Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Skipping The Battle

One of the most difficult things for me to remember sometimes is that not every battle needs to be fought. We don’t have to correct every error or right every wrong. Sometimes it just doesn’t matter, and sometimes there are other things that matter more. Life is a balancing act of conflicting priorities, and it can be easy to forget or overlook damage being done to one priority while focusing on another. It’s important to remember, though. It can be critically important, and this requires that we pay attention even when we think things are obvious.

They usually aren’t actually obvious. There are so many things going on beneath, beside, and just otherwise away from our perspective that there are almost always hidden complexities involved in even the most seemingly obvious situations. No matter the occasion, one of the most fundamental realities of life is that we tend to know less than we think we know. A corollary to that rule is that the volume of expressed opinion tends to be directly and inversely proportional to the real knowledge present. As Charles Bukowski explained it, “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” A bit more direct than I would usually phrase it, but you certainly get the point. When something seems obvious, that might be the best time to ask more questions. Step back and consider the possibilities.

As I said, this is something I struggle with. I’m that guy who has an almost pathological urge to go, “Well actually …” and then explain all of the nuanced ways that what was said is incorrect. I will usually do my homework and be able to cite chapter and verse, so I have that much going for me, but let’s face it, most of the time, no one cares. More often than not, no one cares because it’s just not important. I’ve wasted a lot of time and aggravated people for no good reason. Quite frequently, the only thing I’ve really accomplished is hurting myself or my own interests in one way or another. Not a terribly useful activity. Being self destructive is certainly one of those things I’m trying to dial back on.

I have gotten better about it. I’m not nearly as self destructive as I once was - though that may have been just required for continued living - but keeping my trap shut is one of the areas where I still have issues. Trust me, I’m not as nice as I present myself in these pages. I know that, which is one of the reasons I present in the way I do. It’s educational, for me. Practice. It’s also one of the things that confuses people. Because I am practicing certain behaviors that don’t actually come naturally to me, people draw certain conclusions that may not line up quite right with reality. Then my natural sarcasm kicks in, feelings get hurt, and the whole thing turns ugly. I’m not all nice, but I don’t want things to go ugly, so I’m working on learning to be a bit more careful about when I do or do not say something.

It’s funny in some ways. I have a natural talent for ignoring things in some areas that is just about as strong as my inability to ignore in others. If you try to place rules that I don’t like they had better have teeth or you’ve wasted your time. I know, intellectually, that there are people who believe they have to do various things because the rules say they have to do these things, but I don’t comprehend that existence. It’s a three-dimensional structure being explained to the inhabitant of a two-dimensional reality. All I can do is nod and smile and admit that you’re probably right, those people probably do exist, but it makes no sense to me. I have no frame of reference. I follow rules because I agree with them or because it’s more inconvenient to break them. That’s it. That’s all I understand. If I disagree with a rule (or just don’t care, because that’s a real factor as well) and can easily ignore it, I will be ignoring it. Count on it.

So, as you can see, I understand the idea perfectly well, I just don’t put it into practice quite as consistently as I probably should. I’m working on it, though. There was a time, decades ago, when the slightest provocation could set me of physically. I worked on fixing that and fixed it. There was a time when my mouth got me in trouble almost more often than it did anything else. I worked on fixing that and, for the most part, fixed it. It still pops off from time to time but, these days, I have trained myself fairly well to speak less and listen more. It’s mostly in writing that I am still behind the curve on this one. Facebook, message boards, blogs, comment sections. These are where I struggle, but, even here, I am learning.

That’s really all we can do, when you come right down to it. Keep learning, keep doing better, keep moving forward. We’ll make mistakes, we’ll stumble from time to time, even lose ground occasionally, but two-steps-forward-one-step-back is still better than standing still or just going backward. Just remember, everyone you meet is dealing with issues you know nothing about. Things are rarely as obvious as we believe. Sometimes the face a person presents is just a face they’re trying to learn, so they may not be very good at it, they may seem to be missing some points, but they’re trying. Sometimes the best answer is no answer. Sometimes we need to just let go and let be. I’m working on it, and I make mistakes. Such is life.

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