Caught a curious assortment of saplings, cut lumber, and many stages between those extremes the other day, which struck me as oddly suggestive of a useful meditation on humility and self awareness.
It can be hard to talk about psychological realities nowadays, without sounding as if you’re being accusatory – and yet it’s also necessary, if we want to share and discuss new ideas for extending our compassion and understanding – for ourselves and others both.
Growth always does require us to get outside of easy comfort, and expend effort.
It’s especially hard to see our own behaviour objectively, and catch ourselves doing those same sorts of things that we find so irritating, when we see them reflected back to us by others. But these critters of cellulose can help us take another look.
Wood Butt (top photo)
Of course a whole lot of people do things that we don’t like. Often they are things that we used to do – but don’t anymore, because we’ve changed our ideas.
We can get mad at them for not yet having our ideas, or remember that we still make that same “I would, but” excuse in several places in our own lives, to allow for the exceptions to our highest principles, that we still want to allow ourselves.
Fury has not yet once been shown to be educational. (Disappointingly, for the always popular catharsis-seeking faction of unprincipled joiners, which can be found inside virtually every type of social group – all the way back in history). Empathy, on the other hand…
Closely related, how often do we say we “would have” made the better, more principled choice, if only the rest of the surrounding conditions had made that decision less of a sacrifice for us? We mean our principles, but not quite that much, on this occasion.
Now – why would we ever assume we understood anyone else’s capacities and challenges in the world well enough to judge their call?
Have you taken up omniscience, in your spare time? (And if so – I’m seriously curious – was it worth it?)
How often do we do something on a crazy impulse, and then explain-it to ourselves after the fact, with some believable-sounding but ultimately highly sketchy reasoning? Constantly!
The more we deny this widely understood reality of human behaviour (that is, allow our egos to pretend they have sole and logical captainship of our minds), the more our irrational and less than conscious impulses can influence or even dominate our lives.
Insisting stubbornly that we know or are something, instead of observing curiously and openly, hoping to see new things revealed, greatly reduces our power to steer our energy realistically, so that we can focus it on a chosen task. Eyes open is a crucial navigation rule!
Wood Say (Semi-formal semaphore? Real-world rebus?)
Nothing is more modern than having an opinion on absolutely everything we see and hear – except perhaps our habit of forgetting the vast difference between our blind wild-guess opinions and our far more educated and informed judgements about things we really do understand.
Democracy does not inevitably mean misrule by stubborn idiots – and the pitchfork justice of furious mobs – but populism absolutely does, precisely because it forgets to build upon proven knowledge, and goes instead on emotional impulse, supported only by opinion.
Guessing at what the builders meant to say with this curious set of sculpture-symbols, is nothing but fun.
But if the game was – Get their intended meaning exactly right, or die? – really not so much!
Then we come to the most important humbling reminder of all. It isn’t about us at all – it’s always about the young people coming after us, who are going to have to deal with the repercussions of our vanities and foolishness, and really could use every last bit of help they can get, informationally, emotionally and spiritually.
Are the excuses we keep making to ourselves, causing us to avoid giving them what they need to grow strong, resilient and compassionate?
I caught a truly brilliant observation, “So many parents say they would die for their children – and they honestly mean that. But what if what their kids needed all along was for them to really listen to them openly, just once? Would they? Could they?”
Don’t get me wrong – the young will always get there anyhow, even if (when) we let them down – but we won’t ever get another lucky chance to grow our own capacity, by helping them gather their strength and knowledge – and proving to them and us both, the values that we actually do believe matter in thought and deed.
(and so, ought not always to be deferred in favour of trendy and attractive topical ‘would’ grey-ins) ;o)