Trans Geek Girl Meets Mundane World

Archive for August, 2018

The Continuum of Cruelty

dualfacePay attention: there will be a test.

Picture a line segment, an abstract shape in space. The point at one end of the line is Altruism; the point at the other end is Cruelty.

Altruism, for the purpose of this discussion, is the capacity to take pleasure in making other people happy. Cruelty is the capacity to take pleasure in making other people miserable.

The people who exist at the extreme Altruism end of this spectrum are those who have no meanness in their souls. They are generous to a fault, kind, caring, compassionate. There aren’t many of them in the halls of power or corporate boardrooms. You tend to find them in slums and villages, classrooms and emergency rooms, fire houses and disaster zones, doing everything they can to bring comfort to the lives of people in need.

The people at the other end of the spectrum find no joy in improving the lives of others. Quite the contrary; they feel as if they are winning only when they see others losing. They’re vindictive, vengeful, petty, spiteful, and pleased to torment anybody they perceive as being less able to fight back.

Most of us exist somewhere between the two extremes. We have the capacity to be kind. We have the capacity to be cruel. Which tendency is exercised in a given situation often depends on the kind of examples we see around us. Are we encouraged to stand up for and help other people? Or are we encouraged to see certain groups of people, especially those different from ourselves, as lesser beings whom we can mock, assault, even murder with impunity?

But the environment is only part of the story. The people in the middle of the spectrum have the innate capacity to move themselves towards one pole or the other. If we are born with a predisposition to be generous, we can choose to squelch that tendency to fit in with a meaner cohort. Conversely, if we are born with a tendency to be cruel, we can learn to suppress those tendencies and work towards being more compassionate, patient and helpful. The environment may urge us in one direction or the other, our very nature may push us as well, but whether we succumb to those pressures is very much a matter of free will.

This is the test: to think before any act of deliberate cruelty, and exercise your free will to make another choice. It is a test most of us fail, repeatedly, over the course of a lifetime, but it is a test that we always have more opportunities to take. Life challenges us to learn and grow from our mistakes. Accept the challenge.

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Two Rings

2018-08-01 01.59.45

I have two rings.

One is a lovely band of white gold, a pattern of entwined leaves all around. It was custom-made to my specifications, at significant expense. It’s a beautiful piece of art, a credit to the jeweler’s craft. It is virtually flawless, unsullied by time or wear.

The other is a banged-up piece of metal with a gleam that suggests silver but by no means promises it. It has a pattern somewhat reminiscent of a Celtic knot halfway around the band, and an uncanny tendency to twist around so the pattern is hidden and the plain band visible.  It was plucked out of a display case on the cheap, and bears the scratches and scuffs of toil and play.

The golden ring hangs on a golden chain on my jewelry stand. I’d thought it lost forever until I dug it out of the shadowed recesses of a drawer a few days ago. It will hang there, unworn, an artifact of a time past.

The scruffy band of not-silver gleams against the keyboard as I type. It has rarely been taken off since it was slid onto my finger, many years ago. This ring is not an artifact, not a piece of art, not a precious twining of gold and platinum. It has been battered and bent, pounded out of shape and roughly back in, subjected to wear that would have twisted the soft gold ring beyond recognition. Yet it endures — older than it was, and showing that age, touched by time but not yielding to it.

I have two rings. One holds a memory. The other holds my heart.