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Posts Tagged ‘human nature’


“I wonder if you are really a friend of mine.
If i were lying in jail wouldja get outta bed and pay my fine?
Time stands still for everyone
You never really know who your friends are.” — Al Kooper

That’s the song that was playing on Radio Diane tonight. As some of you know, I tune in to the songs playing in my head and try to get a feel for what Life Itself is trying to tell me.

This one was pretty easy to figure out, though while it relates to the words of the song, belies what I think Al Kooper was trying to convey.  I think he was saying you don’t know who is a friend, and who is not (with his various tests of friendship – “If I were dyin of thirst, would you be my wine” et al). 

But I think it’s going through my head in another sense – that we don’t know, at heart, these people we call friends.

This came to mind because this morning my new friend Myra commented on my post “Are we dead or just sleeping?  A lament for America.”  I know Myra through Facebook – she is a friend of my stepbrother Joe and I loved her comments on his page and friended her.  I’ve discovered we have SO much in common – it’s almost uncanny at times.

But what we don’t have in common is that Myra’s husband was killed in the Gulf War.  It stunned me, truly, to read that in my comment stream.  I knew she was a widow, but this very personal fact wasn’t one I knew about her.  We’re new friends, and online friends and she lives in a different part of the country.  So it sort of makes sense that I don’t know all the details of her life – those things unfold as friendships grow.

But it got me to thinking of how we all assume things about one another (when I learned Myra was a widow I assumed “early heart attack”).  Sometimes, it’s something innocuous (when people hear of all my family members on the East Coast they assume I grew up there.  I didn’t – they all ditched the Midwest, which is where we’re from).

Sometimes, we miss something profound – like how Myra became a widow.  And sometimes that opens a whole new window into one’s understanding of a friend.

With friends since we are predisposed to like one another, I think these unexpected learnings primarily deepen us.  “Ah,” we say!  “so THAT’S why Candace rides a motorcycle.”   Or, “oh!  Now I see why Patrick speaks flawless French.”  As the saying from the past decade goes “it’s all good.” (or, in more recent colloquial terms ‘no worries.’).

But as Harry Nilsson singing Al Kooper’s song ran through my head, I thought “we never really know who anyone is” in some deeper ways.  That’s sad, intriguing – and, sometimes, dangerous.

I’m very lucky because I have family members who are politically and religiously my polar opposites.  Why is this lucky?  Because when people rail against Republicans, or the religious right I can step back and say – hey there are people I love very much who hold those views.  It has deepened me.  Will I change my views – I very much doubt it (as in, it’s about as likely as me sprouting wings and flying).  Will they?  Seems equally doubtful to me.

But I strive to learn a bit more about people and to see them in a fuller way.  It’s easier, I must say, with Jeff whom I love, than Dick Cheney for whom I have ZERO affection. 

There’s so much we don’t know about one another.  Not just our histories, but what makes us tick.  I’ve mentioned that astrology has been my longtime hobby – and it’s for that reason – to give me another window into understanding myself and others.

It still sometimes surprises me how different we can all be, how unique each human is – and yet, how we all have struggles that are similar despite all of that. 

Once, years ago, I went out with a gang of women that I used to spend Wednesday evenings with.  We were at Baker’s Square eating too much pie, drinking coffee and bitching about our mothers.  Everyone had a tale of woe.  I laughingly suggested that we each write our mom’s name on a slip of paper, throw them in the middle of the table and then pick a new mom.

It was interesting that the talk suddenly got serious with everyone quite uniformly agreeing that they’d keep their own moms, thank you very much.

So here’s another song from long ago and far away.  On good days I remember it:

Joe South – Walk a Mile in My Shoes

“If I could be you and you could be me for just one hour
If we could find a way to get inside each other’s mind
If you could see you through my eyes instead of your ego
I believe you’d be surprised to see that you’d been blind

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes.”

Maybe I’ll make that my goal for this next quarter – to deepen my connections with friends new and old. To find out why people ‘do like they do’ instead of criticizing.  To look for the good, and the brave and overlook (as well as I can – I am such an impatient woman) the annoying.

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Several stories/events coalesced today to make me think of how often we swim upstream and then wonder why we’re getting nowhere.  We blame ourselves – hmm, maybe like my last post – “Why Can’t we be good?” – well, maybe it’s because we’re fighting nature.

This morning at my Saturday morning personal growth group the topic was gossip.  The reading from “Each Day a New Beginning” encouraged us to not talk about other people.

I was thinking, as I listened to others speak on the topic, that as Elton John sings in “Tumbleweed Connection” “Well, that ain’t natural – or so old Clay would say…” .  We are social animals.  We really are.  We’re wired to connect with one another – so OF COURSE we talk about what interests us – the other strogan (my childhood word for children).  I pointed out that judgmentalism combined with talking about others DOES strike me as pernicious and wrong and inimical to my spiritual growth.  But there are so many ways in which we all talk about one another and that’s only one of them.  I often “tell on others” – tell on them doing good deeds (“Did you know what St. Bill did for me today?  He mowed my lawn!”).  Or we report to mutual friends on the activities of another (“Owen and Vivien spent the night in Tennessee on their long drive to Georgia”).  We inquire after the well-being of those we care about (“How is Sharon’s mom doing?”).  We report lovingly on one another’s peccadilloes (“Oh you know how KJ is with decorating – always redoing another room!”).  We express concern when those we love are absent or are doing things that worry us (“Does it seem to you that Mary might be depressed again?”).  And yes, sometimes we’re judgemental jerks with one finger-pointing at our ‘errant’ friends and the four at our less than perfect selves.

I think this whole idea of fighting our natures explains a lot.

Today i heard a GREAT episode of “The People’s Pharmacy (http://www.peoplespharmacy.com/) listening, as i like to do, to Wisconsin Public Radio (www.wpr.org ).  This show was an interview with a Dr. Ilardi who has written a book “The Depression Cure” which outlines 6 simple things one can do to cure depression (without drugs).  I won’t get into my usual diatribe about Big Pharma in general and their messing with our minds with ‘antidepressants’ – I recognize I am fanatical on this topic.

But what I took (besides a big dose of ‘yeah, baby’ agreement) was how the epidemic of depression in this country (approximately 1% of the population in 1900, 23% now) relates to us going against our own grain.  Living in a culture which is inimical to how we’re wired as human beings. Check out the six SIMPLE things that cure depression:

  • Exercise
  • Sufficient Omega 3s (EPA essential fatty acids)
  • Enough sleep
  • Enough sunlight
  • Connection to community
  • Engaging activities

Do you see how people in 1900 would be less depressed than we are now?  My grandparents farmed before the rural electrification act – you bet they got enough sleep – no sun, go to bed!  You bet they got enough sunlight – my grandfather was in the fields all day and grandma had a huge garden, which, of course, gave them exercise, too.  Community – even though they were truly in the middle of nowhere (an ocean of corn….) they connected regularly with people – the men would get together to harvest one another’s fields while the women cooked together or sewed or canned.  My grandma had lots of activities – and that in a town of 200 people.  The omega 3 thing has to do with ratios between omega 6 and omega 3 (which are supposed to be 1:1 but in our diet it’s 16 Omega 6:1 Omega 3) – I can’t comment on that one, but hey even if they had only 5 of the 6 it could explain why they seemed happier.  One of my grandma’s mantras was “if you’re unhappy, pick up your broom” – activity, exercise, a sense of purpose.

In the book I just finished tonight (on which I’ll write a post soon) “The Great Reset” by Richard Florida, he talks about how our natural inclination to want to compare ourselves to others led to the era of Big Houses/Big Cars.  And the era, i believe that I characterize as “people working more and more at jobs they like less and less, to buy things they don’t want or need —– to make them feel better because they’re working more and more at jobs they like less and less.”

He suggests that the new wealth should focus on time, creativity and connection to others.

I mean, really – isn’t that what we’re working so hard to get to?

We work like dogs so we can retire and hang out with our family and friends and play.

Why don’t we just do that now?

It seems like everything is kind of crazy in this culture.  We are perpetually time-starved and eat crappy food, get no exercise, then pay people lots of money (that we got at those jobs that created the time-starvation) for this diet or that exercise, or whatever.  When we COULD eat whole foods and build exercise into our daily lives. 

So many ways we fight our nature and then get mad at ourselves or one another because we’re being human animals.  that’s really sort of silly.  Like if I got my mad at my cat for licking her butt – it IS annoying, but it’s what they do (and it’s the one thing that makes me think I don’t want to come back as a cat next time around).

What do you think?  What are the ways that you see yourself (or our culture) swimming upstream?  How are we “shooting ourselves in the foot”?  What mixed messages do you see?  Which ones do you buy?  Which do you give?

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