Letting go of boxes: we all categorize, and sometimes that’s helpful, but examining our beliefs is the mark of maturity.
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So, here we are, at the end of another year, with no clue about the next one. We’re still in the middle of the Covid thing, only now with a new variant. Only time will tell how it all goes.
We’re presently in Spain, heading back to Ontario in February. No clue how we’ll do that, but it at least ought to be interesting.
I’ve been working on a new book. Not sure about it yet. It’s on my list of principal things to do in January. Stay tuned.
Feliz años nuevo!
I think that the most valuable thing to do on New Year’s Day is to state how little we know.
As I think back on last New Year, I’m aware that most of what happened this year was totally unexpected–many world events were painful to say the least, and the roller-coaster of hope to despair continues.
It doesn’t help that we are predisposed to expect stability. We do so through categorization and blame. Let’s have a look at how this works.
We assimilate raw data and somehow manage to fit it into the neat boxes implanted in our heads.
Ah, those boxes! Ever since we were munchkins, we’ve been categorizing, filing, sorting. And that would be great, if we weren’t also judging.
Because we were kids, we knew nothing, and so our parents and tribes taught us “right from wrong.” This became the first of the divisions — the “this, not that’s” of our existence.
The cultural stuff is deep, and to that is added familial quirks.
My dad was a Democrat, mom a Republican, and mom ruled the roost. So, I grew up, in the 50’s, following mom’s lead, and thinking the U S of A could do no wrong. Silly me.
I authored a quite jingoistic diatribe back in 1965. I had a cute English teacher who beamed at me when I impressed her, and she was a rabid Republican, so that was motivation to write an “America, love it or leave it” article for one of the papers in Buffalo. Got it published, and that got me an “A” and a squeeze on the shoulder.
By the Spring of 1968, I’d grown my hair out, and watched with glee as Lyndon Johnson stepped out of the race for president. My politics had changed–I was writing left-wing stuff and getting smiles and pats on the shoulder from a brand-new, and even cuter English student teacher.
Simple illustration, and the point isn’t really that I’m easily influenced by cute teachers (although I did marry one.)
I was fervent in 1965, and equally fervent in 1968,
and both “fervencies” were real and deep.
How did this happen? Well, I was able to go into the file system, and holus bolus drag my political beliefs from one box to another. I remember the struggle I had as I examined, discarded, and moved that stuff.
It’s still a struggle, this relentless self-examination, but fortunately, it’s easy to tell when I have something to work on.
Because I pride myself on my ability to reason, I am still (and often) amazed when I trigger myself.
To this day, I have very little patience for conservatism, and even less for racism, so when someone says something I consider “off,” I could excuse myself for my knee-jerk, internal reaction–I want to rip their faces off. I don’t, of course, but I do want to.
Hint: just because you really, really believe something, doesn’t make it true!
Knowing this causes me to question the depth of my beliefs on this subject. Not TRUTH — DEPTH.
By that, I mean: I have several groupings of beliefs that have long roots: these are beliefs I seldom examine, let alone challenge. My body, intimately connected to my brain, spouts a physical gut clench–a “That’s wrong!” reaction to divergent opinions or beliefs.
Other stuff, seemingly as fervently held, has a milder reaction.
All of this goes to show that we all are little bundles of reaction, and, left without reflection, our knee-jerk reactions are what get us into trouble.
I’d like to propose a a project for 2022.
Make a commitment to monitor yourselves for “biggies.” You know what I mean. You’re all sweaty and indignant, and you don’t know why–you just know that you are offended, self-righteous, and ready to judge.
So, have a breath.
Take the time to go inside and ask yourself,
- What deeply held belief am I triggering here?
- How am I offending myself?
- Is the belief at the base of this been examined, or has it been hanging around in here, pushing my buttons, since I was a kid?
- How’d I adopt that one?
- Is is still sensible?
Then, have another breath, and see if you can go deeper, and begin to prune back the thought, and maybe even uproot it.
Because, and this is the hard part, none of it is real, or true, or helpful.
It’s just the carton, the box, that you’ve been operating out of.
The goal here is NOT to create a new box, but to see what life might be like without the need to categorize. In other words, to live moment to moment, and to respond with compassion and clarity.
Now, of course, you still will react, internally.
But that’s OK. Smile at yourself, and come to the party anyway!
Because in the end, it’s all just a big movie, and your job is to be able to see that it is.