

zzrzinn- I don't read it as 'people who' being a categorically assertion (if you are this then this result) but rather that there are some people who do both these things.

Rory- the story you are looking for was around '96-'97 wasn't it? I remember something similar from the TV or radio. Tough to track something like that down unless you go the microfiche of the paper which probably isn't a worthwile use of time. Unfortunatly there are other stories you can find more recently.

I have a bunch of other thoughts bouncing around about the last part of the post but nothing coherent enough to be worthwile.

zzrzinn said...

Interesting point, i'd argue that pretty much everyone have all of the delusional thinking mentioned, it's only a question of degrees and of actions taken that seperates them. Most of the flawed thought processes described in the post aren't unique by any means, IMO of course.

People are just their actions and their experiences, there are no unique motivations, just actions that go outside the norm, such as the lady in the neglect example.

I feel like the post is trying to identify some kind of unique characteristic in people who do bad, or are emotionally unhealthy, personally I don't believe such a thing exists, there is nothing unique about those people that separates them from "normal" other than their actions, and the processes that took them there.

Emotions are just process, and can go in good and bad directions. Compare compassion and pity, sympathy and jealousy for example.

North Valley Aikikai said...

Loving is doing.

Rory said...

'Cause Lee hit the nail on the head, my personal philosophy:
Love isn't something I feel. It is something I do, every day.
And my soulmate isn't the person who will make me feel complete. K is the one I will spend the rest of my life striving to be worthy of.

Rory said...

I don't know which section of the post you are referring to, or maybe all of it... I have seen a few people who need professional help for things they have never experienced. Seen more who are what they most profess to hate, but no, in my experience it is not something that everyone does. It is relatively rare. It may be because of sampling error-- people that (I need a word here, something that gives the essence o deluded and vicious) act like this make me tired.\

But I have to say no. Unless I misunderstand you, even the most misanthropic people I know are not as delusional as the ones I described in this post.

zzrzinn said...

I think I get what you are saying a little clearer, hate to off on a tangent here but:

Do you think there is something unique to those examples you gave that makes them like that, or could anyone become that way?

Do you think that people who are normally morally ok are immune from that kind of behavior, if so, why?

I think most people who view themselves as normal are completely capable of becoming the people you describe, in fact I would argue that one of the things that makes that sort of total narcissism possible is to believe we are immune to it.

If we view that kind of narcissism as simply confusing what we feel with what is real..I would say that is a pretty common thing to do, and these are simply some extreme examples of it.

Hope that made more sense, I struggle with the words sometimes.

Anonymous said...

First Anonymous again, replying to Tiff.

Whatever "Love means never having to say you're sorry" was *really* referring to, I remember my 16-yr-old self thinking " never have to say you're sorry...if you're in LOVE!"

And later, you think "That was a really mean thing he did/said...and I feel like crap now...but we're in it's okay...right?"

It's possible I was just particularly impressionable, but I do remember a lot of similar nonsense being tossed around in those early days and being eagerly adopted as life mottoes.

Tiff said...

Anonymous: Not saying I agree with the quote at all; was just explaining that that's what they were getting at in the film.

Josh Kruschke said...

These are my definitions of Lust and Love. Lust is the desire to poses something. I lust after the pretty red head. It's pososive and only thinking of I. I want that. Where as, Love to me is simply wanting what is best for the object of my love and yes Rory that is being the best I can be, so I can feel worthy of their love.
I feel to many people confuse the two. One is all about I, and the other is inclusive.