1. Our Only Two Choices: being right or being connected. Which do you choose?
Imagine you're at the airport and a toddler starts having a severe meltdown. Screaming, crying, running around like a banshee, just about absolutely losing his little two-year old shit, maybe even in a literal way. And there is only one parent with this child, a single mother. She's tending to him but all her fussing with the bat-shit-out-of-control-one isn't working and the upset kid continues to be a terror. She finally gives up, puts her head in her hands, and starts crying. What do you do and say?
Choice One has at its root the seductive need to be Right, which might sound like this:
"Doesn't this kid know how to behave?"
"Airports should be quiet so people can relax."
"Parents ought to control their children."
"Didn't this woman read any parenting books?"
"She should have left him behind."
"Shut him up."
"People with kids like that should not be allowed in airports."
"What a bitch. Make that kid shut the fuck up."
Or just sit and stare and give the mother and her child a look that makes Death seem jovial in comparison.
Choice two is to put relationship first, which means attempting to understand and feel what someone else is going through, to say "I'm sorry," and to help make things better.
This scenario actually happened... (I found this story at @ohnoshetwitnt)
"Something extraordinary at LAX today... (writing this on the plane). I was at the gate, waiting to get on my plane to Portland. Flights to two different cities were boarding on either side of the Portland fight. A toddler who looked to be eighteen or so months old was having a total meltdown, running between the seats, kicking and screaming, then lying on the ground, refusing to board the plane (which was not going to Portland). His young mom, who was clearly pregnant and traveling alone with her son, became completely overwhelmed... she couldn't pick him up because he was so upset, he kept running away from her, then lying down on the ground, kicking and screaming again. The mother finally sat down on the floor and put her head in her hands, with her kid next to her still having a meltdown, and started crying.
Then, this gorgeous thing (I'm crying just writing this)... the women in the terminal, there must have been six or seven of us, not women who knew each other, approached and surrounded her and the little boy and we knelt down and formed a circle around them. I sang 'The Itsy Bitsy Spider' to the little boy... one woman had an orange that she peeled, one woman had a little toy in her bag that she let the toddler play with, another woman gave the mom a bottle of water. Someone else helped the mom get the kid's sippy cup out of her bag and give it to him. It was so gorgeous, there was no discussion and no one knew anyone else, but we were able to calm them both down, and she got her child on the plane. Only women approached.
After they went through the door we all went back to our separate seats and didn't talk about it... we were strangers, gathering to solve something. It occurred to me that a circle of women, with a mission, can save the world. I will never forget that moment."
So: Do you want to be right or do you want to be compassionate? Everything else––whether the pain of living increases or decreases for you and those in your life–– follows from this basic choice.
Facebook Exhibit #1
2. After Mass shooting #1,449,849 this year, I was (again) overcome with anguish and anger and spent one full day venting on facebook. (<----- click here if you want evidence of my digital meltdown) I had so lost my marbles completely that in a moment of utter insanity I even quoted Dylan: "Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died? The answers, my friends, is Blowin' in the Wind."
But, alas, my "what-in-Satan's-name-is-the-Fuck-Wrong-With-You" approach is not even a tiny bit effective because it immediately makes whomever doesn't see things my way feel defensive. Game/debate/conversation over. No progress, no learning, none whatsoever, can be made when someone feels accused, scared, and defensive. Despite my fantasy, they will not say "I can't believe I've been mislead about the gun-control issue, but I see it so much more clearly now thanks to your Dylan quote." Taking this approach feels good momentarily––I felt like my anger went somewhere "out there"––but it doesn't actually solve anything, and this truth is what filled my night with agitation, sadness, and a feeling of failure. A lot of energy goes into the "Facebook debates" portion of the cycle and all that energy is a waste. I am living, unconditional proof.
Instead we must find common ground. Do any of us want more innocent people killed? Let's start there. Do any of us think corrupt politicians are good for our democracy? Let's read Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig and follow his brilliant, actionable solution which is another common ground to unite us. I don't know any Republicans or Democrats who think there's nothing wrong with politicians taking money for their own gain at the expense of their constituents. Whatever the way forward, it has to come from unity, rather than division: having character is the opposite of being a righteous dick, see?
A much more effective strategy than "Repeal the 2nd Amendment!"
By the way, Instigating and widening our political division is precisely the method Russia is using to help us defeat ourselves. (As a small boy, I rowed my little Polish canoe as far away from Russia as I could for what should be stupidly obvious historical reasons. Please let's not allow them to invade the United States any further, cuz there's no further I can row my little canoe.)
3. Wisdom Pin-up:
4. A quote from our Leonardo Da Vinci's Daily To Do Notebook:
"Learn the measurement of Milan and its suburbs."
"Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle."
"Ask Giannino the Bombardier about how the tower of Ferrara is walled."
"Ask Benedetto Protinari by what means they walk on ice in Flanders."
"Get a master of hydraulics to tell you how to repair a lock, canal and mill in the Lobardi manner."
"Get the measurement of the sun promised me by Maestro Giovanni Francese, the Frenchman."
What's on your To-Do List Today?