Leroy bet me
I couldn’t find
a pot of gold at the end,
and I told him
it was a stupid bet
because the rainbow
Rita Mae Brown
That’s what he would do. Gerald heaved a sigh of relief.
The decision had been driving him crazy. He hadn’t been able to sleep for almost a fortnight. There were so many factors to consider. So many things that could go wrong. But now all that was over. He’d made the decision, and all would be well. It was a great weight off his mind.
He turned over in bed: now for a good night’s sleep. He closed his eyes, ready to drift into oblivion. It was several minutes before he heard the niggling voice.
What if he was wrong?
Another challenge from T.Mastgrave: Doubt.
“It’s mine!” “No, it’s mine.” Melissa took a deep breath and then went on peeling the potatoes. She knew any minute the fight would spill over into the kitchen.
“Give it back.” “Mummy, she started it.” “If I hear one more word, I’ll lock you both in your bedroom until tomorrow”, she fairly screamed. The girls looked mutinous, but left the room for now.
Melissa’s hand shook as she reached for her glass. It was a little early, but she needed it. They were such little angels when they were asleep. She wondered how many mothers actually killed their children.
This week’s challenge by T.Mastgrave: Angels.
I don’t like painting eggs, I want to go home,
Said the girl with the curls to the little blue gnome.
But I need these eggs painted, the gnome wept its plea.
If they’re not done tomorrow, I’ll never be free!
There are too many eggs, there’s no way we can paint
them all by tomorrow! The gnome fell in faint.
But the girl didn’t panic, she knew just what to do,
She called to her friend, with thing one and thing two.
With little cats A – Z and the voom
Hat-cat got those eggs painted, and lifted the gloom.
I’ve argued before that we are pulled in many different ways by our feelings and needs, and that we do not consciously choose our actions. Also, believing that somebody deliberately chose to act badly is what triggers anger, hatred and blame.
– Heresy n°2 –
Everyone is always doing their best.
While I characterise it as a heresy, it’s not exactly a new idea. Many people reject it because thy are afraid that if noone is to blame for their actions, we will lose any kind of morality, and the basis for social order. In one sense this is true: our current societies are based on blame, and that does go out the window. At the same time we can easily replace it with something better: responsibility.
Blaming is about looking backward, about judging and finding a guilty party. Responsibility looks forward: it is our common responsibility to find a way of living together in peace. Blame is divisive, responsibility binds us together.
Adopting Heresy n°2 means we can think in terms of incentives and deterrents. These don’t depend on free will: if an action is connected to a cost or benefit, this becomes a factor in the unconscious decision making process, and influences our behaviour. And we can think about influencing behaviour much more clearly without the fog of concepts like blameworthiness, and just deserts.
Have you ever found yourself defending your own behaviour, although, in your heart of hearts, you were unhappy with it yourself? When we play the blame-game, we are automatically creating opposition. When we say “you are a bad person” to someone, it’s not really surprising that they push back. Suppose instead we say: “I understand you had a good reason to act as you did, at the same time I really don’t like what you did, maybe you aren’t completely happy with it either?” Then maybe together with that person we can find ways to help them act differently in the future, or to prevent the negative consequences of such actions.
Most important of all, when we adopt the idea that everyone is always doing their best we can stop wrestling in our minds with what we think is going on in someone else’s head. Have you ever found yourself repeating an argument you had with someone? Have you ever found yourself wanting to “teach someone a lesson”, or to “show them how it feels”? This is all unpleasant, and it’s not about what really happened, but about what you think is going on inside the other person’s head. When you accept that that person did not choose to act as they did, you can let it go.
There are many ways of expressing Heresy n°2., e.g. “Everyone is acting the only way they can act in the situation as they see it.” I prefer my version “Everyone is always doing their best” because I find it emotionally more appealing. The positive slant makes it easier for me to feel compassion with someone whose actions are getting on my nerves. Of course, everyone is free to find their own way of putting it.
A final test
If you think: “Well that’s all very nice, but it’s not really true, is it?” try this test. Think of something bad that you’ve done, something you are really unhappy with in retrospect. Were you happy and relaxed that day? Was the sun shining, the sky blue, and did you decide to do something bad just for the hell of it? Or were you under pressure, stressed out, exhausted, afraid, or hurt? Was this something you did because you saw no other way, or you just couldn’t help yourself?
I think you will find that at that moment, under those circumstances you did the best you could, however miserable that best may have been. Now, if you claim this compassion for yourself: how can you deny it to anyone else?
On the far side of the looking glass, however, things did not seem to be quite the same. Alice could feel her nose twitching and her whiskers, too… Her what?! Alice looked down in alarm: not only did she have whiskers, but fur and …rabbit paws.
She glanced up at the looking glass, and saw herself on the other side. On this side she could see the reflection of the white rabbit, its eyes widened in fright. The weight of a large gold pocket watch dragged at her. She was late, she was late. She ran off in a panic.
By the steps she could see three young jewish women. She looked at their flat shoes and thick black stockings, their awkward looking wigs. How could any woman consent to shave off her hair, her beauty, her sensuality? Samira gave a shudder. Nobody saw her expression of distaste.
Whores, she thought, baring their noses and chins for all to see, exposing their naked lips to the gaze of strangers. The voices of her teachers had melted into a single melodious stream in her head.
Thankfully she had been taught better. She peered through the thick black cloth and walked on.
Queen Petra’s challenge. It doesn’t have to be a story. A photo, a drawing, a poem. Just create something for each word on the list.
Next up on the list: 3. Abandoned.
I started a blog to try and sort some ideas out, and maybe draw some pictures. I didn’t really think about reading blogs: I already have a feed reader. So the joy of reading tags came as a complete surprise.
Scrolling through a world-wide selection of cartoons, drawings and photos has been a real eye-opener. I learnt about photo trends like light field photography (play with pics here) and HDR. Yes, I guess I have been living under a rock… A friend showed me a friend’s website:
Try it: you are an artist too! Wanna make a bet?
Sometime this summer my life got a little intense and I needed to get away for a bit. I went to stay in an old cottage by the sea and started taking long walks every day.
When you put your life on hold for a while, it gives you a suspended sort of feeling, as if time had stopped and left only you free to explore the moment. I started noticing things I’ve never seen before. Do you have any idea how many different shades of green there are? And have you ever listened to the birds chirping away throughout the day?
In a sunny bay I noticed scratch marks in the sand. They were different each day, some days shallow, some days deep, but always in the same area below the high tide mark. One morning I saw someone scratching in the sand with a stick. By the time I arrived they were gone, but the tide was still out, and I could see a picture in the sand: a colony of gulls standing, flying, landing, their wings still outstretched. I loved it.
I decided to go to the beach early the next day, to try and catch the sand-painter. When I arrived the next morning, the sand was fresh and smooth. I started walking to and fro on the beach. My patience, or lack of it, was rewarded, when I saw the sand-painter scratching away again.
Walking towards the sand-painter, I wondered how to start a conversation without seeming too rude. When I was fairly close she looked up and said “Hello, there”, and I was surprised at the friendly greeting. Afterwards I realised, my footprints told the story of my lying-in-wait only too clearly.
I looked at the new picture, a peacock in a garden. Each feather so clearly defined, you could all but see the colours. “It’s beautiful”, I gasped. She smiled, and looked pleased. “How kind”, she said. “You make a sand-painting every day?” “Most days.” “But it’s washed away by the tide.” “So it is”, she agreed. “Do you take photos then?” She laughed. “I never even thought of that.”
“But it’s a shame, all these beautiful pictures lost”, I burst out. She looked away quickly, but I caught the tears in her eyes. She was still for a minute. I started to apologise, and she silenced me with a small wave of her hand. “No, you’re right. It doesn’t last.”
“Nothing lasts”, she added quietly, and looked down again. I was sorry for intruding on her solitude. “So long”, I mumbled and started to walk away.
I hadn’t gone far when she called after me. “This way, there are no errors. There’s only the way it is.”
The challenge: Art.