Ever start writing a short simple thing and then bam, you are old and gray and have not a clue what you’ve just written or if it even makes sense or why you wrote it in the first place? Yeah, that’s never happened to me either. 😉 Yup – I’ve heard it happens to some people though…
William Blake, 17th Century poet; Auguries of Innocence – first line; “To see the world in a grain of sand,” – I made my 7th grade science class memorize the first 6 lines, much to the initial befuddlement and of them and their parents. I’m moving and cleaning up and came across an old paper from the class, and opened a letter come some months ago I wish I’d opened sooner, but for, but for what I don’t recall any longer, could have been any of a number of things, some were very valid rationalizations, some perhaps not. Ever not opened mail, turned on a TV, or used a phone for a while just to prove it can be done. Well… don’t try it. It can’t. Sigh. I’ve recently made promises to help others and been unable to deliver. No different from a debt, an un-kept promise or debt; sure one can always blame failed expectations one had in others down the chain of how things should be or should have happened, but let’s face it, when isn’t there a reason? Pigs really don’t fly you know, not on their own at least, so there is always a reason. And as the poet Blake expressed so well, in every grain of failure, an infinity of possible rationalizations is there for one to behold and fall back on.
Thought of the day – My friend Mr. Mickey(sp?),
What if all of the things we now call a “disorder” or “mental illness” or even “disease” are not black-white hierarchical categories that define the “difference” between healthy and unhealthy or sane and insane? Sure we can speak of there being a “spectrum” of behaviors – but are we all really on the same line, all of us, sane and insane? Does it make sense to speak of everyone being on a spectrum for say, murder, pillage, or rape – sure we are all going to say we’d be on the very, very bottom of any such line, scale or spectrum – but given another second and most of us will then make a firm point that one is not the same as a murderer, pillager or rapist at all in the least and that they should be placed on a different line, scale or spectrum from us entirely – perhaps, perhaps not. Let’s come at the problem from a different angle – Let’s address the; “I’m a ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ person issue,” this is implicit in the issue and problem.
Who do you admire most, who has changed your life the most, and why?
They were “good people,” right?
If you can think of someone, be sure. Is your response real in a deep sense, not what would read and fit well into the story of your life as you’d like it to be read and understood? It is hard to define what a “big’ vs “small” influence is. Every action of ours no matter how small, turning right instead of left on a drive to the supermarket can be life changing and unexpected but it is a kind of “unexpected” that we, frankly, do expect, right – one can get in an accident, bump into an old friend, anything, right? So this isn’t the flavor of unexpected I’m asking about – the little (or big) thing that you didn’t see coming and no one can have predicted, whereas so many things we call unusual really are not, they are just infrequent – if no one ever got into car accidents THAT would be weird, unusual and unexpected, so clearly car accidents in this example would not be unexpected, not in the sense meant and asked about here. So, all this said – Who do you admire most, who has changed your life the most, and why?
Let me go first and provide a story of my own to help in your finding an answer; Many years back I sat in a McDonalds in the very heartland of the nation, Rapid City S.D., home of Mount Rushmore with a man as I watched him scrape, with great focus, but unhurried, and completely – every last, tiniest, smallest bit of food morsel – including one single little poppy seed stuck in one corner of the plastic container his burger had come in. It was in there deep. It took a little while. No hurry. He got it. I still hadn’t quite “got it” so I commented on his intensity, which was a way of asking him. He told me why. He spoke simply. And used only a couple of sentences. He told me how he saw it, the seed, himself, me, our all being there, and why he ate it. A couple of sentences, short ones at that. My life hasn’t been the same since. He was not typical I don’t believe, of your average person. He was extraordinary and I hadn’t seen it. Speaking as one that had from birth I believe, believed myself extraordinary, just as we all do – I had never really had cause to wonder exactly how extraordinary I was, or wasn’t, compared to everyone else – we all have our strengths and weaknesses and my character at the time, I’m pleased to say, wasn’t arrogant, just a bit ignorant – had I been arrogant I’d have not been there in the first place, nor would I have noticed my friend pulling that ever-so-stubborn last poppy seed out. It must be relayed as well that his actions were not because of any obsessive compulsive disorder or tick. This was an unintentional favor he did for me. Soon after he did a favor for me that was entirely intentional – and because of that seed, I accepted it and have been working to repay him for both favors. I focused at first on repaying my friend for the intentional favor he’d done me – and found myself stymied at every turn – was it me? It was! I was failing and unable to provide any compensation whatsoever as I’d expected to be able to do to my friend as I’d promised and expected to be able to do. I’ve failed other friends and acquaintances since, but this was the first with my eyes wide open and with awareness and likely why I’ve kept making the same promises of a better world to come despite failing my friend and many since him in the exact same manner. My “failures” as I’ve just called them are not random, they fit a pattern, a picture of which I am a part, but not the whole – and they are not failures but attempts and part of a “learning process” with a clear goal in mind – but I digress. So I’m failing my friend and did what anyone would do, I upped my “game.” This makes things worse. This is clear enough now, but then, as said, it was part of the learning process called life. I don’t know to “do” any better today than I did back then when I simply reacted to the world’s rebukes without awareness of my part in the picture. I am still unsure what to do in most situations – Far more so now even than when I was younger. I’m still following the same old patterns that make the world grumble, but willfully now with increasing clarity to see the big picture, myself included. I’m still working on it – like that resistant reluctant poppy seed metaphor, I’m still scrapping-at it.
One doesn’t like to fail, let alone fail someone one respects, especially when that may be limited to a small number – a poppy-picking friend, a fossil-picking friend, a flower-picking little-friend – I’ve failed each in ways I find unacceptable. Life is imperfect we tell ourselves. It is indeed. This is why I marveled at my friend’s insistence that at least in this one small sphere of an imperfect world, that he would see his will done. Our goals, ideals and desires too-often don’t come to fruition and we fall short of our expectations of ourselves. My friend set himself the goal of making it all right and seeing his will done right there, right then, in that moment despite whatever may come, fearsome in the rock-hard firmness of his devotion and belief in a world with the capacity to fulfill his desires and make it all right and good – but for the stubborn reluctance of that poppy seed to pop out.
Perhaps I wasn’t being “extraordinary” enough I told myself. I was failing myself you see, not just this friend. I tried harder; I tried doing things differently, to no avail.
To be clear; I would not at the time have spoken of the situation as I just wrote of it. I did not think of failure at all, neither of failing my friend or my own expectations of myself – I didn’t think that way and would have thought speaking in those terms was selfish and blind to the larger outside world. If you and those around you are thirsty and you are the only one that knows water lies below one’s feet, then it is ones obligation to start digging. I dug. I had obligations (as I saw things then) to persons not able to see things as could this friend of mine and myself – we both knew the world needed some looking after by people that knew how to do it – that would be me, as I thought then, with my friends support and favor being his role in that striving to see us all wake up to an ever brighter sunrise every day. I aimed high – infinite life, energy, material goods, space, and no needless pain – had it already mostly worked out, frankly, although I know people will see this as braggadocio and the opposite of humility, but I did, and in hindsight now, I was too humble, perhaps – but sadly, not in an entirely good way. I think I was humble enough – I know I was – but in a very passive aggressive way I did not see at the time. Passive aggressive not against my friend as much as myself and the world which was reacting as if it were a living thing with a mind of its own to my solutions to fix it – and it didn’t want to be “fixed.” Only now do I see the passive aggressive perspective, and only in hindsight. The poppy seed had been a revelation of sorts – I was on a mission and here was someone that got it and when he spoke I understood every word and why he said each word – something not at all true of anyone else I’d met in a very long time up to that point, or since.
My friend had a college degree, but he was not “smart” in the normal sense, not even remotely – but who am I to judge, really? He was not desperate or in need of help, but he offered me a favor and I had only a promise to offer in exchange. A promise I’m still aiming to keep, if belatedly.
I cannot speak as clearly as my friend – I apologize – I’ll have to Segway to a story to continue coherently, be patient as I pull-out of this train of thought to try to provide a higher, larger, perspective of the big picture I’m trying to paint with a very small poppy seed indeed:
What is good, bad, smart, dumb, poor, rich, ambitious, lazy? Sure you know? Next time you are near a child going to school, push on his forehead, lightly – what happens? If he straightaway fell over flat on his or her back like a turtle, that’s because a whole bunch of smart people can’t quite figure out how to make one big book into two little books. If he or she didn’t have a bunch of books – why not – sometimes teachers don’t insist that books have to be brought to class, so not falling over flat isn’t a good thing either. What is my point? Let me provide a few more dots and you’ll connect them up quick enough to see the picture; next time you are around a hospital bed, grab a piece of electrical cord or string or whatever you can find as a quick measuring tool, or use a tape measure. Mechanical beds fold in two spots typically, each exactly one-third along the beds length. Ever seen that drawing by Michaelangelo of a naked man stretching out his arms and feet to touch a circle? No matter, the point is that people aren’t made in thirds or equal segments, only arthropods bear that distinction. Back problems and bed sores from sliding down constantly and abnormal pressure on the coccyx are the clear consequence. More; Go buy a Banquet meal at the local Grocery store (if you can find one, the people turning the knobs on their new fancy algorithms to maximize store profits unwittingly are terrorizing the elderly by understocking, not stocking at all, and frequently moving items selectively purchase by the elderly, and so prune juice and a raft of other “have to haves” exclusive to the elderly are prey to the blind algorithm that simply does what it is told, and very effectively at that – but I digress!). Follow the directions for oven heating on the back. The plastic is fireproof, don’t worry. It does melt though, you’ll notice soon enough. If you are a mom with child and find yourself unexpectedly homeless, without food or shelter or trustworthy family or friends able to help, or willing, there is help available, right? No, in my city, county and State, there is NOTHING at all, zip, period – but don’t try telling that to anyone, because these are the same people that make books so big, frozen food trays melt, and beds fold in 1/3rds. Ever tried to tell literally dozens of organizations with thousands of people all hard at work to make it look like they are doing something when mostly what they are doing is intended to make it look like things are being done, when they aren’t – but no one really knows it? I wouldn’t suggest trying it yourself, frankly. We all struggle with the difference between what is a rationalization for one’s behaviors and what is reality – is it a hole in ones perceptions and logic and a mis-rationalization (irrational behavior) , or is it right and real, how can one know?
I could go on and on but the point if you haven’t soused it out yet is that it is very hard to gauge intelligence when comparing oneself to another – or goodness – or badness – by what standard and whose? Is everyone “simple” that has ever gone to a school using books, or a hospital with beds, or a grocery store with frozen food? See all these words I just wrote and you just read or at least have scanned through to this part to be reading it? My friend idly but deftly responded to my query as to why he was so persistent to get that seed, even as he was diligently focused on doing it – and said everything I’ve just said above and much more in but a few sentences, something I cannot do. Which of us is the wiser, and why? I failed him and the world might be one way of seeing it. It is a truth. There are others. He said that too, somehow. Don’t get what I’m talking about? You are looking in the wrong place for the answer – look deep in the corner, where the last poppy seed is and get it out with intent and purpose and know both what your intent is and what your purpose is, and if enjoying the eating of the seed in the context of where it and you are at the moment wasn’t part of the equation, then don’t be surprised if the world remains “unfixed” and you remain unfilled even after eating that last poppy seed. Yup.
Can one get the seed, fix things, and not fail friends?
Like the monkey reaching into a full cookie jar unable to retrieve a single one because of an unwillingness to release the handful he’s grasped to be able to pull his hand out – I’ve been unwilling to drop either favor done me by this friend, insisting that both be repaid and seeking to do it all in one fell swoop, which swoop, as said, would include “fixing” that still hard to define problem the world has that makes us struggle so much with books, beds, and frozen food. I failed him. I didn’t do it with intent however – it is very much like having blindness, a hole in one’s head, if you will – to ignore the expectation, necessity and obligation of the intentional debt owed my friend over the far greater debt owed him for sharing with me his thoughts about the poppy seed. I am sorry for this. I still cannot let go of any cookies. More accurately, of the one large cookie, or if you prefer, of the one small seed – it is there, I see it, I know why it is there and where it should be and it is my will, intent, and purpose to make it so – it is my poppy seed – my chance to be in the same place where my friend sat and just as he got his poppy seed out and to where it needed to be, I’ll get mine. I’m still scraping and digging at it – it doesn’t look like it’s budged, true enough – and but for the good lesson in right-living taught me by my friend I’d have given up long ago. He didn’t give up, neither will I. I’ve met many others just like him, no different at all in any measurable way perhaps, but this does not detract from his being special, nor the moment, although to say one is and isn’t extraordinary sounds nonsensical – In this context, it is not.
So now with this context in mind, the question is put to the reader once again, asked by me and with as clear an intent and purpose in my own mind as best as I can muster with my limited abilities in comparison to my friend whom I still feel I’ve failed horribly (make no doubt, I have in fact failed to repay a debt owed to him if not legally, or even morally, then at least individually-spiritually);
Who do you admire most, who has changed your life the most, and why?
If they made you “better,” does that mean you weren’t “good” before? What did they do to you, or did they really do anything at all? Ever made a meal of a poppy seed? You can. Did you?
Will you help others when you see them digging for a poppy seed? You can. You should.
Justice against children is immoral. Training the dog, horse, or child to war is immoral. Not feeding and housing poor women and children is immoral. We all need to keep picking at that poppy seed with intent and purpose. Are we?