I value being a reasonably well-rounded person with many interests. Therefore, I try to be conversational on most topics and appreciate others who can keep up. Yes, you can stump me with a deep dive into chaos theory. I’ll be able to go about as deep as the scene in Jurassic Park. Still, I’ll be able to ask intelligent, compelling questions that hopefully sustain discussion and, in the process, edify myself. Conversation is a honed skill I practice, and I seek out others who do as well.
Having many interests means that I also am open to trying new things within reason. I’m not interested in going skydiving (unless the plane is crashing, in which case, I’m very interested, indeed!) or climbing Everest (“Because it is there,” is not a compelling reason). I’ve never gotten so overstimulated that I needed to risk my life to feel alive. Instead, I appreciate the everyday moments that are beautiful, even magical. A baby’s smile will always make me smile. A puppy blissfully playing with a toy will always make me laugh. I am comforted by the steady sound of breathing coming from my wife as she sleeps next to me. Seeing a small, unexpected act of kindness like someone helping an older person carry her bags will always give me hope that compassion is not dead and humanity still has a chance.
Some may call these “small things.” I do not think they are small at all, just overlooked. Underappreciated. Undervalued because they don’t have a wow factor. We’ve turned up the volume so high on life, we can’t hear the music. All we hear is loudness. Turn it down, even unplug. Stop. Breathe. Put down the phone. Sip a cup of coffee or tea and savor it. Smell it. Take in where you are and what is happening right now. Live in the moment.
At the same time, our world is devolving. People have so much distrust of each other, of the government, of the media. People have become hateful. Angry. Violent. It’s ugly and unpleasant to look at, but I’m compelled to watch it all because I want to be informed. I have to watch the sources, too, and not lock myself in an echo chamber, where all the news I get aligns with my current viewpoints. I need challenging and different ideals to check myself, but I can’t waste my time on factless liars with slanted agendas and will weed them out. I have to consume this information in measured amounts, though. It really is bad for the soul to consume too much negativity—small doses only.
I try very hard NOT to assume I am always right or that I have the absolute truth. I do believe it is so, but I am open to hearing a reasonable, factual, scientific argument to the contrary. I have no time for people who think saying the same lie over and over or screaming it makes it the truth. I have no time for those who gaslight or belittle anyone who doesn’t agree with them. People like this are malignancy in our society, and they are so ignorantly pious, so close-minded, so fortified by others like them, most are beyond saving. Sometimes, you have to cut losses. Sterilize the infection to protect yourself.
In short, I like who I am and the person I try to be every day. Our experiences are formative of who we are, but ultimately, we decide how we act, talk, and treat each other. We own our behavior. I surround myself with others who are also striving to be better, which helps me concentrate on what’s important. I like to think I have a positive influence on them, too.
And I always look for kindness in others. It is out there and so evident if you turn down the noise of an agitated world and listen. It’s beautiful and gives me hope, and we need hope now, more than ever.
(c) 2021, Mitch Lavender