Contradictions can be the spice of life. When I meet someone who believes something that I hold dear and acts in a way that resonates with me, I am surprised when we don’t agree about everything. If I hold one value that you hold, do you expect that we will be in sync on most things? As an environmentalists and feminist I am attracted to folks who display some of the same tendencies but have been shocked to then discover that they are anti-something that I also believe. I have, in the past let these contradictions, as I saw them, allow me to cast judgement. I have been quick to dismiss and quicker to challenge. But I have been slow to listen and even slower to let go of my self ascribed moral superiority.
Begin a discussion with a stranger or acquaintance with a political question or comment (this subject has been floating around the past two weeks like the aroma from a fresh skunk carcass and will probably reek for the next six months). I have found general agreement on the candidates and the platforms (mostly negative and distrustful) but if we delve into the nest of specifics, things can get testy. Kicking that fire ant’s nest will result in some surprising bites but if you stay in the moment of the discussion, you can learn and teach a lot. The contradictions are as much perspective as opinion and learning something from where someone else is standing is challenging and expansive.
I so often come back to the idea that I need to be curious to understand not curious to gather information so I can win an argument. If I can wonder about something that I instinctively disagree with and ask questions for clarity and context maybe what was a contradiction can become a variance or a different path to the same destination.
Make Today Remarkable, by embracing a couple of contradictions,
My view of the world, my country, my ideas is based on when and where I have planted my feet and likely how I got to that line in the sand. We all adopt perspectives and for most of the time that is a safe, sane and effective practice. We are comforted by knowing what to expect because we construct tomorrow by how we view today. We can breathe in the chaos of life when we can anchor to a place or position. And we get stuff done when we don’t veer too far left or right. Safe, sane and efficient but also prone to mediocre, missed opportunities and single-mindedness.
When I stand at the crossroads of fiscal responsibility and social justice, I see an inequity of opportunity and reduced choices when I look from the point of view of the most vulnerable. Their options are limited and moving from one crisis to another, doesn’t offer any margin for planning for improvements. When faced with the choice of feeding the kids or paying the utilities, you don’t have the luxury of striving or thriving.
If I take the extreme fiscal conservative place, I see irresponsible waste and poor planning. I feel like I am working harder and getting nowhere fast. My taxes are going to support octal programs that I will never use and it makes me angry to think that someone else is living off the sweat of my brow.
If I manage to reflect as the god Janis would, seeing both directions simultaneously then I see a version of “from each according to his means to each according to their needs.”
But we are only reduced to three choices by our own design. What would the circumstances look like if viewed from above? Would it seem like a living organism with each role filling a different and necessary responsibility? What if we could see the scene from a place that understood the future or the past, would the way we see the present be different? More generous? Angrier? Caring? Content?
As an example, this one might miss the mark but the point to make is that what we see as fact/truth/known/obvious/the only way/ has more to do with where we plant ourselves or maybe in the fact that we are planted than in the moment/circumstances/situation/challenge.
We might see unimagined solutions if we took off our shoes and ran in the sand rather than defending a position. When I go on the defensive, my ability to create/Innovate/change is reduced exponentially. If I don’t draw the line or I rub. It out with my foot I become imaginative/open/motivated.
What do you see from where you are standing and what would you see if you crouched down or jumped up?
Make Today Remarkable by stepping into a different field,
I know it sounds like a hyperbole but unless I/we begin with the premise that all our ideas, all our opinions, all our actions (collective and individual), and all our truths need to be open to examination, we are doomed to the curse of complacency.
I can go through my day, my week, my year cocksure that what I see as truth is what everyone should see. Ten years ago my sister gave me a birthday gift; a stone coaster that was engraved with “Everyone is entitled to my opinion.” It was humorous, ironic, and accurate. I am opinionated and vocal but I can also be single minded. I can go through months without examining a position or premise that just gets stronger as I plow ahead. Gradually, gradually, gradually, suddenly I am convinced that my way is the only way.
In the best circumstances, I am awakened in the night, often at 3:37 am, with the question ” why am I so sure that I am right?” When I don’t ignore the voice, I get the opportunity to re examine my thesis or action in a different light. Everything has an odd perspective in the middle of the night. Insight sometimes comes from the reflection. Confirmation of the direction but not the tactics arises. Tweaks to the communication show up. I am shocked by a horrible realization that I am misguided and need to begin again from a different place. There is a momentary disruption in my pursuit of meaning but if I don’t surrender to my ego and push ahead regardless there is always a new powerful conviction for me to be energized by.
Take the time to examine your most strongly held views and habits. Listen to the middle of the night voice. Seek out a different perspective through research, debate, reflection and writing. Be willing to see/hear alternatives and act on them.
I drove a thousand kilometers on US Interstate 15 on Sunday and it amazed me that what I thought was a safe following distance (at 129kmph) and someone else (many(all)) thought was a space that I left for them. It occurred to me that there are likely hundreds of other examples of my perception being different from someone else’s. I see change as invigorating you might see it as dreadful. My beloved sees salad roles as one of her favorite dishes and I see them as slimy and inedible.
I see people as capable and powerful. Many others see the same people as vulnerable and powerless. I see opportunity when others see threat and vise a versa.
How do I know we are seeing the same things, meaning the same things, agreeing or disagreeing on the same stuff. I think most of it is by communicating more and better.
That doesn’t help me on the Interstate but I am enjoying watching to see how long the vacuum takes before it sucks a car into the space.