A New View
When I've been in conversations that allow me to share my view,
shared dialogues that encourage me to speak, as I encourage them,
I walk away fulfilled.
To hold an opinion is not to guard it with your life. It doesn't have to define you.
The willingness to have that opinion challenged, no matter how universal it is,
is a requisite of shared meaning. I want to think my way through your ideas,
and I want you to think through mine, and in doing so, we open up the possibilty
to create a third 'us', one that leaves with a more informed opinion, or a better understanding.
That understanding, if we are true to ourselves and not the madding crowd,
can change our opinion for the better, and therefore our lives for the better.
As a child, I spent my time alone. I was not easy.
Creative, impulsive, fearless, lacking in social skills, unempathic, risk addicted, feral.
I burned the house down. It was an accident.
Experimenting with cooking. 10 years old.
Only me in the house. Eating chips I'd just cooked in oil,
I noticed smoke coming from the kitchen.
I investigated, to find the oil pan on fire and immediately opened the back door
before grabbing the handle of a flaming pan and moving toward the door.
As I got closer to the door, the wind banged it shut, and I dropped the pan,
which spilled the oil across the floor, taking the fire with it.
So that was the beginning of the end of that house.
I remember my Mother running toward me.
I feared the worst, as her house went up in smoke, with all her possessions,
such as they were, clothes, furniture, cherished photographs, etc...
scarred black or burnt beyond hell.
When she reached out her arms, I flinched.
She scooped me up and held me awhile.
For a long time, I was a loner. A maverick of sorts.
My history had molded me into an individualist by design,
not desire. I didn't have the temerity or the care for it to be by desire.
I had no ambitions. Well, maybe one. When I told the careers officer
I wanted to be a stunt man, he seemed unconvinced and pointed me
to the Fire Brigade. I didn't point out the irony.
I realise now that I craved isolation. It's what I knew. A safe place.
I took this right through my adult life, even after I became known
for playing guitar, and teaching music.
I never really understood before, but I came to understand
that there was something aloof about this craving.
Like I knew more than others. I certainly had experience of many things.
But it was an oddly out of whack experience. Not conventional.
This came to light, starkly I would say, when I was training to be a counsellor.
On one session along with 22 others, we were asked to write our name
at the centre of a piece of paper.
Then we were to put our immediate loved one's,
those who meant something to us,
around our name, then friends, then associates etc
so that we would eventually be the epicentre of our world.
After five minutes, everyone scribbling away, my paper was blank.
I did not want to engage with this exercise because I thought I was above it.
I'd done this kind of thing years before. It hadn't revealed anything then
and it wouldn't reveal anything now.
And then, I got a view of the situation. A new view.
I saw beyond my ingrained knee-jerk comfortability and I wrote
a single sentence at the top of the page:
"Why am I resisting?."
That one sentence changed everything. And the fact that it was staring up at me
meant that I couldn't jump to self-regulating biases in my head.
So I did the exercise. I went against type. And I learned something in the process.
I won't say what I learned here. It's not relevant. The process is relevant.
The fact that I allowed myself to see my own self-script,
writing inevitable outcomes that my history had deemed
the only story worth telling, was revelatory.
I've never been one to ride the train of popular opinion.
I tend to dig in to both sides equally and come up with
my own idea about what's happening.
But my willingness to ride my own train, without questioning long held beliefs,
is something that I'm now careful to address without fear or favour.
Nuance says I'll be wrong a lot of the time. But I can be a little less wrong
if I remain open to other possibilities, open to new views, open to seeing
past the madding crowd.
It's not easy. Especially when you meet someone who is hell bent
on shaming you at the point of entry. They're eye-rolling your second syllable
and are eager to share a rehearsed checklist no matter how irrelevant it is to
the conversation at the time.
It's tough when you realise that you're not there to have a conversation.
You're there to learn. To learn things you've always known,
but maybe that you've know in a slightly more open, nuanced way.
You're a notepad for their joined up writing, and nothing more.
They see you as a conduit for their ideas, their dogma.
And you'll have the feeling there's no point in engaging and it's time to move on.
This is happening within families, between partners,
between children and parents, and long time friends.
And often it's happening based on tittle-tattle,
because the opiate that is perceived just-cause
is just too strong to resist.
So a meme based on another meme based on assumption and the need to
be wronged makes someone cast out those they love.
If you want to get nuanced, find out if the media you're reading
is invested in the story, beyond imparting simple information.
In other words, do they have shares in the company they condone?
It's not easy to get to that information. So much disinformation
exists to put you off the trail, and the truth that simmers just beneath the
'facts' you have come to unequivocally recognise, is often uncomfortable.
That's one thing.
The other thing is you'll often find yourself being shuffled into positions
you're not really sure you hold. You won't be alone. In fact some of those
doing the shuffling are not as sure as they would have you think.
You may find out some interesting, long submerged, opinions surface
at the empty end of a vodka bottle one night, when all is still,
and the crowd is sleeping, all claws withdrawn (tipped hat to Joni).
Be open to a new view. Or shout with the mouths of others.
Don't ignore that brief aperture of light that catches you off guard
and provides such a view.
It's all too brief and not easy to catch, but it can be gold if you do,
life changing even.