May 25, 2007

Unmesswithable

In a comment to my last post there was a suggestion that I got my morals from a religion. I replied "My morals have not been dictated to me by religion (because I didn't have one), but by my family, society and personal experiences."

Actually, I'm not sure where I got my morals from, but I assume it was family first and society second because religion just didn't play that big a part. Well, it did, but not for the reason you think. I was raised by my maternal grandmother and her husband, my mother's step-father. Grandma was half Irish and half English and her mother got hell from her Irish family for marrying "that Englishman" (spit it out when you say it, and you get the picture). Grandma had lived first-hand through the divide that religion and ethnic differences can cause and also through the screwier side of Victorian child-rearing (such as never informing your daughters about puberty) so never shoved religion or way of life down anyone's throat. She chose instead to be open and honest and accepting. Case in point: I could ask Grandma about menstruation and masturbation and she gave me straight answers. She never said anything was a sin, though she still had her Christian faith.

Grandpa lost his faith, if he ever had one, somewhere during the war (WWII). After watching so many young men die uselessly, he no longer knew what to think and chose not to waste any time trying to figure it out. So he became an atheist.

Think about that for a minute: Two people, incredibly devoted to each other, each other's best friend, each respecting each other and determined to get along, had quite opposite views on whether or not there is a god and what the nature of that god is. What I grew up with was the attitude they both shared: People are good. People are interesting. Everybody deserves equal treatment and equal respect. Both of my grandparents grew up in racist eras, and chose not to carry those attitudes forward into their own lives. I was an adult before I heard any racial slurs (and I think it was "Blazing Saddles" that introduced me to them). Nobody in my family ever said anything derogatory about any race, ethnic background or nationality.

So my morals, my general attitude about how to treat people are most closely akin to "live and let live", and have nothing to do with a fear of hell. I don't bother tsk-tsking other people's behavior. I knew from my own family that things can happen that have nothing to do with a person's goodness. Also, six years of bullying made me keenly aware of what it's like to be attacked for no reason. Not all bully victims learn that, but bully others. I tried that once - once - and it turned my own stomach to be as mean as my tormenters. I didn't do it again.

There are things about me, a vibe I give off, I guess, that results in me not attracting certain people. For example, drug users. I don't use drugs and I've never tried drugs, so drugs are just not in my sphere of experience or interest. People who use sense this. And some I've met think I'm cool because I don't judge them, I don't give them a "look". See, this is how I operate: I watch out for myself. My morals are just that: My morals. Not yours. Mine. Do not try to make me do something that in my opinion would be wrong for me. It doesn't have to be wrong for you or illegal, but if it is wrong for me, I will not do it.

Here's an example: One friend I had had the opinion that if she met a guy in a bar and he made a pass at her, she'd go to bed with him. If he was married, wasn't her problem; it was his. I can understand the rationale behind that, but I can't bring myself to act on it. Me, if some married guy makes a pass at me, I turn him down, because I respect marriage. Not just my own, but anybody's. You see, I always remember there's a third party: the wife. I'd hate to be the wife at home whose husband had a one-night stand because some other woman ignored the gold band on his finger, just because he did.

I've had people (men, usually) practically demand that I lighten up. Sorry, no. I live in this body, with these feelings; you don't. So don't assume you know what's good for me, what I can live with. I guarantee you that I probably have more fun that you do, because I never have to worry about getting caught doing something I'm ashamed of or doing something that would hurt somebody else.

Which leads me to another unmesswithableness: Hypnosis. I'm not entirely sure about it, but have heard some myths, like how flexible your eyeballs are (how far you can move them up and down and sideways) shows how susceptible to hypnosis you are (more flexible = less susceptible). At any rate, once in a psychology class in college, our teacher decided to give the class a sample of hypnosis. We all rested our right arm and hand on the desk, closed our eyes, and listened to him repeat phrases like "you are relaxed" and "your arm is light as a feather" over and over for 10 minutes. Then he said "Open your eyes." To my huge surprise, one finger was lifted off the desk. I could not feel the sensation of muscles holding my finger in the air. Then I looked at my fellow classmates. Only one other had only a couple of fingers lifted. The rest had their whole hand in the air and a couple their whole arm from the shoulder in the air. None of us had any sensation of muscle activity. Awesome! I'd love to repeat that experiment.

For the record, low IQ is not the reason hypnosis had so little affect on me (I know you were wondering after reading myths). More likely it was that other unmesswithability of mine: I do not willingly relinquish control to someone else, so some skepticism in me, some unwillingness to trust my teacher or the situation completely, may have made me less susceptible to hypnosis. I've been bruised so many times, I no longer let my guard down completely. There are times when it would be good if I did - like now, during my massages. It would make relaxing a bit easier. That's my next project.

2 comments:

Miz UV said...

Interesting post. I too try not to judge others without knowing the whole story, though sometimes I fail at it, and I've noticed I tend to judge women with children more harshly than I do men. To use your example, there's a man in my extended family whose wife was diagnosed with an incurable but not fatal disease back in the 1960s. She also was mentally unstable. They had two kids and he didn't want to divorce her, but she was too ill to have sex. So he had a mistress -- the same one for 20 years! All that time he kept his wife in a beautiful home with a 24/7 nurse, took care of his kids, and paid all the bills. When his wife died, he married the mistress. Some judged him harshly on his actions, but to me they were understandable. Maybe not ideal, but he's not the worst guy in the world either.

Anyway. Sometimes I am too tolerant, which is why I have attracted addicts and mentally ill people into my life. They sense I won't judge them, and I usually don't. That's something I need to work on because those relationships end up bad for me.

I participated in a group hypnosis when I was 18 and it didn't work on me either.

Keera Ann Fox said...

It's so hard to know what is the Right Thing in any given situation for any particular person. Which is one very good reason for not making assumptions or judgment calls.

I don't think "tolerance" has shades. Either we tolerate or we don't. Perhaps you're not only tolerant but also accepting or supportive?

I haven't used "tolerate" in my post. I don't think "to put up with [something undesirable]" covers my attitude. I see that people have problems; I simply do not want such problems for myself or to add to theirs.