Thursday, May 11, 2006

How we create the world in our own image

I visited my Dentist’s office Tuesday morning to have a tooth filled. Previously, the office atmosphere had always been warm and welcoming. But Tuesday morning, I was greeted by a new office-manager/receptionist. Except I wasn’t ‘greeted’ – her manner both to me and on telephone conversations I overheard – was formal and abrupt. “Where is Joanne?, I asked.” “She doesn’t work here anymore,” was the brief, sullen response. I felt compelled to say, “That’s sad; I always enjoyed my visits here more because Jo Ann was so warm and welcoming.” No response from behind the desk.

Introspecting my own feelings, I realized that I was both getting angry and thinking up ways to strike back at this hostile intrusion on my life; someone whom I had just met. I did my best not to let one sullen, hostile individual be in control of how I viewed my day.

How is the world viewed from her vantage point? Probably as a place that is mostly populated by angry people who are confrontational, sarcastic or formally uncommunicative in their personal relations. That is what I was becoming, at least when I contemplated further interactions with her. What she fails to realize is that the world she perceives is mostly an artifact of her own creation. The creation process is a debilitating destructive feedback loop (and there is a parallel one that can be evoked by a cheerful manner.) Sullen behavior evokes anger, which evokes sullen behavior, even more.

Some years ago, in San Francisco, I attended a talk by an individual whom I could only describe as “luminous.” He spent a number of years in Mao Tse Tung’s prisons, mostly in solitary confinement. Themes of the talk were how he preserved his own sense of self-worth and transformed the relationship with his guards. He left us with an Edwin Markham verse that has been a favorite of mine, ever since.

He drew a circle and shut me out
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout
But love and I had the wit to win.
We drew a circle and took him in.


Blogger David said...

"No response from behind the desk."

Maybe she took what you said the wrong way.

1:34 AM  

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