That post about the alien movie was kind of different for me, wasn’t it? My way of getting out of a rut of writing mostly about things that bug me. Lots of things bug me, and when I don’t take that in a spirit of problem solving and creative public articulation, or at least self examination and compassionate understanding, I don’t like my own voice. Why would anyone, except someone who wants to complain along with me. I’ve sensed that kind of flavor in others’ writing on issues about which they have been passionate. At first there is the prophetic voice, the reasoning enlightenment, the hopeful invitation to raise one’s consciousness, mindfully pursue lofty goals, and celebrate progress. Then as the road is hard and so many do not respond, there’s a regression into mere sarcastic announcements of business as usual, with a tendency to neatly package up the opposition into labelled and derided types who aren’t even ceded approval for their best actions. Then one camps in one’s comfortable position, and who really helps anyone else grow from there?
When you find out about some word or action that someone has performed that goes against all your cherished values, do you ever think, “but surely they had good intentions”? That is, other than in those with the clear motivation of being reelected, increasing the bottom line, or escaping responsibility. That assumption of innocence (however unrealistic, I want to add), usually comes from the right place, from which there can be dialogue. It works both at the personal level, such as in parenting or management–we are advised to “catch them doing something right.” To open dialogue, door to door evangelists always start on something we can all agree on, such as “Do you desire a life of significance?” Could that also work–at least better than scathing criticism and threats, in the public domain? I mean, showing respect, starting from, or trying to find, common ground, and calling out the best in a person?
A teacher friend of mine, smart and liberal minded, once recounted the story of how she heard in the lunch room one teacher asking another the rhetorical question, “Can you believe that some people don’t like Sarah Palin?” She responded with, “I have some views on that, if you would like to hear them.” Which they agreed to do. After describing Palin’s failure to be a devoted caregiver to her disabled child during the course of her political campaigning, she left these two teachers wondering if Sarah Palin was really conservative enough to have their approval. She opened the possibility of a meeting of ideas because she appealed to the values she knew they had, and applied them in a new way.
Did you know that people are more likely to believe evidence presented by scientists if the scientists are friendly? So I must be right in thinking that I need to steer clear of the “rude awakening” approach. With all due respect to Flannery O’Connor and John the Baptizer. But what self control it requires, what conscious and purposeful loving and humility! If I really want to change anyone’s mind, that is, and not just rail from my room.
So I meditate on this phrase: all in a spirit of love. (Mainly referring to 1 Corinthians 13 as the model) This has helped me to have a better perspective in home and family life, such as when I don’t want to clean up someone else’s mess (serve one another in love), or annoys me (love is patient), or fails to share my values (love is not proud). Helps me when I want to put off a duty or good deed (love is kind), want to let someone else set the good example (outdo one another in showing honor), want to stretch my little bubble of comfort and enjoyment at the expense of productive service. And so, can I manage to love in my writing?
Except, today was another annoyed at everything and everyone day. Annoyed that I feel so pushed into consuming by my culture, to buy crackers at $6 a pound, chips at $8 for a get together. Annoyed that none of the retail or office buildings in the new town minicenter has solar panels, only designer parking lots. Annoyed that some people drive twenty miles twice a week to exercise at my Pilates studio. Annoyed that some trendy health food company passes gluten free chocolate nut bars off as paleo diet (“for your inner cave man”). Annoyed that people grow lawns they never use and shop at the grocery chain. Annoyed that I have a big driveway and not enough bike storage. And so on.
I shared this with my daughters as we drove this evening, all about how grouchy I’d been feeling and some of the reasons why, and that I knew that the only good cure for frustration is work. Which includes speaking the truth in love, yeah.