Yesterday I went to see Oppenheimer with a 73 old former neighbour of my grandparents. The movie was very good, and when it was finished we went to grab dinner at the A&W nearby. We exchanged some opinions about the movie but soon she begun complaining about injustices, real or perceived, done to her in the daily grind of life.
I had already heard these stories before. Some of the stories were from more than a year ago, when I was taking care of my grandmother. I couldn't help but notice she doesn't forgive, and replays injustice in her mind time and time again. After a while of this, I offered that perhaps the reason why people where unreasonable to her was because she was unreasonable to them. Perhaps if she was kind, kindness would be offered to her too. We had a moment of tension and I understood I was becoming part of the people who are unfair to her too. I backed off from giving her feedback, this was not a battle worth fighting.
As I walked back home I wondered: what is the negative affect that I replay in my own mind? It was clear: it's rejection. But these images seem to arise out of nothingness. I do not engage in nor believe these thoughts, but they haunt me years after the fact. Walking back I thought "oh, I don't want to write about this tomorrow, it's too pitiful, perhaps I should write about the movie"--because there were a couple of things that resonated and I wanted to integrate them.
But then I sat down to write (right now) and this is what has come out so far. I notice there is a parallel between my neighbour's case and my own: she is unreasonable to people first because she expects people to be unreasonable with her, and I reject people because I expect them to reject me. The result is that I seem aloof, uninterested in people, and thus I create a world in which I'm rejected because I reject first. As with my neighbour, it is my very defence mechanism the thing that causes the conflict in the first place.
There is a parallel with the movie: the bomb was created to "protect" the world and bring peace. After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Oppenheimer becomes an opponent of nuclear arms. He understands an arms race has started and things will only escalate. Creating a bomb to bring peace is like being unreasonable to people in order to get fair treatment, which is like rejecting people so that they don't reject you. In order to de-escalate the arms race you must make yourself vulnerable.
From this perspective it's madness thinking you will get acceptance by giving rejection, or that you will obtain kindness by lashing harshness, or that you will obtain peace by engaging in conflict.
It's strange, I feel this insight really has found fertile soil. I will water this seed so that it grows into a beautiful tree.