Monday, January 15, 2007

Tree Falls in Forest (audio not available)

ambivalence, n.

  1. The coexistence of opposing attitudes or feelings, such as love and hate, toward a person, object, or idea.
  2. Uncertainty or indecisiveness as to which course to follow.

I'd love to change the world/But I don't know what to do.

~Ten Years After, I'd Love to Change the World

Does it make a sound if no one is there to hear it? I don't know. I wasn't there.

It occurs to me that I don't know a Hell of a lot. I like to think that I know certain things because it lends me a sense of security--but really, I have no idea what some of the most important people in my life are doing, whether they're happy, safe, proud of me, &c. It doesn't make any sense to ponder those things, either. Believe me--I've tried it.

You've probably heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It's at least 65 years old, and various implementations consist of between 50-100 multiple choice questions. The result is a four-letter acronym which indicates the dichomoties in your personality, e.g. extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. Like a horoscope, the ensuing analysis is interesting, but not always accurate. I notice that the results depend on where you're at, physically and mentally, when you answer the questions. Another interesting vector is whether you answer according to how you act at work, home, &c.

I tend to straddle every category except for the last one. I've derived that the categories where I exhibit traits from both sides are those for which I've learned to "switch hit," as it were. The one thing that I'm sure of, that these tests seem to confirm, is that I am most certainly not judgmental.

Like I needed a test to tell me that. I can consider most things all day, and then resume the analysis on the next. I don't like to give estimates. I do like straight talk, but I'm still training myself to provide it. For quite some time, the most frequent phrase I uttered was, but then again. The metaphor of rumination would suggest that my mind resembles the digestive systems of hooved animals that digest their food in at least two steps.

Yet there are some things about which I'm certain. Most of these are based on maxims that I accept, yet still look for agreement about in conversation. For example, I know that if I unleash some personal upset into the world (yell at my kids, flip someone off in traffic, give some service provider a hard time), someone will be kicking the dog when s/he gets home from work. And I'll have been the cause of that particular instance of abuse. I know this is so, and yet I'll discuss it at length, if only to understand it better for myself.

I find it interesting that the Zen master who composed the tree-in-forest koan chose a noisy and dramatic event--and didn't choose an enraged human being yelling in the forest with no one around to experience the upset. Aside from the residual effects on the person who was alone in the forest, I'm certain that this is the only exception to the idea at hand: Expressing my personal dissatisfaction with How It's Going to another person who didn't ask for it isn't worth whatever relief I might get in that moment. It compounds, with interest, and lives on, passed from one person to another.

I used to blame someone/something else for having been like that. I've decided since that I'm responsible for how I show up in the world.

If being a jerk in the morning to another human being connects to someone's pain in the afternoon, then the depth of one's generosity is impossible to fathom. I might remember every detail of every time I was felt offended from yesterday, but I'll always remember the friend who got me to pick up the guitar again.

My personality construction was complete before I aged 20 years, and I still feel like pretty much the same person inside. I still wonder: How in the world I can ever realize my own principles with my actions? Just the other day I was driving to work, feeling somewhat smug because my car gets better mileage than the SUVs I see on the freeway. Then I looked around and saw that everyone--including me--was driving alone. Oh, but I have plenty of reasons why I can't carpool. It's as though I've got my world set up so that driving to work alone works for me. I'm concerned that it doesn't work for the planet.

After lengthy consideration (heh), I've decided that I do change the world, regardless of what I do. Even if the sum of my actions/inactions is to preserve the status quo, it's still true that I did that. I'm responsible.

Not so much that I'm to blame. I'm able to respond in the matter. As for the tree, I'll get back to you tomorrow.

1 comment:

Lenka said...

Good post.