There’s battle lines being drawn and nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong. Lyrics from the song “For What It’s Worth,” by Buffalo Springfield, 1966
Independence is a necessary step, but it does not mean the end of dependence. Hoo-nōs
I mostly liked growing up in the middle to late 1960s and early 70s. The lesson I took away—and I’m not presenting myself as a representative sample here—had to do with a stewardship of awareness. For me, that stewardship was required to “make sense” of the nonsense—the many human constructs that seemed to proceed from some weird premise or another. To this day, it seems like attending to the quality of awareness is a worthy discipline, especially because freedom is also included. However, being aware is not the same as apprehending a thing or a pattern. For instance, I recently watched a nature program on television. In one case an opossum was featured—I had zero idea what was going through its sensory apparatus, much less reading its look or movements. There was a snake that I could not apprehend, a bird, an insect and so on. I thought I knew a bit of something about cats and dogs, but do I really? Why do I get the feeling they have to figure me out so I’d get what they are doing, even if I don’t?
Reading other humans is no less of a scramble. When we talk about the importance of non-verbal communication, much less verbal communication, we are talking about familiarity. Short of a baby’s or young child’s smile or laugh or cry, we do not have anything constituting a standardized way of correctly interpreting human behavior short of familiarity, and even familiarity often doesn’t help (think intra-family squabbles for instance). That lack of standardization requires an agreement between different folks who otherwise would simply be a mystery, even if we think we all are God’s children. Laws and the thin veneer of civility supposedly reflect that agreement. Yet the interpretations of such agreements can be weapons used to blow up agreements. And that is presently what is afoot, again. None of us is immune from such nonsense, including me, but that lack of immunity does not mean “so what,” it means finding at least a way to recover. In the long run, sucking it up, is f**king it up—it’s stored resentment looking for a season and a reason to explode something, maybe anything.
Defaulting to verbal or physical assaults when challenged with upsetting interactions is childish—no offense to children. There is nothing nuanced about that default. And given the near impossibility of reading the unfamiliar, such defaults amount to projections of what we expect of others—it’s like interacting with the folks in our head, instead of with whom they are outside of us. This happens in other ways with the familiar, as within families for instance: We think we know someone and begin dealing with that “knowing,” instead of the individual family members. When they shock us with something we didn’t know, the familiar becomes unfamiliar and off we go. In any case, such behavior is tantamount to blowing up agreements instead of creating them. Like most of our “stuff,” agreements need attention, maintenance and upgrading from time to time. Part of the engineering that goes into that attention, maintenance and upgrading is done by slowing down, by stopping and starting again, by giving the gift of attention without strings attached. It is not an easy discipline or an easy freedom. For me at least, this stewardship business is a lifelong learning, pock-marked by many mistakes. And that’s yet another reason for me to slow down, stop projecting, and pay attention. I’m one of the ones that gets pissed at me when I screw-up. It’s interesting to be harder on oneself than on others, but it’s still an expectation driving perception.
So, is all this call for attention, understanding, forgiveness, stewardship and so on, nothing more than reflections from the wuss corner? It can seem like independence requires stetting one’s foot down and dependence is something to grow out of. Someone does another wrong and we just shrug and take it—how is that reflective of independence? I’m thinking mostly it is, as in it takes a really independent being to not fall for traps or become all cult-y. Exceptions do not the rules make, though we have to make allowances in the law and in civility.
Perhaps true independence is the ability to not “just go along get along,” or the ability to not stomp our feet and shout for our side. “Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”
Celebrate the meaning of the holiday, maybe by recalibrating the notion.
The Bumper-Sticker Corner—suitable for groans and moans and maybe a Razzberry Award
Be bold, not sold; circumspect, not disrespect.
Without trusting, democracy will be rusting.
Be a gift, not a rift.
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