Been visiting Peter’s blog often and two things stood out for me. His writing can be persuasive, without being laid on thick. When speaking of values, change, a better life-as-we-know-it, it is easy, almost expected, to fall into the pedantic trap. His blog is not like that, it is very real. Second, his response to cynical Joes and Janes taught me something. I thought silence was a good way to deal with active negativity, but there is something better. Dignified closure. “I understand you have your views. You could try and respect mine. Other than that, have a nice day.”
When talk veers to “helping self”, I have not found one single thing that has worked, charm-like, for me. There are several incremental improvements that one makes, as one goes about the business of living. But there has been no sharp change I would ascribe to a How-to book. Life is vicissitude itself, and snap-changes are few and far between compared to the continuous version-updations we clock.
Anyway, Peter’s style of neatly laying out his experiences in paragraphs appealed to me. Splicing life by paragraphs does make everything look like a précis writing exercise. I thought of writing up small things I have observed / experienced that worked out pleasantly (for me and others) from time to time. They don’t really fall into a very sharp taxonomy, more free falling.
1. One of the most under-rated joys in life is talking to children - as yourself and as themselves
Talk to children, and this here means you are not playing provider, giver, care-taker, explainer, teacher and responsibility-holder and even if you are, that’s all in the background. Person-to-person them. I am not a parent yet but I have known real joy with children. I have taken long walks with a nine-year old girl and our conversation has been equally poised between she listening me out and me hearing her out. I am not innately a Pied Piper with under-10s but this simple arrangement was working very, very well.
As soon as a child wants you to level with him / her, he / she will let you know. From that point on, just level. Show you are vulnerable, friendly and as eager to know things as they are. It will be a different world. Espouse this and for one reason alone – there are no better listeners than children. For all those who have not been parents, this is the most gorgeous preview you can have into that other thing which is absolutely not overrated: watching your child grow.
As if on cue, my iGoogle threw this out today “Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardor, for their curiosity and tolerance of shams, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision.”
2. Let people finish sentences, listening can be a second step
It is difficult to listen-listen. No doubt about that. Our mind is drifting into daily could-have-beens and it is nary an easy task to refocus. But something needs to be done about the nimbleness with which we pre-empt the way people would like their sentences to end, and jump the gun. If on occasion, we do let them finish, our rejoinder is planted with the quickness, but alas not the continuum, of a relay-race cucumber. Hear out the way sentences end, and do away with the longing for one’s own voice. It does not have to recur with a vengeance every few seconds. It will be possible to live. When we start hearing the endings of more sentences, a few things in our life will sort themselves out.
3. Use humor, by all means, but first…
Humor has made great people God-like. It has also redeemed scumsters. Check any greatest quotations page. We all love ruthless humour till we are not in the business end of it. I can extol its virtues and concurrently say that there are other variants of humor which are decidedly not pointing you “directly to hell”. The plain-faced, seeking no-one but sparing no-thing, good laughs kind of humor. I have seen that this wonderfully charming brand of humor has one core element – self-deprecation. A sense of humour is nothing if not used well against oneself. If you can laugh at yourself, loud, full-throttled, then the world will be at your feet. Guaranteed that people bring their walls crashing down the minute someone adds unexpected humour. Make laughs and remember you laughed at yourself first.
4. Proven never to kill: R-E-S-P-E-C-T
No bottomless rice bowl of knowledge, beauty or other God given gifts can help anyone defy a natural law. For instance, gravity. I wish genuinely felt and extended mutual respect became a natural law.
We are an only roughish sum of our beliefs, intentions, feelings, world views, knowledge, absorptions and observations, and I am sure a triple hundred other X factors. With so much variability person to person, the only thing that we can assure every one is mutual respect. Respect that opinions will never be a single person’s dominion. Or that a single person’s opinion is just that – one person’s valid expression of his / her view. Accept it first, then respect it. Not the opinion specifically, but that this matrix will exist. No amount of name-calling or aggression can change that one fact. Our living is not a land-mine chequered with bombs waiting to go off at the slightest differences of opinion.
Extending respect, and of this there is no doubt, is a choice we make. It’s not a congenital ability or lack thereof. But so many times, it seems so. Our environment, upbringing and education shape how deep-seated “respecting” becomes, but beyond that, it is something most "of us" should be able to do. It's a pity if we don't.
5. 13 messed up expectations and nowhere to go: then turn
There will always be expectation-perception mismatches. And there is no easy way out - it will always be around people you care for, cared for, wanted to care for and thought had a good thing going. Till I discovered “Happy Corners to Turn”, I was a little disturbed by what I thought was, and here come the quote signs, "my reading of someone being insensitive, unaware and generally neutral to my sum total." Like an old school buddy you just cannot connect with. Like the autumning of a somewhat-great friendship. Like hard work unrewarded. Like love returned cold. It smacks of pain. And of course, on learning lesson 4, I respect that these mismatches are inevitable.
So I try and turn the corner before the horribles can come in. I tell my mind to think of all the good things - like open the floodgates of light - like the final scene of "Escape to Victory". And hopefully, within minutes, I have killed the horribles. But they are hydra-headed, so I need to keep trying harder. The mind has a staggering ability to do your will. Will it to stay away from pain and hurt. And at any rate, not seek it out. And it will. Startlingly, without any baggage.
As though on cue again, the funny quote on my gmail said today: “The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool."