Fan the Wonder
Your 2nd grade teacher showed up. The one who always said “Listen to your neighbor.” She just dropped in—several decades later—but now she’s wearing a black beret, smoking unfiltered Gauloises and sipping espresso.
Mrs. Wheeler is no longer concerned with making things simple for you. In the training for everyday life that was part of 2nd grade, listening was a critical skill. She thinks you’ve forgotten it today, based on how you treat people.
Mrs. Wheeler wants you to start seeing the people around you. And then she wants you to assign value to these others that surround you. Not just your gang. You already value them and you listen to them (more or less). It’s those others—those not in your group. The ones you barely acknowledge, let alone listen to. Mrs. Wheeler says a true interest in others means allowing those others to be themselves.
“Of course, Mrs. Wheeler,” you say. “How could it be otherwise?”
“Ah,” she says, smoke slowly drifting up.
And when people show up with words different than yours? Different language entirely? Or just a different set of words that are not the key words you watch for? What if these others wear clothes that are provocative? Or not at all stylish? What assumptions do you automatically process? And how do those assumptions affect how you listen?
“No,” says Mrs. Wheeler. “Pay attention. These others are saying something you need to hear. Fan whatever wonder you find.”
She slowly stubs her cigarette on the saucer.
“This is the way,” she says as she steps out your front door.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston, All Rights Reserved.
Cody Kiser paints his way into the mundane stuff of everyday life and resurrects it in a form that is both familiar and disconcerting. Mr. Kiser’s artist statement says his work functions as commentary on the irrational fears peculiar to people who self-identify as consumers. He strips away language and cultural barriers in his paintings and deposits the viewer on a not-so-distant shore with a view of the backside of our culture.
Mr. Kiser’s paintings drew in Mrs. Kirkistan and myself as we wandered through this year’s Northeast Minneapolis Art-a-Whirl. We like seeing things from a different perspective and Kiser’s work accomplished that instantly. But there is also a sort of gathering darkness to his work that hints at sinister ends. Where have the people gone? And how did I get to this place where I’m shopping for stuff I can barely identify?
Finding patterns and vision in the dreary details of everyday life is itself inspiring. The surprise is that the closer we examine nearly anything, the more we see how wrong were our first assumptions. Upon a close examination, the hard surface becomes porous. Smooth becomes cratered under the right light. It’s funny how often that proves true.
See more of Cody Kiser’s work here.
Resist the rhetoric of control
Every person has worth. Every person has something meaningful to communicate to us and vice versa.
But sometimes the guy in the corner office just wants to yank your chain. Sometimes your colleague comes in your cube too close and berates you for something that riles only her. And sometimes these work contexts make you question your worth. Today we call this bullying and officially frown on it, though bosses of all stripes let their primordial managers get away with it as long as they post results.
In the face of the bully’s monologue, we may need to set down our goals of understanding and hearing each other. We may need to pick up tools that will help protect us from the bully. And especially as our culture talks more about innovation, we must recognize that the enemy of innovation is the bully who uses monologue to quell thinking and drive over dissent.
- The hack begins with dropping sycophancy. Just because the VP of marketing is telling you a personal story about his cabin doesn’t mean he isn’t trying to put you in the low place he wants you. There’s no need to continue to play the prop: the underling enamored by all the person in power does.
- Be present. Don’t go to the Bahamas while the bully drives his verbal tank into position.
- Stand. Even if sitting, assume a mentally poised place to challenge.
- Challenge. Is there another way of looking at the perspective the bully shouts? What is the truth here? Speaking fast and loud does not make something true.
- Know two things
- You are a person, too. A person of value.
- That language can be encouraging or damaging. Every communication encounter has a shaping effect on both conversation partners. Don’t let the bully continue unchecked.
- Turn the other cheek. Yes: quite. Back to Jesus the Christ who knew something about handling the bully. He knew the most effective thing long-term was to offer the bully even more. Not in every case, but dealing with the bully from a place of peace and, yes—faith (in God)—may just cut power to the BS generator the bully madly operates. This counter-intuitive step holds much promise for moving forward as a human.
Some reading this may think no modern/post-modern workplace has bullies like this. You could not be more wrong. It is interesting that the tools used to shine a light on the bully’s madness are also effective in ordinary conversations.
How do you handle the bully’s monologues?
It’s a walk in the woods. It’s reconnecting with an old friend—though it’s unclear if the friend is a bit off his nut because of all the weed he smokes or just generally off his nut. For 73 minutes I waited for the crazy guy to pull out an axe or to shoot the other friend. Nothing.
Old Joy is a meditation on slowing down. The photography of the Oregon woods is beautiful. The destination of the Bagby Hot Springs, breathtaking. Lots of peaceful ambient sound and streams and dripping. The vehicle is two friends reconnecting in awkward ways: one has moved on, about to become a father. One lives among his abstractions, poverty and drug sales.
Watch Old Joy for the reflections on friendship. Watch expecting to revisit your own awkward attempts to reconnect. Don’t watch for robots, explosions or aliens, though Will Oldham’s character (“Kurt”) might just as easily fit in a Men In Black film. Actually, Oldham’s beard alone would make an excellent alien.