What I’ve figured out so far: part 2

August 18, 2019 § 1 Comment

Give and take only works when there is some of each on both sides. As acts of kindness and material help flow back and forth, we come to know each other, invest in each other, care about each other. When the flow is all one way there is no connection, producing moments that look like this:

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Most of the important things in life happen by chance, not choice. We are far too small and impotent to dictate what comes next.

We label people, then feel we know and understand them, but often all we see is the obvious. I bring food to an elderly, wheelchair-bound woman. That is the label I pasted on her in my mind, a label I learned was inadequate when she told me she used to be an international detective. A cleaning woman I worked with at the Baltimore Zoo revealed that back in the day, she was a blues singer who performed with Billie Holiday. We sum the person in front of us up with a snapshot taken at one moment in a long, complex life. Our quick assessments are far too simple; you never know who you are talking to.

Our words are influenced by what we think the listener wants to hear and the self we wish to project. Each of us has a secret self only scantily visible to others.

Most people are good individually. It is humanity in the aggregate that screws up.

The body has its own form of consciousness that operates independently. We become aware of it at times of danger when a gut reaction stops us in our tracks, but that unconscious thinking is always there. Maybe the conscious mind is just the mouthpiece for the mute body, where a deeper, more primal form of thinking is always in progress. Our most important decisions are made below the level of conscious awareness. It is in the act of justifying and explaining, that the mind takes ownership. As the mind translates the unconscious decision into words, it becomes convinced it is the originator of the idea.

There are two kinds of courage: the courage that steps in front of the gunman, runs into the burning building, lets someone else take the last seat in the life boat, and the courage that, day after day, cares for the handicapped child, works for a cause that may never win its fight, reports to a demeaning job because it sustains the family. The first type reveals character, the second creates it.

Humans are much better at dealing with the immediate threat than they are at handling the slow-moving disaster that unfolds over months, years, lifetimes. Faced with the enormity of a complex, long-term problem like climate change, we become mayflies, flitting in the sparkle of the moment, oblivious.

The greatest gift you can give or receive is a safe and happy childhood, one that allows a child to grow up at their own pace, making memories that enforce the belief that life is good, the universe beneficent. The stuff never bought because of a tight budget doesn’t matter. As the recipient of a safe and happy childhood myself, I know this is true. Thanks to my parents I always see the good. I’m optimistic. Even in the hardest of times, my glass is always more than half full.

Note: Feel free to add a truth of your own. The world is a place filled with truths–sometimes they even contradict each other.

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§ One Response to What I’ve figured out so far: part 2

  • This note is from my friend, Jan Godown Annino:

    Although I’m glad you enjoyed a good childhood all through those years, I do believe that a good-for-life person can come out of a troubled childhood when there is even just one consistently kind, non-needy adult somewhere, such as at school, mixed into the family – maybe an uncle or aunt,- or found regularly in the neighborhood, or other regular meeting place, like a community center, who provides steady nourishment for the child’s soul. Also, if there had been a loving family member enough years in the past so that the child remembers, such as a grandparent who passed on, that earlier beneficent influence can pillow the troubled child years ahead until the child comes out on the other side of the storm clouds, as a good person.


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