Originally published September 30, 2013
This piece came together over the last few days due, in part, to several unrelated events and random chance readings. These events and readings triggered a line of thought that wandered a bit through many years of yet other unrelated events, all of which brought a peaceful end to a very exasperating day. The details of the exasperation are not really important. The lessons, however, are. Consequently, I shall take you on a bit of the journey and show you some of my own thought process in the bargain. It’s all part of getting to know the writer behind my published works.
Let’s start with the triggers. I spend quite a bit of time on that social media soup known as Facebook. For one thing it is an inexpensive way to keep in touch with people I have come to know and care about. It is also a bit of a window on the world beyond my door. Given the obligations of a 24/7 caregiver, I rarely find myself in social contact with other people, nor do I add to my husband’s confusion by trying to explain news programs or incessant pleas to buy stuff. And, besides, I do find rather quirky bits of inspiration from time to time. Like this:
As it happens I am painfully aware of this little quirk of human nature. Consequently when I get really irritated at someone or something I do try to step back and understand why. Why is this situation so infuriating? “They aren’t listening to me!” I see. Are you listening to them? Are you hearing the words, or the emotions? Is there some point of communication that you can find; or are you talking from two different planets in languages completely foreign to each other?
I don’t know how many of my readers have ever played poker, but there is a high probability that if you have you have run into a player that had no clue of how the game is played. They will place wild and ridiculous bet chasing everyone out of the hand: and have nothing. Now it has always been my policy to play chess first, both in life and in business, and poker only if need be, but I do know when to “fold them.” There comes a time when “winning” is no longer the higher goal. Because there is no winning. Hence the second “random quote” of my day:
These events were tumbling around in my head as I was reaching the point in my day when I had to take care of some chores before the weekend was gone. Now the interesting thing about the task of cleaning house in my home is that it always generates a series of questions. My husband (who suffers from vascular dementia) gets somewhat disoriented. “Is someone coming?” “Is someone moving in?” “Why do we have to clean the house?” Ordinarily I attempt to answer these questions as best (and repeatedly) as I can. But when I’m in a hurry that complicates things a great deal.
Suddenly the act of communicating became a very real “in your face” issue. His perspective on the whole thing was totally alien to the basic function of having a reasonably clean home. There is no way between now and the day the sun begins to engulf our planet that I will be able to explain it to him in a way he can understand. There is no “winning.”
Fast forward to supper time and the whole mishmash of events and conversations is still brewing in my head. I am reminded of a day some 30 years ago when I hopped a plane from Dallas to Houston to sort some things out with my father. Due to an action on his part I had reached that moment when you break the sound barrier. No, haven’t been there, but I’ve read a very detailed description. At least in a jet fighter things can be a pretty rough ride until that moment you breach Mach 1. Then things become quite stable, quite calm. Everything going on in my life at that point suddenly rattled free and I “knew” it was time. It was not important what his response was, I didn’t care what he chose to say or not say, I simply said my piece, hopped back on the plane and went about trying to get the rest of my life in order. I didn’t have to “win;” I did need to move on.
Then comes the little voice, “but.” “I’m right. Any ‘objective’ observer would know that my position is right.” “Shouldn’t I make sure that the whole world knows what the “real” story is?” Well, there is one more random piece to my day. I am currently reading a book entitled The Philosopher’s Toolkit. No plot here, just a group of short essays to introduce the inquiring mind to the art of debating (arguing), building, composing philosophy and how modern philosophers look at terms and basic tools. My brief moment of reading today was on a section entitled: “Objective/Subjective.”
There seems to be a bit of a problem when we define these terms. We like to think that subjective opinions are based on emotions and objective opinions are formed based on research and logical, reasonable thought. In ancient times the two were thought of as two sides of the same coin. It was never particularly complementary to be thought of as “subjective.” More modern thoughts, from a philosophical point of view, see the question a bit differently. The reason is that, as humans it is impossible to view any event, conversation, piece of information, thought, whatever, without the influence of your own past experience. As humans we learn based on experience, it is a fundamental part of what we are. Now the whole question of objective/subjective is looked at as more of a continuum; a line along which the amount of objective or subjective interpretation varies based on the circumstance, the subject, and the individual. We never can reach a “pure” state of the objective because we will always be influenced, by something.
Am I a relativist then? Believing that there is some sliding scale of right and wrong? That nothing is certain and only circumstances can determine a valid solution; a winner? No, I’m not. I still believe that the ethics, morals, and standards by which I try to conduct my life are a meaningful goal. A goal worthy of my efforts. I still believe that others are not permitted to dodge responsibilities or look for ways to change the color of a situation. I also believe that there are times when people cannot see another point of view because of the tunnel they have wrapped around their mind. They are incapable of “hearing” what you are saying. And their responses will always be that off-the-wall, unsupported bet. When that happens, that person will appreciate your point of view about the time my husband understands why I want to clean the house.
This, then, is the lesson that I carry with me. Life is not about “winning” the argument. It is not about beating people down until they agree just to shut you up. It is not about having the loudest voice. It is about knowing your own self well enough to know when you have done what you think is right and to step away with confidence and peace. Sometimes the last word is no word at all.