This morning there was an oystercatcher preening on a rock at the edge of the lake. On cue to prove me wrong about writing the other day that they are never there. I get things wrong often. And I am actually very “okay” with that. It means that I allow my world view to morph with new information. That’s a good thing. It is something that I try to cultivate.
It is a balance though, isn’t it? To stand by one’s experience and knowledge, and stay open to the possibility of everything you know being wrong – without letting it break your self-confidence or question your sanity, sometimes.
This morning I noticed that the second grove heading out along the lake was noisy with songbirds. I’ve never thought before how that stretch is silent in the winter, the crows pretty much keeping to the first grove, closer to town. I’ve been running this stretch most days for six years now. Still getting to know the place.
E. is still much more observant than I am. Noticing a missing bench. A still squirrel in the tree. Sometimes I’m envious. A little ashamed to be too lost in my thoughts some mornings.
I suppose what we know is always filtered through our thoughts. I have a lot of tangled thoughts, so maybe that’s why I take in such random pieces of the world. On the other hand, E. can also be mistaken. A quiet squirrel might be just a broken branch. We can all be mistaken, probably because there is an irresistible drive to make sense of the world that can overshadow everything. Every pocket of doubt.
We see what we want to see. Rationalize what we see to fit our current paradigm. Sometimes this can be devastating. Sometimes, it is just a way to silence people and keep our personal status quo. Prejudices. Biases. With an entire spectrum of consequences.
I would love to go back and study sociology just to write a book about the current trend in our culture of diagnosing one another. Signaling compassion while effectively dismissing a person’s point, if not their point of view entirely. What used to be the misogynist phrase, “Oh, she’s just upset” is now “Oh, they’re just triggered.” The jargon of pseudo-psychology makes the patronizing seem more acceptable.
I think the reason I find this fascinating is that it forces me to look at some of my own coping strategies. I’ve written before about how if a stranger is rude to me, I tell myself a story: they were just diagnosed with cancer, or they are just on their way back from visiting their parent with Alzheimer’s – that kind of thing. It’s not like I am wishing anything will happen to them, it is just a way to force myself to step back and not take things personally – emotionally. But I am not totally convinced it is the most ethical way to do this. It feels like cheating.
And there have been situations with individual students who have been “difficult” for whatever reason. On a couple of occasions, I have “diagnosed” an undiagnosed student in my mind so that I can step back and not take things personally – emotionally. And I am even more concerned about whether this is an okay thing to do.
Shouldn’t I be able to step back without mentally framing the situation in a way that is comfortable because it fits nicely with my existing worldview? That is hardly being compassionate, or flexible, or open to change. It is imposing my existing ideas on everyone else – whether they know it or not.
It is easier though.
I have always liked the serenity prayer – but am thinking: grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can…
But how about: God, grant me the wisdom and the courage to change myself.
there is a strange dust
on the white skirts of the rocks
where the lake’s pulled back
winter’s cast-offs oddly dry
exposed abandoned lovers