Thursday, 2 July 2020

Cruelty and sadness

Cruelty is when you banish sad and bad feelings. I would go so far as to say that cruelty requires you to numb your heart to all pain. Your heart becomes so numb, that fear, sorrow, anger, disappointment, humiliation freeze inside you - all those shadow feelings, which are the most diffficult to endure.

If you are unable to bear unpleasant feelings, you become cruel - towards yourself and/ or to other beings. Your compassion withers in the frost of unfeeling. If you have the power to do so, you order or partake in executions. Your conscience and your soul become dry.

If you have little power, cruelty can sometimes be forced on you. This old nursery rhyme describes such a situation -

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe
She had so many children, she didn't know what to do. 
She gave them some broth without any bread; 
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

If I lived in a shoe with too many children, I would probably not even give them broth or beds. I wouldn't have the energy to whip them. I would probably scream at them all in sorrow and frustration and then I would weep - I know I would, I would sob, maybe for the rest of my life - as I chased them all away to find a better parent and better living conditions. How many babies have been found in dustbins, bedded on their mothers' desperate prayers?

If you can weep about a necessary cruelty, there is, perhaps, a chance for hope. Emotional pain - feeling for yourself and others - is your best protection against cruelty and heartfreeze.

Brian Wildsmith: 'There was an old woman who lived in a shoe', in 'Mother Goose. A Collection of Nursery Rhymes' (1964)

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