It's been said never to cut the whiskers off a cat or dog. Animals react in pain when such acts are performed simply for the sake of vanity. These sensory hairs are directly linked to the animal's brain through a specialized series of nerves that help detect 'supernatural' changes in the environment and once cut they never truly recover...
A few nights ago, I turned in my bed to check the clock on my phone; it was a little past 3am. I could hear the sobs of someone in pain through the wall of my apartment bedroom. It was a cry of pain not from physical hurt, but rather the distinct wail of heartache. I couldn't decide whether to ignore the weeping or move to the living room couch to find restful sleep. Instead I said a quiet prayer, the crying stopped, and I fell back to sleep.
The next night, I heard the arguing of yet another neighbor either from below or the other side of the apartment. This time the screams were directed at her tormentor in between painful wails of hurt and sadness. Angry words were thrown through what must have been a phone since no return fire could be heard. Pain, hurt, and suffering was all around.
In the nearly two years that I've lived at my current address, I can't say that I've been able to feel the haunting chill of emotions quite as vividly as it has gotten lately. I live in an upscale apartment complex in East Austin with an active community of friendly residents.
In response to the desperate sadness being broadcast throughout the complex halls, I have found the need to distance myself from people all together. My emotions have always been a source of strength as I have identified myself as an empath, a person with the ability to feel other people's emotions within a field of perception. The problem looming over my head is that I am beginning to feel more empathic each day and this burden may be more than I can endure.
When I was young, I could sometimes feel the emotions of others as if they were my own. I didn't know that this was an uncommon gift. I had difficulty distinguishing my feelings from others. In school I had met a set of identical twin brothers who would often complete each others sentences. It was comical to witness. In response to how they were able to perform this parlor trick, they claimed to feel what the other felt. Years later, one of them tragically suffered a traumatic brain injury while diving into a swimming pool. His twin witnessed the accident and also suffers from a similar cognitive impairment.
Later on as I matured, I began to understand their connection. I became fascinated with astrology as my sign, being a Gemini, offered solace and explanation towards my affinity for twin empathies. I could see both sides to any situation, the object as well as its reflection. With my ability to feel the other person’s proverbial souls resting in their shoes, I quickly made friends with people from all cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life. Being the son of brown skinned immigrant parents allowed me to move from culture to culture seamlessly adapting to the environment wherever I went.
Shortly after joining the workforce straight out of school, I experienced a set of traumas that forced me to recalibrate my emotions. Between the loss of a long-term relationship, and the near loss of an alcoholic brother, I had undergone a personality change that helped me to cope with the new environment. It was impossible for me to remain the old person knowing the realities life was unveiling to me. The change in personality also manifested in physical appearance through my refusal to cut my hair. I felt the strong need to return to the way nature intended for me to be. We are perfect creatures who seek conformity to the social constructs we create for ourselves. I wished to return to the wild original state in which man was created.
Defying society meant dealing with the consequences of standing out. As my hair grew longer every month I received stares from some and lectures from my employer who strongly recommended that I return to business grooming conformity. I practiced hygiene, I shaved my face, and outperformed my peers; while respectfully declining to submit to their requests. Many customers, friends, and co-workers seemed happy with my 'devil may care' attitude in defiance of social norms.
I began to grow stronger and healthier each day. I felt more in tune with my mind, body, and spirit. My mind and body worked together each guiding the other as to what they needed in order for my cells to become healthy. This allowed me to accomplish tasks that freed me from dependence on an employer, unhealthy relationships, poor food choices, and drink. My confidence grew, my body slimmed to an athletic build, my will power soared, and faith in myself and my connection to the Universe was securely established.
After nearly a year, my hair had grown about eight inches long and I was enjoying one of the most prosperous years of my life. I wasn't sure if my newfound gifts of well-being were derived from my outward appearance, which ironically started with the idea of not indulging in vanity. I decided to experiment by cutting off my locks in exchange for a commitment from my younger brother to quit his cigarette habit. I noticed an almost immediate decrease in empathic perception as if my antenna to the universal connection had been severed. In a way I was happy to be given an opportunity to sacrifice a symbol of vanity for love of my brother's well-being, as well as the much needed respite from experiencing a solid year of empathy; however, I resolved to grow my hair back from that very moment. I discovered that the gifts of health in mind, body, and spirit remained, for which I was grateful, but I longed for my close connection to the Creator of the Universe.
In my gratitude I sought to give back to others that which the Universe had given to me, and in doing so I was gifted with a mission. That mission involved helping others climb out from their grief, sadness, slavery, and depression. My task was to help heal others so that the cancers of hate, addiction, suffering, and despair could be defeated.
People were attracted to the light that I radiated. I was at peace with myself, and could tap into the spirit of the Universe. I could show them things about themselves, teach them to have faith, and emancipate themselves from external vice. My energy would deplete from time to time where I found myself stealing away to recharge. I learned to recognize and set effective boundaries when I approached empty on my emotional tank. It was on one of my social sabbaticals that I felt the awakening of what philosopher-psychiatrist, Carl Jung, referred to as the 'collective unconscious', a subconscious telepathic connection shared by all life on this planet.
I would often have these vivid dreams and conversations with people from the past, present, or future. I felt the equivalent of being part of a dream unsure of my role as the dreamer or member of the supporting cast. I could sometimes visit people in their dreams as well (I believe this is called astral projection).
It occurred to me that in my empathy of feeling others pain, suffering, or joy that all were connected together to the source where all life originates. The question of whether all lives were actually independent thinking and feeling cells operating within the same body stuck in my mind like a splinter. All I could understand was a small part of the big picture, but enough to comprehend the interconnectedness of life.
With my swarthy complexion, long hair, and the occasional beard, people would jokingly compare me to Moses, Jesus, or another character from a book. I was happy that people saw these iconic champions of freedom when they looked at me. I've been able to meet and help dozens of people throughout the years. I connected with them through their emotions. I could empathize with them and offer practical solutions to help them on their journey. I could sense their connection to a divine source and remind them of this in a way they could understand. I tried not to preach since I could also feel their point of view and encouraged them to see their own divine nature.
I became aware of the implications of false prophets and cult leaders, so I carefully measured my choices between serving my own ego and the collective soul. I attempted to lead with my actions. I believe in forgiveness, acceptance, and love for oneself before one can offer such gifts to another. I wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of others as I could feel the ripple effect of kindness, which seems to transcend time and distance. It radiates from person to person and farther than one can tell.
As my hair and empathic nature grew more substantial, I became overwhelmed in crowds. It was terrifying and nearly impossible to describe. I felt like a trapped animal in the midst of a packed rock concert. I could sense the feelings of people all around me and this caused deep anxiety and panic. I wanted to dull my senses of perception, which meant cutting my hair and diminishing my spiritual connection. Before I learned to control my emotions, I relied on annual haircuts to dull my empathy for months until the hair had grown back to at least as long as it was before. Since then I've learned to better control my gift of empathy rather than suffer its strain.
As with all belief structures, they are only as strong as the energy supplied to it, so I began to give strength to the notion of the collective soul. I feel a kinship with the ancient prophets of whom it can be said also felt this empathy for their fellow man and through their devotion to changing the self-interested apathetic ways of individual cells caught up in the cycle of egotism, vice, and death.
Eastern religions discuss the concept of re-incarnation, where the death of one life is re-birthed in a new form with a new consciousness in a cycle of death and re-birth until the immortal soul or essence of that being is released back to the source of creation. I believe that this belief structure helps to instill a sense of empathy in its followers since the sins we commit unto others will be the same sins that we experience in this or the next life in order to fulfill the souls karmic experience. This soul journey may transcend time, space, and physical form. The theory of re-incarnation (or religion) doesn't require belief from anyone, but rather serves to explain morality to those who lack the understanding of how to treat their fellow human beings. In other words, whether or not a better "life" exists beyond death shouldn't change how one behaves towards others in this life. Kindness and compassion are universal.
I suspect that every soul on this planet is all that ever was and will be, born again over and over until love collectively exists for every being, until we can empathize and love one another as we love ourselves. If harming or allowing harm to come to your neighbor was equally harmful to oneself, then one might work to create a better environment so that both may profit from a less harmful community. If one leaves the world in a better condition than it was found then the next generation would inherit a brighter future. If we follow the examples set by righteous leaders of the past, then we may become righteous leaders to the future. First shall be last, and last will be first.
― The Talmud