August 24, 2009

Instinctively Impaired

I have always considered myself to be a fairly instinctive person. Throughout my life, I have trusted and often acted on my instincts. For the most part, they have served me well. My instincts on character judgment especially, have been primarily spot on. Until now. Over the course of the past two years or so, my instincts have misfired completely. I am not sure if it is a failure of my instincts,a side effect of my stage in life, or that the people (and there are quite a few at this point) that I have misjudged (erring in their favor)are conniving and deceptive, OR if they changed drastically during the time that I knew them and my radar was blinded to the change because they had since endeared themselves to me causing me to view them at their best.You know, in the way that once you really know are no longer capable of seeing them with just your eyes. Regardless, the result is that I not only have lost faith in my instincts, but as a person who really loves people...I have begun to lose trust in mankind as a whole. It is not that I think there is no goodness in the world, because I know that there just seems to be getting harder and harder to find and more difficult still to believe. And for whatever reason, my heart has become as blind as my eyes. And now, when I think I have come into contact with true goodness, I have admittedly become guarded and jaded-refusing to take anything as it appears, or even as it initially proves itself to be.

Herein lies the conundrum. This loss of it wisdom gained through experience or is it an emotional and spiritual pendulum sway toward pessimism? Is optimism blind faith? My outlook, is generally sunny...yet I have to question if my heart, my faith, my hope would be better served, more conscientiously cared for- by a step up in security...a significantly more closely guarded optimism. How many times do either your judgment, or others, or a combination of the two...have to fail you...before you are foolish not to take a scrutinizing inventory of the way you do life's business and do some serious, possibly drastic restructuring?

At this point, I don't have any answers. Just volumes of philosophical questions. As a Dreamer, I suppose maybe I was in need of some grounding. I just feel as if I am tight rope walking the wobbly rope of hope and beneath me is not a net...but a pit of clouded, bottomless, despair. Everything happens for a reason, even if we are too close to the situation to see what that reason is. Even if distance...miles and miles, years and years, nights of sobbing inconsolable distance are required to see what that reason is...My concern is this- if an open heart and open mind are required to truly love, to empathize with and to know people. If being receptive, arms outstretched to life's experiences-is key to successfully savoring life's journey...yet every time our judgment fails us,we fail ourselves, our hearts fail us, or others fail us. Every time a piece of our heart is broken off carelessly, sometimes viciously, and tossed aside...The open arms, the open door, the open heart closes-just a little-sometimes if the injury is deep enough, the door slams shut...If we force the door open-are we fools? If we allow it to close in on us-do we turn cold? Where is the harmonious medium? Is there one? Maybe this too...requires distance. But how much time is wasted waiting for that distance to evolve? Fools rush in,"...Elvis said how much time is too much and how much-not enough? How do we know? Are we to trust our feelings? Our instincts? After all, they are what got us into this mess. Admittedly our minds are not skilled at subtlety or lack of fact. So then what?

It is often heard that your mind, should tell your heart how to feel...and for some that may suffice...but for the ruby red,gushy, overflowing, throbbing,passionate, soft yet strong-hearted...the deafening of Hearts' pounding drowns the shouts of our minds to a soft often incoherent whisper...

For now, I reserve judgment...ironic as that may be. Taking a breather (when I remember how) to see if my instincts are still under warranty. I am going to pause for a long moment to lick my metaphorical wounds.Time to teach my mind to articulate itself project more. Finally to give my heart some time to repair reinforce the weakened areas and come back stronger than before and to teach it to count to ten before jumping. Not all questions have immediately clear answers and that something we have no choice but to resign ourselves to and accept."No one said life was fair" and "No one said we had to like it"... Think I will embrace and accept the disillusionment that I am finding impossible to avoid and then, hopefully cast it aside. I am not ready to give up, I hope that I never am...the human spirit is nothing if not enduring...and this too shall pass. I'm sure of it...even if the when and the how are so obscure they may as well be a Stanley Kubrick film. But shame on me if it passes without some deep introspection, evaluation and alteration.

Trust, hope and faith...all equated with love, But love and instinct perhaps, need to check in with reason and experience before taking action...For now I look to patience, forgiveness-(how much harder I find it to forgive myself for vulnerability,failure to protect myself, mistakes, and lapses in judgment-than to forgive others almost anything) and grace. I have never been a tolerant waiter, who is? So, while I refuse to sit on the sideline and watch-think a time out is in order.

*In my absence of true answers I turned to some greats to see what light they had to shed on trust...

You may be deceived if you trust too much,but you will live in torment if you do not trust enough.-Frank Crane

As soon as you trust yourself,you will know how to live.-Goethe

It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust-Samuel Johnson

August 6, 2009

Just Because You Can...

"Nothing in life is free" a statement that we hear frequently. Perhaps it should be revised to state that "Nothing of true, deep, substantial, lasting value comes without a price"...Such is the case with freedom.

Freedom is this unblemished, indescribable,ungraspable,incomprehensible is vast,intangible and without boundaries. Contrary to the accepted meaning of "free" however, freedom is ANYTHING but. It has been and continues to be paid for with precious life, valiant sacrifice and truer honor than most of us have been in the presence of or could possibly appreciate in full. For Americans,our freedom is a birthright. Like most things that we don't personally have to toil to get, or strive to keep, or give of ourselves to earn-freedom is a "right" that most of us take for granted. Primarily because we don't know any different.Freedom surrounds us like the air that we breathe. Constant and unfailing as the sun that brightens our sky, smiling down on us as it drenches our skin and whose setting marks the passing of our days.The United States has come to represent and occasionally to be resented for our freedom(or at least for the perceived recklessness with which we utilize that freedom). The symbolic soar of the majestic eagle's wings spread wide,the right to vote for the man (and hopefully one day soon,the woman) who will have the final say on the all important decisions that eventually effect us all. The freedom to DO,and to SAY,and to BE as we please. How we adore ranting about the freedom we have to say this, or to do that! Free to read a controversial book, to burn our Country's flag in protest,the liberty to worship (or not) at the altar of our own choosing. Our freedom has been paid for and continues to be preserved...and to us it IS free for the experiencing and all too often, for abusing.

In actuality however, the freedom we relish-came at great cost. Seemingly,out of respect,out of appreciation and gratitude to those that paid the price of our freedom. Isn't there an unspoken meager price tag dangling from the torch of Liberty that reads simply, "Responsibility"? Is respect-in the form of tact and general taste too much to ask for in return for human sacrifice? Seemingly, it should go without saying that as American citizens each of us has a responsibility to conduct ourselves with some fragment of dignity. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves on the issues and to vote knowledgeably-to do what we can to make America a place worth fighting and all too often...worth dying for. Doesn't each of us bare an obligatory moral burden to not exploit the freedoms that others have won for us-to see to it that the blood of so many courageous men and women was not shed in vain? In the name of our FREEDOM-there are Mothers without Sons,Husbands without Wives, Children growing up without their Mommys and/or Daddys. I believe a treasure so precious and a sacrifice so profound is not to be accepted carelessly,or handled thoughtlessly. What little is asked from us in return for our lives as we know them. The lives that other people in distant places can only covet out of their starvation, deprivation and oppression.

Taking freedom for granted is not only relevant with regards to patriotism, but it seeps into our personal lives as well. There is a world of things that we CAN do-things that we have the ability and the resolve and the permission to do, but does having the right, make it RIGHT? In life, when we abuse our freedoms-allow them to run rampant and without discretion or regard for others...we typically have those freedoms revoked. Whether it be trust, or love, or the right to drive a car that is stripped from us...If we fail to regard the freedoms we have been given, there are always consequences- often life altering consequences.Though seemingly contradictory, having FREEDOM to do as we a weighty thing. Just because you CAN (are free to) do something...doesn't mean that you SHOULD do it. I said it...I am AWARE than I am implying a degree of accountability here. If that is too much for you-this would be a perfect point for you to stop reading.I (of course) say that in the greatest love...just slip out the back.I will pretend not to notice...

Just because you have the liberty to say or to do something-doesn't make it worth voicing, or desirable or worthy for others to hear,to see,or to experience. Just because you have the ability and the "right" to insult your boss's poorly selected toupee, doesn't make it a sound choice for you to do so. As a grown up(hopefully) you know better. I assume that you have not arrived at this point in life without obtaining SOME sense of judgment. Not only would mocking his Trump-like coif dent his ego and possibly hurt his feelings, but he in turn, has the "right" to immediately dis-employ and kill the professional reputation of you and your unfiltered, now unemployed mouth.Similarly,when our Founding Fathers established that we should all have "freedom of speech,"I somehow don't think they had t-shirts with profanity and President bashing bumper stickers in mind. OKAY-so those things didn't exist then, but the point is there and somewhat valid, buried someplace underneath my poorly executed example. Furthermore, on a global,national and personal level-at what point does exploiting our freedoms infringe on the liberties of others? Of course, we are free to wear these things and plaster them on the back of our vehicles,to speak out against what we believe to be injustice. But for those that drive behind us or pass us on the street-reading said shirts/stickers is an involuntary act-it just happens. If that person is offended by explatives or harsh language, aren't their rights then, being disregarded? Naturally, we all have opinions on almost everything, well founded or not.Thankfully, we have the ability to voice those opinions in practically any manner that we see fit. Do we HAVE to be told as grownups that if you can't say, do, wear, apply something "nice"-worthwhile, or edifying...that it is often best not to say anything at all? If faced with the hesitant eyes of a young soldier headed to war, or the grief stricken face of a child from a third world country who is raising her siblings because her parents were ripped from her by disease...would our priorities be altered? Would our harsh manner soften, would the worthiness of our statements be reevaluated? I would like to think so...I know mine would.

As an reminder of Freedom's richness and our role in celebrating it,let us use Presidential elections as another example because it is still somewhat relevant.This past election and the two proceeding it, were fairly heated ones. Granted,if your candidate didn't win-you are entitled to disappointment-perhaps a week or two of verbal griping and possibly even pouting. You are free to voice that opinion however you choose.But when the campaign hangover comes to an end,let us not lose sight of the fact that even in our personal defeat-we are still victorious. There is some dignity maintained by the Presidential office. Shouldn't we support the Individual occupying that office because they were elected by our fellow Americans,in this Country where we are so blessed/lucky(depending on your perspective)to have been born.A place where every vote counts.Whether we agree or disagree,shouldn't we be happy to have choices when so many others do not? Even if OUR personal voice is not the one that rings loudest in this round, are we not still fathomless bounds ahead of numerous countries be able to speak at all? We speak loudly and often without fear of our safety, or the safety of our loved ones being placed in jeopardy...we have been granted a voice.

Certainly, we will not be pleased with every move an Elected Official makes and we have the liberty to say as much. Still, it seems that with regard to our political views,perspective often goes flying out the window at Andretti-speed.Every Flesh and Bone Individual is bound to do something we do not approve of, and make mistakes. Each of us fails habitually, sometimes miserably. Why should a Politician be any different? Does the title of "President" somehow render the Possessor infallible? Obviously,the accountability of our Elected Officials is much greater on a national level, than our own because of the deep ramifications their actions and behavior hold for so many. There are no small errors when one achieves that level of power. But before we don that uncouth shirt, or mount that hate inspired sticker...perhaps we should stop and think for a millisecond. Are we ranting and lashing out simply because we can? What is the PURPOSE of placing that sticker, or wearing that shirt? Are we truly hoping to enlighten someone? It has been my experience, that offending others and putting them on the defensive, is not conducive to opening their minds to a new perspective,or their hearts to possibilities. We are each free to say anything that we please, yes...but at what point does it become the din of the spoiled and the rantings of the ungrateful? How far do we go, before we are insulting those who paid our debt? Have we become so jaded, childlike and arrogant that we can no longer feel the need to act as adults and be accountable for our actions and our words? Think of all the wasted, empty, hurtful words we banter in the name of entitlement. By no means, am I suggesting that we keep silent...just that we practice tact and exercise maturity when using the voice that most of us have not earned for ourselves.

Yes, freedom is ours for the taking. But if a Stranger knowingly throws himself in front of a bus to save our lives- do we not then OWE it to our Benefactor to not only be responsible with our own life, but to live it in gratitude and with inspiration. It would be careless and insulting for us to achieve anything less than greatness with our new lease on life-purchased at the greatest cost for us(although unsolicited)by another.

I realize this one is a bit soap boxy, it is not my intention to preach, lecture or chastise. It is merely that daily I encounter situations and individuals (including myself) doing and saying things JUST because they can...and it makes me wonder if this behavior is not only frivolous but irresponsible. I am uncertain when qualities such as purpose,forethought,and accountability went out of fashion. I don't know when the tantrums of the few, began overshadowing the ambitions and principles of the many. I am at a loss as to why in order to be considered progressive and forward thinking, one has to have extremist positions and possess a touch of ex-patriotism. I somehow missed when screaming, red-faced and venomously...became an effective method of communicating anything. Truly neither left, right or in between is innocent of behaving a bit like a petulant three your old...screaming shrilly, fists flailing...JUST because you have a voice. Yelling is rarely the best way to be heard. None of us gravitates toward the obnoxiously loud person in life...the one constantly ranting and raving because s/he seemingly loves the sound of her or his own voice. Instead we are moved by the calm melodic tones of wisdom and of assurance. How much more receptive is each of us to truth no matter how harsh, when it is spoken to us in kindness, in whispers, in song, with respect...?

What this looks like to me personally? I am not exactly sure.I desire and aspire to live a gracious, intentional life. A life that brings joy and fulfillment,empathy, richness and assistance...laughter and love to those around me. If for no other reason, than because countless sacrifices have been made in the name of my freedom to do, say, and be the person-live the life that I choose. It is my wish that when life's-door is closed upon me-that I have celebrated, appreciated and put my liberty to good use...Not just because I can- but because I believe it to by my obligation and I accept it gratefully.

*To clarify these are often nothing more than lofty ambitions of mine. I am not in any way claiming to possess any, nevertheless all of these noble characteristics.*