As someone who has always cared deeply – about seemingly everything – I can appreciate people who use apathy as a form of protection. Sometimes we care too much and it’s painful, feeling as though we’re being torn asunder. Sometimes we care about so many things and, especially in this 24/7 wired world, it can become overwhelming.
We tell ourselves the boundary we set for self-preservation is detachment; ideally compassionate detachment. However, if we don’t stay in touch with our feelings and intentions, healthy compassionate detachment can morph into destructive apathy and complacency.
As I drilled down on what I mean by “disrupting apathy” (I dissect and contemplate words to get to the core of my intention when using them), I realized that there are many forms of apathy which are found on a spectrum, and that the root cause of why someone feels apathetic and hopeless is likely different from person to person. So, as it concerns what I view as one aspect of my work — to “disrupt apathy” — I’m focused on the more universal, understandable forms of apathy and use quotes to reiterate and reinforce these thoughts.
What is called “apathy” is, I believe, a feeling of helplessness on the part of the ordinary citizen, a feeling of impotence in the face of enormous power. It’s not that people are apathetic; they do care about what is going on, but don’t know what to do about it, so they do nothing, and appear to be indifferent. – Howard Zinn
I totally get the value of having a “f*ck it all” attitude when you feel overwhelmed and can’t comprehend what is really happening, let alone what you can DO about it. I think this attitude can be healthy for a short while, especially if expressed humorously as a release. But how real or helpful is it when we adopt it as a worldview?
The hard outer shell of skepticism that has formed around so many people, including many Millennials, is often filled with apathy and despair on the inside.
“i will admit there’s a certain degree of giving a f*ck that goes into not giving a f*ck. by saying you don’t care if the world falls apart, in some small way you’re saying you want it to stay together, on your terms.” ― David Levithan
I think most people today care deeply for those closest to them but don’t have the interest or perhaps capacity to allow themselves to care about others. They care about their family and friends, their pets, maybe even their community, but they distance themselves from everyone and everything else.
For some it’s painful to care about other people or creatures, or care about anything. It seems increasingly difficult for people to even care about themselves. Maybe many people fear that if they allow themselves to care about their own well-being, or care about those outside their orbit, the floodgates to caring about the rest of the world will open, consuming them.
That type of apathy is a choice, and fear seems to be at the root of it as it is with so many of our challenges. I believe that’s the case when we CHOOSE apathy — staying removed from and neutral about the world at large — versus compassionate detachment (only you can know what you truly feel and your WHY). That’s the type of apathy often spoken of, pointing to its dangers:
“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.” – Jane Goodall
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” – Albert Einstein
“Apathy and evil. The two work hand in hand. They are the same, really…. Evil wills it. Apathy allows it. Evil hates the innocent and the defenseless most of all. Apathy doesn’t care as long as it’s not personally inconvenienced.” – Jake Thoene
“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all — the apathy of human beings.” – Helen Keller
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.” – Elie Wiesel
“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.” – George Bernard Shaw
I ask you to please contemplate how you feel about the world — the larger world outside of yourself and your sphere of those you care about, assuming you care about someone or something. I do believe it is vitally important that we care about our own well-being more, and then do a better job of caring for ourselves. Caring with moves us into the realm of giving and receiving care after we have opened our hearts and minds, allowing this flow of care to rejuvenate and strengthen us, not deplete us.
For those who choose apathy, I ask you to please reconsider. I ask you to please choose to care, starting with yourself. When you care about yourself, you’ll not only begin to care more about the world around you but you’ll have more inner resources to help you balance it all out. (For those who feel apathy has chosen them, more on that in another blog post.)
I long to find and connect people and organizations who believe that one path toward healing and transformation begins with Care: Caring about, in order to care for and, ultimately, care with one another. Those who care about the well-being of Humanity and all life on this planet, as well as the Earth herself.
While we may focus our energy and resources on one specific issue — or a certain approach to an issue — we acknowledge the importance of and need for other members’ work and support them as we are able. At the very least, we care about the issue and will not stand in the way of any nonviolent approach.
Only when we genuinely care can collaboration be transformative, becoming more of a partnership and thus more sustainable. Caring is not a competition.
The world needs you to care…care about. That’s all. That’s the first step, to simply care about (i.e., give a shit 🙂 ).
I just read a wonderful OnBeing.org piece by Parker Palmer that offers a very important reminder for those of us who care deeply and want to be of service; those of us who consider ourselves “do’ers.”
“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed — to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is.“
I’m glad I learned that long ago, bearing witness to many people as they came through Wishadoo!, though I must remain vigilant about it (especially where it concerns my daughter, where the helper/fixer identity is so strong). There isn’t always anything to be done; sometimes it’s a matter of caring enough to simply acknowledge and bear witness — stay present. Sometimes that is the best way to care for another.
All that said, I do personally feel a calling, with a bit of a fierce urgency of now for us to come together to connect and care — care about, for and care with.
Do you? If so, please contact me.