Shovels and Manure: Part 1

Posted on November 23, 2015. Filed under: Psychology, Self-awareness | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Man the tool-maker!  Many would say that is what sets humans apart from all other life on Earth.  Others would pick out their favorite traits and build passionate arguments around them, but, I am sort of hung up on the shapes and uses of one particular tool — shovels.  These two ensuing articles express my misgivings toward their uses in cultural development.

“Sir!  Reporting as instructed, Sir!”  I would have saluted, except for 2 things:  I had not yet received any training in that militaristic ritual and, anyway, my hand was otherwise occupied.  I had shoved it into my mouth and was sucking on it vigorously because it just felt good…   well, maybe also because that and kicking my heels up every now and then were the only activities in my exercise regimen.  But, at least I had shown up at the water slide as instructed, albeit with a feeling of apprehension.  I had become aware that things were starting to close in on me, and I was not accustomed to this sort of treatment.  And, I think I may have been standing on my head at some point.

Then, it really started to get serious.  My arms were being pinned close to my body and something was pushing the top of my head.  Then my eyes hurt from such brightness I had not known existed.  It was getting cold and I got a tight feeling in my chest, but, a loud slap to my butt made my lungs fill with air for the very first time.  The tightness in my chest was relieved as long as I kept inhaling and exhaling, so I thought I would keep on doing this for at least a little while until things settled down.

In retrospect, that was when everything started going downhill, right there when I took that first breath, and, as it has turned out, I was right on the money by kicking up such a big fuss right away.

Thus begins my personal lamentation on the state of this thing called EXISTENCE.  It started out okay, there within that warm, safe cocoon, bathed in the serenity of ignorance about that which awaited without.  But that confining journey down the water slide, disorientation by bright lights, being grabbed by ruffians who slapped me around as their way of saying, “Hi!  Welcome to Earth!”…   was all of that really necessary?  And, how about a little warning of that stuff ahead of time, or a quick-start pamphlet with instructions to a least find the bathroom?  Is that too much to expect?

It was a good thing my parents were there to rescue me.  They filled me in on a lot of stuff, but, the world around me kept getting smaller…   like that dinner table.  I was used to running under it standing up but, then came the day when I didn’t fit under there…   it only took a couple of head bashings for that bit of information to sink in.  Yeah, my world was getting smaller, alright, and getting more complicated as well.

To become well-rounded in this EXISTENCE thing, I was told I would need experts who would show me the tools that would let me become a contributing member of society.  Thus when I could barely tie my shoe laces, I got dropped off — ALONE — at public school.  And the resident experts opened up my brain case and started shoveling in all the raw data I would need to become a compliant citizen.  Okay…   at first maybe it was just teaspoons they used, but, let’s face it, those things are just mini shovels.

Not evident to me at the time, what with my brain being a low-density zone in terms of knowledge, my basic tool kit for survival had been tampered with by all those “expert” mentors.  In addition to stuff like “3+4=7” and “See Spot run,” they shoveled in a lot of their personal biases on such non-tool items as evolution (pro and con), religion (pro and con), government and political ideology (pro and con) and lots of other pros and cons unrelated to math and reading.  To the degree that I favored the teacher, I accepted these offerings as fact and a basis for modeling my understanding of my own existence.  But, sometime around the age of 30 years, I had an epiphany…

SHOVELS COME IN A VARIETY OF SHAPES AND SIZES…

…each designed for a particular task, not the least of which is the efficient movement of manure.

Old things that I had been told did not mesh with the new things I was painfully learning.  In fact, under the heat from the spotlight of an emerging introspection, all that stuff was beginning to develop a decidedly unpleasant odor…   unpleasant, and reminiscent of a stock yard.  And this was happening just when I thought I had this EXISTENCE thing all figured out.  Well, at least I thought my “expert” mentors had it all figured out, and, I was a lucky beneficiary of all that above-my-head figuring.

________________

Continued in next article Shovels and Manure:  Part 2.

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Sunday the 4th: North Star

Posted on November 2, 2014. Filed under: Religion, sociology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

North Star

Lindale in Houston

This is not a class in astronomy; rather, it is a highlight to the fact that humans are communal creatures and that their basic characters are shaped, not by a single individual, but, the cumulative effect of numerous associations throughout those pre-adult years.

From cradle to rocking chair, the human psyche transitions through many phases.  The basics of our future selves are laid down, layer upon layer, within our memories in our developing years.  While this is an essential process in the maturation of SELF, it has a serious downside —

…this construction of an individual’s foundation is being overseen by a clueless kid who takes everything as fact — even the “wisdom” espoused by other clueless kids — and incorporates it, without modification, into the structure destined to become ADULT SELF.

Everyone is raised in some kind of culture, and the newbie human absorbs the tenets, practices, rituals, et cetera, of that culture at face value, never questioning the wisdom of the kids, adults, and authorities dispensing it all.  (My mother raised me in a religious environment where many adults of kindred mind instructed me for 18 years on the way I should go.  Between the secular education of public schools and the teachings of the Church, I had a full rucksack of certainties with which to set out on Life’s long road of UN-certainty.)

The young adult following the kid’s improv act will spend the first ten years of adulthood trying to appease the conflicts within as it struggles to reconcile all that old childhood stuff with all the new adult stuff being dealt with in real-time.  Somewhere around the age of 30, the ADULT SELF finally gets to take a lot of childhood stuff out of the attic and label it irrelevant; thusly, childhood gets chalked up to what it really is — a learning experience.

Still, like a hoarder, we hang on to some unresolved issues just because they feel good and, therefore, MUST be relevant.  That reasoning points a finger at the kid’s primary retention technique:  remember the impressions made by persons, events, and concepts rather than the circumstances or reasoning by which they came.  That lack of footnotes becomes the source of all that YOUNG ADULT angst.

In my case, I held on to a recurring impression for several decades.  The names, faces, and time frame of acquisition constituted the totality of those flashbacks.  Accompanying that was a conviction that the persons remembered were of special importance and that, by not remembering, I had lost something that I couldn’t even define.

Through what I consider a special blessing, I have recently had the opportunity to speak to one of those dim memories.

They were an adult couple who taught church youth, a duty they shared with many of the church adults.  One of the  youths they taught was exceedingly shy and shunned attention in any non-family gathering; that remained a social impediment until he was into his thirties.  This couple had been part of the kid’s church background for years, but he did not become aware of them until the later teen years.

The Memory with whom I spoke did not tell me any of that.  I pieced that together after our conversation.  Actually, she did not really remember me at first.  During our conversation, she asked me two unrelated questions which, later, explained one thing to me and caused me to realize another.  The questions and my answers were of no real importance to my enlightenment; what mattered was the seamless manner in which she navigated from my first answer to the second and unrelated question.

As with any adult, the years can take one far from the place and conditions of upbringing.  When encountering someone from “back then,” there is a brief exchange of catch-up questions.  One of them, often, is “Where do you go to church?”  I came to resent the question because my answer does not always please them, and I get the condescending “tut-tut” expressions or verbal disapproval as though they have been appointed my personal judges.

She asked THAT question, and I felt no offense in the slightest.

I answered truthfully, even though I knew she would disapprove of my answer.

Then, without comment or pause or a change in her tone, she changed the subject by asking that second, unrelated question.

  • She did not criticize…   yet I felt criticized;
  • she did not scold…   yet I felt scolded;
  • she did not judge…   yet I felt judged.

It seems that my unexplained Memory was, and continues to be, a superb counselor with the gift of teaching without teaching.

With that demonstration of conversational elan it is easy for me to see why that clueless kid labeled his impression of THIS couple “important.”  Shy and easily embarrassed, he favorably responded to the ease of their interactions:  they accepted him as is and he did not feel awkward in their presence.  To him, they were the same as family.  Exactly why, the kid didn’t know since his  MO was to simply accept things.

JUST HOW DOES ALL OF THIS RELATE TO A STAR?  The North Star is actually not a single star, but an association of several stars closely situated along an observer’s line of sight.  Though Polaris, the brightest one, gets all the press, it is their collective brilliance that has guided humans across this globe for untold centuries.

Likewise, an individual’s inner moral beacon, emanating from the past to illuminate today, does not have a single source; it is the cumulative result of many caring and attentive persons who have lent their efforts to teach us how to walk.  Though we will remember those who especially appeal to our specific needs, it is the combined influence of those mentors that powers a light strong enough to span the length of our lives.

My former — and, it seems, current — Counselor has coaxed the realization of that debt from a very recalcitrant memory.  It is knowledge that serves to deepen the magnitude of the losses that Time has imposed on mortals and is the impetus for these 4 “Sunday” articles concerning Naomi, Ruth, and the Prodigal, each of whom yielded to an inner beacon emanating from their pasts.

Thank you, Counselor, for being a prominent star in my personal sky of uncertainty.  I did not recognize your influence way back there, but, I am well aware of your illumination today.  I am also aware that you were not trying to instruct me, a stranger, in any way; you were simply being yourself, thereby benefitting this stranger just as you benefitted a shy kid long ago.

By the way, that kid never gave the slightest hint about your very charming regional accent.

 

 

 

 

 

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