Friday, October 11, 2013

Creative Compassion?

When her baby was knocked from her by the charge of the giraffe, and then, under its gangling legs and huge hooves, trampled, she ran back, grabbed up the gun and in a fit of vengeance shot the beast. Or perhaps it was her husband who shot the animal, and then she wanted to pose with the deposed. Or maybe she was a fearful and sad victim of the hunting party, the tag-along cook-wife of one of the men, and when one of the men shot the giraffe she was appalled, hurt, bereft, and in order for her to overcome her horror the men had her pose with the rifle so that she too may feel some pride in bringing down so large a trophy. She was reluctant. She was with others. She was goaded into it. She was ill-schooled in the art of the hunt. Or maybe it was her first time out and she could not help but shoot the first big thing she saw. After all, maybe she was scared and thought it was a lion rustling in the bush, or a leopard in the tree, and when she fired, to her dismay, the great spotted thing collapsed from on high.

We make up stories for a photo such as this. The giraffe had to be culled; it was sick and would’ve contaminated the herd. The giraffe was a rogue, destroying farmers’ crops and ransacking flower beds; it needed to be put down. The giraffe was choking on something it had ingested (note the large branch beside its throat) and the best thing was to shoot it. Poor giraffe. Poor woman. Surely there must have been a reason? There had to be a reason!

Found on Facebook, this picture stirred up hundreds of very vile comments. The posing woman would have suffered greatly under the barrage. If people were to carry out their vitriolic words she no longer would be alive. And whatever excuses she had might not have been heard. Speculation abounds when we see images such as these. Interestingly, were it to have been that of a man, we might expect far less visceral a reaction. One might expect an outpouring of sympathy toward the giraffe and a condemnation of the man, but it is the woman who received the veritable brunt of hatred, vilification, and threat to her life as a consequence. After all, how do we possibly excuse such evidence of our collective capabilities? No compassion! We are incensed!

Compassion would have us caring and understanding and forgiving and sympathetic and empathetic and willing to hear and comprehend and learn. Compassion is integrative. It does not condone. It does not necessarily excuse. But it does understand. It understands that everything is holonic; it all fits within everything else. The killing of a fly, a mouse, a gopher, rabbit, deer, pig, cow, or chicken is but a smaller holon of the larger. We kill as human beings. It is who we are. We are not perfect. They shoot horses, don’t they? 

Whatever reasons brought this woman and this giraffe together, we can condemn or condone or create excuses or have compassion. And we can learn. Or is there an elephant under the carpet? A rhino in the bedroom? After all, making the best out of what already has transpired is the best one can do; yes?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Familiar Friends?

Friends are not forgotten; some we simply do not meet often. After all, dependence on friendship is to have one or both frustrated; obligation makes martyrs of us all. We think of our friends. We miss them. We dip into their lives and into their immediate, and they into our immediate, commingle briefly, then we or they lift off from each other’s vicinity and we know it may  be days, or weeks, months, years, decades before we see one another again. And if you’re like me, the “wish I hadda” phrase comes haunting. What might I have said? What did I forget to say? Eh? And how much of our time was really mostly about me? What should I not have said? What did I forget to show my friend? What did I neglect to find out?

Like that of a dartboard’s mathematical precision, there are segments to friendships. We place boundaries around certain topics. We allow proximity at given perimeters. We ward off with an almost magical shield the would-be darts to our most intimate centres. We apportion and fixate and tabulate the results of friendships, and some flow easily, and some appear to depend on circumstance, and some friends go forever unquestioned, whatever, yet others are indeed equivocal.

Things are not always as they seem. That word, ‘equivocal’, means vague, ambiguous, ambivalent, oblique, unclear, evasive, or shifty. I used to think it meant ‘equally-vocal’, equally matched, well paired, commensurate, on the same page, of the same mind, at ease in one another’s company, or not arguable, ha! Goes to show it’s good to check up on guess-work.

Assumption, presumption, inference, speculation, supposition, and a host of other possibilities attend friendships. Rarely is ‘unconditional positive acceptance’ simply one of those things. We talk about our friends. We praise them in glowing terms and then say, “but”. We absently give voice to ‘barely being able to stand’ a given friend, and then treat that same person with civility, pleasantness, and even affection when in their company. And most often, we treat the discourse over a friend as though it is confidential, just between us, guised as mere analysis. Ha! Seems that in the company of those who talk about others, knowing they’ll talk about you, it’s best not to talk about others in the negative at all, ever, ha!

There is a homily about conversing. It says how one oughtta be more conscious of a hierarchy in conversational topics. We talk about people; or things; or ideas. And that’s just a ranking for us when talking! We easily throw mind darts at dress, music choices, physical types, and hygiene!

Friendship is difficult to define. We choose friends at the slightest of whims, or not. We build friendships carefully, or not. We sometimes write or receive letters and notes that declare care, or worse, bring an end to friendship. We dismiss, snub, ward off, or drop friends. We also keep them close, contact them, maintain them, and cherish them.

For me the love I give a friend never goes away, but the liking, interest, sense of a commensurate companionship and ease of conversation sure can fluctuate.

For you?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Reciprocity Revealed?

My Excitability is quite temporary. As the decades go by there has grown too much a sense of wherever I am, there I am. Geographical dislocation, material acquisitions, epicurean differences, or even a rare find for my personal library raises a delighted sense of momentary distinction from the norm, but that generally quiet sense of being at peace with whatever, wherever, pervades. It is appreciation that predominates; and the depths of my appreciation accretes with age. Contentment. Peace. Acceptance. In my seventh decade, I am hardly excitable any more. Positively, or negatively. Well, at times.

Excitement and Appreciation differ. That indelicate anticipation of early childhood before the first flight on an aeroplane can still be conjured. But fleetingly. Back then it was a feeling so overwhelming I recall not being able to sleep beforehand. Now, as I sit here and type at 24926 ft and descend at 454mph I am aware of my profound appreciation, but hardly feel distinct excitement. Been there, done that. Fewer of things are personal.

Taking life apparently for granted appears in growing older. Presents still momentarily excite. Going on holiday still raises anticipation. Seeing friends decidedly stirs interest. Looking at a splendid view with which one now lives (instead of just visits) deeply satisfies. But that childlike quality of excitement is now elusive; been there, done that.

Emotional resonance is not always a measurable response. The myriad faces of people enraptured in a movie, or a stage performance, can be as differentiated as rows of masks in a costume room. We give response to each according to our projections. In an audience one hopes that some apparently bland-faced people are enjoying themselves, that the person distractedly reading the program may not be bored, that the persons laughing out loud at the humour, or cringing at the drama, are entirely invested in the show. Non-response is difficult to gauge; reptilian and dismissive, such lack of evidence of being affected can discomfort. But then the mouth-open eyes-glued non-mobile face of some person watching an action-packed fiction can be mesmerizing. Yet it is the animated semiotics of those reciprocal viewers, such persons as full of responses to provoking images as if they themselves were actually on the rickety-rack-click-clack of the knuckle whitening roller-coaster that is altogether more interesting. Do I do that?

We are different in our responses. Childlike, childish, stoic, weepy, stolid, chatty, we each process the provocations of life in our own diffidence. And to presume that the more excitable one has been reached more readily than has been the strong silent type is assumption in action. Two pebbles given to a friend can mean more than a Rolex received for retirement. And a single hug at a given time and place can mean more than endless conversations. It is the sinking down into the depths of an ocean that can take longer than the splash-splash of a skipping stone. Appreciation may last; excitement may dissipate as quickly as smoke from a birthday candle. Hate hurts the hater most.

Thing is, if peace comes with acceptance as things are and excitement comes with things as we'd like them to stay it is no wonder we are at times so sad when the holiday, hardly begun, is already on its way to being over! Got to stay excited, one seems to keep feeling. Got to make things exciting! After all, peace is for later, when I am... old?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Helmet Head?

Common sense ain't what it used to be. The self-evident black or white of yore has fragmented into modern shades of grey. Ethics is debatable. Rules are for others, and entitlement is the common denominator. Dr. Tom Olson urges us not to die with our helmets on. Indeed, our self protection and need for security engenders such a fear-based society that we are stultifying ourselves to death. Despite our seeming freedoms and individuality it is our protectionism against others and the environment and our future misfortune that ultimately is abrogating unto ourselves those very liberties. It is debilitating, limiting, and enervating. We want everything neatly spelled out for us. We eschew the dictionary. Tell me what to do. We mistake lack of action for security, and rather than be invigorated by self-reliance, self-actualization, and independence, we subsume ourselves to security and selfishness. The paradox of wanting what's right for 'me' is that it captures my concerns, has me grabbing for a helmet, and has me warding off the potential I have to soar unencumbered by the trappings of assurance against any mishaps. That is, the world needs to protect me; I want insurance against complications.

Mentoring, multidirectional, and multifaceted, Dr. Tom takes us through his longevity of marriage (and the discourse needed to keep it alive); the trade off of freedom for security; the need for focus on an internal locus of control rather than an external locus; and the endemic 'woulda, coulda, shoulda' thinking that encumbers our lives. A 160 page straight-shooting narrative comprising eleven short chapters, his topics range through our modern idiom of expectations that others look after us; our loss of appreciation for our communal and familial histories; our possibility to be extraordinary within what appears commonplace; our being a victim of the past rather than by current deeds determining our future; our necessary choices of friends, family and collaborative partners; our being authentic rather than passive; our being optimistic rather than being cynical, skeptical, and pessimistic; our easy proclivity for practicing the sanguine, choleric, phlegmatic, or melancholic dispositions endemic to our natures, without consciousness; our possibility to be c.r.e.a.t.i.v.e without being acrimonious; and our need to be risk-takers, inventors, and problem solvers, rather than our reliance or expectation that others ought protect, rescue, succour and secure my life for me. A manual for mankind, Dr. Tom's booklet is a quick and easy read, and like a magic carpet everywhere, will transport the reader to vistas of life as it mighta, oughta, coulda be.

At issue is making the magic become real. And that, as we know, is up to each one of us. But even as we gingerly step aboard the conveyance to a possible new paradigm of involvement in life, we want our helmets of security. We want assurance that others have been there before us, and succeeded. We want immunization against the unexpected, the accidental, the incremental, and the ineluctable. Our innate fears need to be assuaged. And we want someone else, if at all possible, to take the reins; then at the very least, if things go tipsy-topsy, we've got someone else to blame.

Dr. Tom and I grew up in an age when we were sent outdoors to play, to make our own way, and to be responsible for our own mistakes. There were no helmets. There was little or no mollycoddling. There was an expectation that we practice common sense.