I have to tell you guys, I am really enjoying graduate school. I'm sure school in many areas would be fun or interesting, but the program I'm in specifically just fits like a friggin' glove. I'm so pleased! I'll be even more pleased tomorrow as it'll be the first day both of my kids will be at school (yea for the teachers strike ending!) as the program has been going on for a few weeks now and I feel an urgent desire to really hunker down.
One of the things I've been reading for class is a book that's actually out of print but I have no idea why because it's so brilliant! (Man, I am geeking out hard right now, sorry). The topic of one of the chapters is about suffering. There was a line he wrote that really brought clarity to something for me. He said, "the evil is in the intent to harm, not the suffering.” His greater point is that suffering isn't a problem to solve but just part of the human condition. But our modern/post-modern interpretation of pain is that it's always bad. I've written about this time and time again. I especially love that he brings intent into it as that has been a bit of a talking point for me for some time. It is so heart-breaking when you are held to a standard outside of your intention. I mean, I have had people hold me to things based on their own projection of what they decided my intentions were (or worse, outright claimed my intentions have no value in community), and I found myself at a total impasse. How do you resolve conflict (relational suffering, in this case) when what you say has no bearing on how others interpret your intentions? You freaking can't.
So what I am continuing to learn is that if people don't give a fuck about your intentions, they don't give a fuck about you, not really. I don't mean that your intentions are your "get out of jail free card" but if they have no value within community, there is no grace or compassion in community. That's a community I cannot be accountable to because it is one in which I cannot be a human being. There is no space for feelings or frailty or straight up fucking up when your intentions don't matter. And so as I try to recover from experiences such as these, I can hold on to the fact that my causing suffering is not evil. It's evil to cause suffering if you're trying to do so. And that's legit, dude. Not okay. But if you cause suffering accidentally, you're just a person. It doesn't mean you can't apologize for unintentional harm, however, that apology only gains credence in a community willing to accept it. Sometimes that's more elusive than I imagined.
It also means that when I feel harmed, I get to go back to my understanding of the other person's motives. Because I do my best to assign positive intent, rarely do I hold to this idea of evil. I have had a few occasions where the other person made it really damn clear they intended my harm, and that made it very easy for me to determine my response. But if I can have a reasonable doubt about another's intent to harm me, I get to reframe the suffering through the lens that it was possibly not on purpose. There are two sides to every story (let's face it: many more usually) so even when suffering is great, unless I am sure it was deliberate, I can choose not to receive it as evil. I can choose to receive it like grief, loss, heartache, but not true destruction. And that has merit.