I reflect on the years I’ve accumulated. Of the many vignettes, memories, scenarios, I recall a theme pondered and talked about countless times: men, to do the right thing. Several factors have always traveled along with this issue, through the generations; one of those factors being shorterm gratification compared with longterm gratification; another cause being fatigue (mental and physical); and yet another, problematic rationalization versus clarity of thought connected to good ethics, honorable character. So, the original thought, “Men, To Do The Right Thing”, leads into these factors.
- Shorterm gratification. In the realm of relationships and marriage, shorterm gratification can lead to trust broken, betrayal, lies. Sounds harsh, yes? But, not uncommon. Here is a, possibly, oversimplified picture of what this looks like is. Two individuals are in a relationship; they have a few arguments over a short period of time; one of the individuals chooses to experience being with someone (seemingly) immediately fulfilling, no (visible) complications, (all in secrecy). Eventually, the truth comes out and the unfatihful one has a choice to make.
- Fatigue and clarity of thought. In the context of a relationship, where a man becomes mentally and physically fatigued over a period of time (caused by any number of catalysts), resulting in his diminishing attention to his wife and her needs. His apathy slowly increases in proportion to his diminishing level of attention to his wife. Here is my question: will this man recognize what is happening and make crucial changes to avoid further pain to his marriage? What makes this a difficult situation is the power of negative momentum. My own paraphrased definition of the Law Inertia is this: “An object in motion will continue unless acted upon by an external force.” So, what will be the external force, for this man, to keep him from going downhill, inevitably crashing with great chaos.
- Lastly, I consider rationalization and clarity of thought. By the way, I truly believe that all three of these areas overlap, to differing degrees. Here is where my mind goes, with rationalization. I think about the workplace. A man is intensely pressured by his supervisor to increase his numbers reflecting a higher level of productivity. His coworkers do not seem to be having any difficulty. So, the man in question asks one of his coworkers to help him think through what needs to happen to get his numbers up, where they need to be. The coworker shows him some “shortcuts”, and points out some steps that “the other guys don’t waste their time on. There is some distinction about what is policy and what the rest of the team is doing, he chooses the latter, to get on board with what works, regardless of policy. In this context several factors are at play: rationalization, fatigue, and the shorterm gratification.
When / if a man comes to a fork in the road where he realizes he chose unwisely, either the man fully embraces his mistake, or he glosses over, minimizes, dismisses, rationalizes. The good news is that one can learn from his “bad call”, and then press on, keeping in mind that he does not want to repeat his mistake. The bad news is that one can become, gradually, more submerged in his pattern of bad choices. His conscious becomes a bit more numb, his focus changes towards the shorterm gratification, the rationalization process, moving away from clarity of thought. Some believe that our world is moving faster; not in the sense of physics, but in the way we process information, the higher expectations placed on all of us, and the higher costs for (almost) everything. True, should not go into a rationalization mode, and say there is an excuse for our breakdown in choices. Having said that, I believe the … higher velocity … brings real challenges to howe live, and what we do. I have known too many men over the years who have lost their marriages and/or their careers because of bad choices. This week, I found myself thinking about the pain these men and their wives have gone through, in these situations. My heart, truly goes out for them. It is a wake-up call for, to do my best to make wise choices.
On the other side of the trees, we have seen some beautiful, cloudless nights this week. Clarity, to see things more clearly, frees us up to think. So many times, what we are looking at is hiding what is real, what is authentic. Fear is real, overt or covert. Hidden fear takes on different identifiers. These guys … the Mudmen … the Holosa … live in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, outside a village, “Goroka”. The story handed down, through four generations, is that an enemy tribe defeated the Asaro Holosa, who fled into the Asaro River. At dusk, the enemy saw them rise from the muddy banks covered in mud, and thought they were spirits. The enemy fled in fear, and the Asaro Holosa escaped …
and returned to the village, not knowing the enemy tribesmen were still there. The enemy, terrified by what they saw, ran back to their own village and held a special ceremony to ward off the spirits.
The Mudmen could not cover their faces with mud; the tribes of Papua New Guinea thought that the mud from the Asaro river was poisonous. So instead of covering their faces with mud (thought to be poison), they made masks from pebbles and muddied water, heated from fire. The Asora Holosa became known as “the Mudmen”. The masks have unusual designs, such as long or very short ears either going down to the chin or sticking up at the top, long joined eyebrows attached to the top of the ears, horns and sideways mouths. Masks emerged, for the Asora Holosa, to overcome their fear, and to hide their fear. The Mudmen’s faces were also used to create fear in their enemies. What we do in our own lives, to deal with our fears, oftentimes involves how we present ourselves. Masks play a role … masks of a different sort. The Mudmen feared not only the enemy tribesmen; they feared mud … that led them to these grotesque masks. I am not a Mudman, at least not in the conventional, original sense. My masks are far more sophisticated. My fears, more complex. And yet, I am a man who moves out of my strength, my courage, out of a wounded and redemptive heart. I move, from the Other Side of the Trees … then, back again.
Harrison Ford is Dr. Richard Kimble, a fugitive from the law, an innocent man falsely indicted for murdering his wife. In the movie, “Fugitive”, Chief Deputy Marshall Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) relentlessly hunts Kimble. Dr. Kimble slips down a storm drain, into the tunnels. Gerard follows Kimble, slips in rushing water, drops his gun. Dr. Kimble grabs the gun, points the pistol at Gerard: “I did not kill my wife!”. Chief Deputy Marshall Gerard’s responds “I don’t Care!”
The words “I don’t care” scream apathy, the opposite of love, a “no-man’s land”. We have no business in the realm of apathy. Adolescents I worked with years ago, removed from parents’ custody, often expressed: “I DON’T CARE!”, words that reflect apathy. For kids living in a group home, the words are, in reality, a cry from within, a challenge: “Care for me! I dare you.” These kids had very few people to stick with them. Case managers come and go; counselors come and go; group homes come and go. Some of these kids would never be reunited with their parents. When we hear apathy, something else might be happening. An alternative to vulnerability is to raise a shield of apathy, for protection. Apathy blocks an unwanted emotional reaction. Like the angry adolescent living in a group home, longing to be loved, apathy can be a challenge: “Do you really care? Are you authentic, or a poser? Or are you going to fade away?” Continue reading “Apathy: No Man’s Land”
Push. Pull. The seen. The unseen. Choices come, choices made, choices fade; sometimes we don’t get it right.
“We are all spinning plates. One is going to drop, eventually.”
Malcolm Gladwell, Blink
Some calls, better than others; tension, inherent to life. We must experience times and places of rest. To rest in the thick of the push-pull is a worthy endeavor; a restorative adventure.
“She stared at the stars like they were pillow for her mind and in their light she could rest her heavy head.” Christopher Poindexter
“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” Alan Cohen / “Women show men beauty in things beyond their ambitions. Women tell men to stop and smell the roses.” Chriss Jami, (from Diotma, Battery, Electric Personality)
“Don’t you simply love going to bed? To curl up warmly in a nice warm bed, in the lovely darkness. That is so restful and then gradually drift away into sleep…” C.S. Lewis / “The best of all medicines are resting and fasting.” Benjamin Franklin
In some of my posts, I have referred to “the larger story”. We have our own unique stories: they are our own, no one else’s. It takes courage to walk out our story. Our stories are not finished. Our stories are still being written. When we get caught up in doing, doing, doing … going, going, going … We might be avoiding what it is we are … really … supposed to be doing. That is when we are in the “push-pull”, fast decisions, extra work projects, giving up some sleep, allowing our emotions to be messed with. One description of rest that I came upon years ago has stuck with me: “Rest is a discipline.” Wow, a discipline is something that one takes time to practicem because it is a priority. Just a thought.
A man, a woman, sit together, no joy … just pain. They have come to see the seer, with the hope that she will see … something. Something that the two haven’t seen. Something that will help them push through the desert, a harsh desert; and come out on the other side. The seer hopes to see well, into and through, the fog, the pain, the guardedness. The seer has every bit as much hope that the two, across from her, will be able to see … that they will see those pieces that connect with freedom.
“How important is it, to you, that you do see?”
The two appear to be stunned, as if no one has ever asked them that question. And, maybe, no one ever has. They appear to be stunned, as the question is not just a question; they are being “called out” … called out to take a step forward and see, even if they encounter something that they don’t want to see. So they run that question, from the seer, through their hearts and minds … to the point that they both ask themselves a different question, “Am I really ready to be here?”
“We want to be here, and we want to see.”
“The information you communicated on your voicemail I received tells me that you are here to work on your marriage. Depending on what that means … ‘to work on your marriage’ … it may be difficult, painful to see what is problematic about your relationship with each other. Keep your courage close, your vision alive, your hope strong. Now, let us see what we can see.”
The scenario, above, is a context of seeing; a small allegory. Allegories and metaphors are powerful, for me, in two ways: teaching, and my own processes of grappling with thoughts I am attempting to resolve. In my last post (6/24/16), I wrote about my father, Bill Davis, who had passed away that morning. The grief issue, I am indeed grappling with and attempting to resolve, but I am quite stuck. To grieve, I think, requires that I “see”; that I see well. I was talking to another therapist not too long ago. I expressed to her that … me being a therapist, one would think that I would have a good handle on grief, and how to “do it”. She said something that validated some of my cognitive disruption: “I have found that many therapists avoid grief whenever possible.” Ironic. The grief process can be quite different for each person. For me, I am seeing different scenarios where Dad was involved. And the seeing brings about some disruption, some joy, some great sorrow, some anger. But grief is not the only context for us, where seeing is so profound. Seeing comes into play, some days more than others. When I worked with at-risk adolescents, I found myself seeing something that I truly did not want to see. It takes courage to see. It is also a gift to see. I find truth in the seeing; and I find comfort in the seeing. And in meaningful relationships, we must be able to see. Throughout all of this, there is strategic seeing. If we are in the thick of ot, it is not difficult to see … that we are indeed in the thick of it. In times like that, we must dig down into our heart and soul, and see the hope … see the truth that there is a bigger picture. The chaos does not define us. That’s all for now.