Introspections & Retrospections

01| Bushi+DO: On Benevolence 徳

It had been a tiring, yet good day. I had fun, both during the kendo practice, as well as the club dinner afterwards with our guest teachers. I headed home, giddy from the freebies, my thoughts drifting to the manuscript I need to work on when I get home.

A stray kitten mewed in the night.

I stopped. You don’t really have the time for this, don’t you? I told myself.

So I spent the next 15-20 minutes coaxing the kitten from its hiding place. Save for some minor scratches, I felt happy. But now what? 

Okay, so I hadn’t thought that through.

I started walking. Maybe I’ll just take it home. Can’t. I don’t have the space in my room, or my life, for a stray cat. Besides, I like dogs better. And even if I kept it, I’d have to leave it alone in my rented room while I’m away at work. Maybe I can look for someone to adopt it… like last time…?

As if by divine providence, I came across a family of cats. Without a second thought, I left the kitten to their care.

Across the street, a stray dog observed me. I walked away, then turned around after a few steps. The dog was still staring at me. Traitor, it seemed to tell me.

On my way up to my room, I met the usual housemates: big, fat rats, scampering on the stairs. I didn’t have the skills to kill them, and I dislike the sight of blood. So I just patiently waited for them to hide, then proceeded. As soon as I got inside my room, I used the bug spray on some intruding cockroaches. Without mercy, nor remorse. Die,  insectoid demon-spawns.

Why is it that we can express benevolence to one creature, yet deny it from another?

How is it that we can show benevolence to one person, yet deny it from another?

The street I currently live in is quite interesting: on the one side, you catch a glimpse of  life in luxury — Knightsbridge, Century City Mall, Trump Tower, Centuria Medical, and San Miguel Village. On the other side, it’s a collective of old residential homes, informal settlers, and homeless people living and making a living literally on the street.

 

Occasionally, one or two fellow tenants would strike a conversation, off-hand comments that eventually lead to a confession of sorts, unsolicited soul-baring that I sometimes appreciate but sadly have started to grow apathetic to. Maybe it’s an emotional burnout; how many stories have I heard, have I tried to advise — only to get frustrated? Stray kittens are easier to help and love than most stray people.

And every week, I pass them by: people, families, sleeping on the street — sometimes huddling together, often alone. Yet the twinge that once pricked my soul was no longer there; instead, there’s just a hollow sense of helplessness, slowly devolving into an emptiness where this heartbeat of benevolence should have been.

I thought about the kitten I sort-of rescued: at least it’s safer now, with a pack of her specie to watch over her. That is, if s/he didn’t get kicked out, bullied, or abandoned. But at least I did something, I guess — unlike that one stray kitten that I could have helped, but did not… until a sharp sound of wheels braking and a brief shriek of pain and an abrupt silence told me not to look back. Because I hated the sight of blood and gore, but I hated more the thought of knowing I could have done something, yet did not.

I look at my hands. I looked with pride at the calloused spots, borne from my training. But what for? What am I training myself for, if not to do good? Or is it that my heart has become calloused as well?

Another random chat, another random story. Another kitten mewing in the dark, creatures crying out for love in a malevolent world.

God, let me learn of Your benevolence once again.

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