- TWIL (This Week I Learned)
This week I learned about awareness. A few things happened to help me realize that yes, still, I see through the glass darkly. Fair, I’m a rather earnest human trying for awareness.
By the end of the week I felt like screaming: “Just tell me who the good guys are; who the bad guys are!”
Of course: there are no good guys, no bad guys. Just a bunch of humans trying our best and making mistakes. And then a few, very few, who likely need to be told to quiet down a bit so the rest of us can sort things out*.
(the funny caveat to those who need to quiet down a bit? The ones who need to quiet down will always think everyone else needs to quiet down. The ones who actually *don’t need to quiet down will immediately think we’re talking about them, and quiet down.)
(This is a great example from the book that captures the theme of awareness/“who are the good guys”)
“Whether presented as rednecks, trailer trash or Steinbeck’s noble proles, depictions of struggling whites depend largely on the prevailing social need for either a hero or scapegoat.”
Amy Sonnie and James Tracy Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power
“We can see through others only when we see through ourselves.
Lack of self-awareness renders us transparent; a soul that knows itself is opaque.
To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are… Yet it is remarkable that the very people who are most self-dissatisfied and crave most for a new identity have the least self-awareness. They have turned away from an unwanted self and hence never had a good look at it. The result is that those most dissatisfied can neither dissimulate nor attain a real change of heart. They are transparent, and their unwanted qualities persist through all attempts at self-dramatization and self-transformation.”
Bruce Lee “The Passionate State of Mind”
“When, for whatever reason, self-esteem is unattainable, the autonomous individual becomes a highly explosive entity. He turns away from an unpromising self and plunges into the pursuit of pride — the explosive substitute for self-esteem. All social disturbances and upheavals have their roots in a crisis of individual self-esteem, and the great endeavors in which the masses most readily unite [are] basically a search for pride.”
Bruce Lee “The Passionate State of Mind”
Yikes, Bruce Lee! Shh!!!
The difference between pride and self-esteem is awareness. Do you take your worth from your alliances outside yourself? Which “side you are on” or something like that? Or do you take your worth from something deep inside you, a resonance with your “true self” or “higher self”?
Maria Popova summarizes Bruce Lee beautifully:
“We acquire a true sense of self-worth, Lee notes, by examining ourselves in order to identify our talents — Epictetus’s notion of self-scrutiny applied with kindness comes to mind — and then working hard to realize them.”
So, a Stoic-informed prompt:
“When the soul cries out, it is a sign that we have arrived at a necessary, mature stage of self-reflection. The secret is not to get stuck there dithering or wringing your hands, but to move forward by resolving to heal yourself. Philosophy asks us to move into courage. Its remedy is the unblinking excavation of the faulty and specious premises on which we base our lives and our personal identity.” taken from Maria Popova, The Art of Living by Sharon Lebell
Get quiet — breathe until you are calm and breathing deeply, breathing out for slightly longer than you are breathing in. Focus on a pleasant scene, count your breaths, place one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly, whatever feels right.
List your talents. Bullet point list your talents, what you are good at, your strengths, your gifts, your stuff.
Just gently stop yourself when the reply is “nothing” or something equally silly. This isn’t the time for a pity-party. You are only listening to that deep quiet voice. If that voice isn’t present, then keep practicing your breathing until it emerges.
Get out there into your community this week and notice others’ inner strengths and wisdom. Not the things that look like obedience or compliance or what have you…
Notice that quiet stuff. Notice the strengths, the gifts, the talents. Notice each other’s super powers. Try to notice things in the ones who don’t get noticed as much.
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
Find a way to quietly acknowledge someone’s inner strength this week. It could be noticing when someone uses restraint to not call out someone else in a shaming way but obviously chooses to wait and talk to them later. It could be a child who uses self control in a difficult situation. It could be someone bringing cheer to a person who needs it, with no “benefit” — etc…