I wouldn’t have turned out the way I was if I didn’t have all those old-fashioned values to rebel against. (Madonna)
Although I am a person who relishes the shades of grey in life, there are times when I am obstinately black and white. Despite spending so much of my time pondering the real, lived human experiences that are so subjective and relative, when it comes to maximizing human potential and ensuring the quality of life for society’s most vulnerable or dependent, I am staunchly idealistic. When it comes to society’s obligation to the young, old, poor, disenfranchised, and infirm, I cannot bear anything but the highest and most expansive standards as I unabashedly define them. It is at these times that I have been argumentative and I find it so very difficult to detach. It is almost impossible to let go.
Coming from my childhood experiences and the values instilled within me by a mother who modeled selflessness and fought valiantly to overcome the limitations of her childhood, the passion to “be fair” and “do right” easily incites frustration and fury.
Although more inclined to write than speak, I have spent my adult years acknowledging the elephant in the room, speaking truth to power, and challenging self-serving or hypocritical assumptions about the greatest good for dependent others. Such actions are seldom appreciated and I have paid a price for my advocacy.
Although very much a proponent of the subjectivity and relativity of human perception, and very spiritual in terms of the big picture beyond the five senses, I am nevertheless triggered by any perceived sense of injustice or instances where it is only sheer audacity and might that makes a decision “right.” It is in such instances that an otherwise pleasing and agreeable gentle giant can become obsessively oppositional and lawyer-like in his resolve to seek redress and prove his point. As family , friends, and colleagues know, it is not a pretty sight.
What is at the root of this? What makes a big teddy bear become so ferocious that he attacks blindly and subjects himself to the truckloads of guilt he will suffer for betraying his highest ideals of conduct? What is it that ironically propels him to act as mightily and self-righteously as those he is resisting?
Having had decades to reflect upon this topic, I have come to believe that the root of my fury rests in the shifting nature of human values and beliefs.
Although very much a proponent of human diversity and freedom that does not adversely impact the lives of others, I am often lulled into a naïve belief in shared values that do not always exist. It is always a rude and bubble-bursting experience when values that I assume to be universal are not shared. Whether it is a problem of the value itself, its translation across generations, cultures, and subcultures, its applicability to a certain situation, or just its execution on a bad day, incidents of mismatched or non-existing values definitely arise. It is from there that shock, disbelief, and extreme dissonance emerge.
It is at such times that I am challenged to remain present—seeking first to understand and resisting the urge to be the one who is understood. It is at such times that I must breathe deeply and rhythmically—allowing my awareness to vacillate between what I jokingly refer to as my “still spark belly button centre” and the “big, bald-headed survey level” where I imagine myself looking down upon my bald-headed self and the situation I’m in as if from the clouds.
It is at these times that I need to take the time necessary to assess whether I have the composure, words, and wherewithal to express my truth calmly, confidently, and constructively—speaking spontaneously only if the words are “at the ready” and my audience is ready to listen and hear. To have the faith and trust in times when no particular response seems effective or timely is critical. The delay gives me time to assess the situation using my mind, heart, and intuition to determine the time and course of future action, if any. More often than not, the synchronistically right response will emerge at the right time. . . or the situation will resolve itself some other way. Although this sometimes feels like a type of apathy or indifference to the suffering of others that my mother’s child would find unconscionable, it is not. Things usually work out for the best and a new day always dawns.
This post, of course, is about awareness and detachment—a way of being “in the world but not of it” and letting go with love, faith, and trust in the unfolding. Nothing could be easier—or harder. In the words of Caroline Myss, “If we let go of things, our life is going to change. And the reality is that we are actually more afraid of change than we are of death.” Oh, the folly, fun, and occasional fury of being a human bean.