I used to hate slogans and proverbs. Bumper Stickers, I called them. Life … and Older Eyes … are complicated. Nothing of much use can be expressed in so few words. I also hated quotes from famous people for the same reason with perhaps some envy and ego thrown in. Who the heck are YOU to tell me what I should think? Arrogance is a young man’s disease but it often persists into old age (I won’t speak for the ladies). Twenty-one years of 12-Step meetings have cured me of my disdain for slogans (though on occasion I do get tired of hearing the same one over and over … or someone else’s incorrect interpretation of its meaning). And that seems to have made me more open to quotes. After all, I’ve added a Quote of the Day to my home page (although to be truthful, I don’t update it every day). This is the latest:
We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get a chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone – Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Yes! Mindfulness … staying in the moment and noticing what’s happening around me (something Pirsig also espouses) … is not enough. Fulfillment … the cessation of that day-to-day shallowness … requires two things: knowing ourselves and knowing our connectedness to others. Neither can be achieved in isolation, no matter how mindful we are. We must express what we think, what we feel, who we are if we are to truly know ourselves. But we must also see ourselves mirrored in others and hear, from them, how they see us if we are to be scrupulously honest with ourselves. And it is only by talking with others … not texting or small talking but really speaking of what matters to us … that we begin to see beyond the differences our ego prefers to our similarities.
Perhaps a few of us are lucky to find that perfect friend with whom there are few differences, a friend with whom we can discuss anything. Perhaps but I doubt it. We are like snowflakes. And as snowflakes, we must endure each others differences if we are to see that at the end of the day, we are all snowflakes. We each reflect a different part of our persona to each soul we encounter, and we can only see the whole if every part is reflected. That’s why we need an array of friends and acquaintances, people who are comfortable and interested in our various facets. The more we reflect of ourselves to others and the more others reflect back to us, the more we see our connectedness and the better we know ourselves.
Perhaps that’s a lot of hooey to you but it’s a revelation to me. It’s why I have such a cast of characters in my life, some of whom drive me crazy with their odd notions … and whom, I’m sure, are crazed by some of mine. It’s why I sit in meetings sometimes bored with the same old ideas or annoyed by someone else’s understanding of them. It’s why I have friends who are romantics, realists, pragmatists, mystics, rationalists and dreamers. It’s why I have friends that love … hate … or are indifferent to … spirituality, art, science, sports, writing, family, children, music, nature, exercise, and reading. I need people to talk to … about everything.
And Robert Persig said in 45 words what took me 595 to explain to myself. Thanks for listening. Comments appreciated but not required.