Posts Tagged ‘tolerance’

Today’s thought is yet another saying I’ve had by my desk to think about when I notice it. I don’t have much to say about it because it’s something I’m still turning over in my head. It’s like a full-growing garden, I suppose: every time I look at it something else comes to my attention, and each person will likely see different blossoms (and weeds) than I.

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God…

– Walt Whitman

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Never, ever, ever make a decision about something dear to you out of weariness. Ever. Only ill can come of it. Anything worthy of a place in your heart is worthy of enough time and patience to do right by it.

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Shall Good

Shall, should, shouldn’t and shan’t.
We’d choose well where we wouldn’t,
yet it seems that we can’t,
for we shall where we shouldn’t,
and shan’t where we should
– still –
fail to try,
and the good will be even more scant.

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I’d like to share a quote I saved from something I was reading the other day:

If you apply stricter criteria to theories you dislike than theories you like (or vice versa!), then every additional nit you learn how to pick, every new logical flaw you learn how to detect, makes you that much stupider. Intelligence, to be useful, must be used for something other than defeating itself.
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky, “A Technical Explanation of Technical Explanation

This, of course, holds equally true for people you dislike, habits you dislike, experiences you dislike, etc. etc. etc. So I think we will greatly benefit if we apply equal amounts of patience and self-reflection between what we like and dislike (and you know me, I think those amounts should be quantified as “a lot”). That might sound obvious, but it’s hard to remember sometimes.

Luckily, like most things, it gets easier with practice. Practice becomes easier as we start to see the results in our own lives.

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Yesterday Cary Tennis (my favorite philosopher in the guise of an advice columnist) was responding to a letter from parents seeking advice on how to handle the control issues they were having with their 16 year old daughter. He said something from the perspective of being someone in a relationship:

I am not a father, but I am a person in a human relationship, and I can say that when a person starts doing things I don’t like, at first I try to stop her. I can think up many reasons why my way is best. But what I find over and over is that when I am thinking of all the reasons my way is best, I am not seeing the person in front of me. I am seeing my reasons.


Meanwhile, here is this beautiful woman before me, radiant and strange, mysterious and funny, limitlessly interesting; I am choosing to complain to her about the condition of the sponges, how they must be properly maintained for kitchen sanitation, and I am a fool. I am focused on the sponges. It is some kind of terrible joke.

I saved it because I think it’s a very well-put reminder on what life’s all about — the people in it. It’s important not to get so wrapped up in what we think of them and their actions that we forget to feel them, who they are and their meaning in our lives.

That is what life is all about, and if we’re to live it well, we need to remember that.

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I was reading an advice column to somebody who was working with a charity that helped impoverished children, but the charity would make the “showcase kids” eat pizza in the back room after speaking at their charity banquets. The guy said that he felt like they were using the kids for fundraising without really empowering them, and wondered what the advice-givers thought.

In the advice, the columnist brought out a quote that’s apparently popular in the charity/activism circles, but I hadn’t quite heard before:

“If you have come to help me, then you are wasting your time; but if you’ve come because your liberation is bound with mine, then let us work together”

-Lilla Watson, Australian Aboriginal artist/activist

Isn’t that just awesome? There’s this tendency to view a helper/helpee relationship in a kind of hierarchical structure, with one having the power and responsibility, and the other having the obligation and the guilt… and sometimes vice versa. This mucks things up, and gets in the way.

I think it’s far more effective and helpful to BE in a situation with someone and offer yourself, instead of just trying to “manage” their situation from the outside. For a hundred billion reasons, it serves you better, it serves the situation better, and it treats the “helpee” with so much more power and respect. It also lifts the “rescuer” weight off your shoulders, instead empowering you to really and truly help.

I also just love the phrase “liberation” — because really, that’s what it’s all about. The rest is just stuff that happens along the way.

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Last night I was reading Cary Tennis’ advice column in Salon again, where he answered a churchgoing man in a churchgoing family that’s a part of a tightly-knit churchgoing community. The man’s difficulty is that he had become agnostic, and was no longer sure that he fully agreed with all that the church he went to espoused. But he was concerned about whether he should tell his wife or friends about his shifting beliefs, his unanswered questions and unspoken answers. He didn’t want to cause any pain and heartache but he also didn’t want to be dishonest, and frankly, he was feeling pretty alone about it.

It got me thinking about the very doubt there is about belief itself. Not only is there the issue of whether our beliefs are correct, but also whether they provide us a place in our community, or in heaven, or even in a state of peace. It’s so much more than an issue of being right; it becomes an issue of merit, of belonging. If we’re wrong on fundamental issues, there’s the threat that it could set us up for a truly isolated, horrible time of it for the rest of our lives, or even for the rest of forever. Like uncertainty needs all the extra baggage to make it easier to sort out, right?

So when pondering thoughts of the great global belief war, I usually end up thinking about the baseline rhythm of love that I feel thrumming throughout every corner of the universe. Yeah, there’s some real disharmony out there, but under it all is that current-countercurrent of uncompromisingly binding open-hearted love that has outlasted every single bit of harm thrown around, and I figure, will continue to override our best efforts to thwart it. It’s a force bigger than we are. And it loves us. And at the most minute focal-point of it all, that’s all there is to it.

Here’s how Cary put it:

May I say one thing regarding my own perhaps crazy beliefs on the subject? I really believe it is possible that a grace exists in the universe that in caring for you and saving you does not care one whit whether you believe in it or not, and does not care what you think is true: a grace whose intelligence is so freely boundless and beyond us that whatever we think of it does not even occur to it, or occurs to it the way the consternation of a dog occurs to us when we bathe it. We take note of the consternation of the dog but we do not find it persuasive; we already know what we’re going to do with the dog. We’re going to bathe the dog.

Cary Tennis

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