Thursday, March 06, 2008


One of the necessities (and joys) of being a grad student is that you read. A lot. You become a human consumer of philosophy, theory and academic articles like you've never been before.

I think I mentioned in a previous blog post that I was struggling with the theoretical framework for my thesis. This is fairly major because you can't write a thesis without one. And not only do you have to believe in it, you need to have read as much as possible about it. You need to know "the big names" inside and out; when they lived, who influenced them, who they influenced, what they wrote, when they wrote and so on.

This becomes not only about the reading, but about who you are as a person. Your thesis becomes a public document. Though it will most likely collect dust in a library, it might not. And you need to be darned sure that you believe in what you're writing about.

Telling you about the academic reading I'm doing would bore you. But I'm going to throw some questions out there that have come to the foreground of my mind and see what you make of them. (It's OK if you decide I'm looney bin.)

The big question is this:

What if we were able to focus on and appreciate each others' strengths as humans and truly look beyond faults?

I'm not talking about ignoring faults or pretending they don't exist. I think it's what some people might call forgiveness, but I'm not particularly relgious, so I'll use different language to describe the same idea.

I mean, what would happen to the world, to humanity, if we could do that? If we CHOSE to do that? All of us. En masse.

What would happen?

I've thought about this. I've even been experimenting with doing it. And I'll tell ya. It's hard. People love to gripe and complain about others - whether they love them, like them or don't even know them. (I'm also speaking as someone who lives in a place where a provincial election just happened a few days ago. Trust me, you heard lots of nasty griping - about every political flavour out there.)

Makes me wonder if we are even capable of not grumbling about what we don't like or how others tick us off, or are somehow less than we think they could or should be - or are somehow less than we think we are. In my deepest core, I think we are capable, but... but...

Here is where I get a bit lost... One question leads to another and I get all caught up in the headiness of it all.

On a practical level, I've been experimenting with this as a way of thinking and living - without being so Polly Anna that I lose all my friends! Most days I fail at least once. But I figure that there's value in the trying, anyway.

By the way, for all you runners who've been itching for an update, you'll be relieved and delighted to know that I have been pondering these questions on my recent runs - short (5 km) and glorious runs. I am taking it easy, and it feels good.


Backofpack said...

Meghan (crooked trails)just put up a post challenging us to not complain for a certain length of time (I can't remember, can I complain here about my faulty memory?). Eric and I were talking about it last night. Our neighborhood is currently engaged in covenant wars and people are complaining left and right. I am feeling stress at work with several things going on. The question becomes, can I talk about the issues without complaining about the issues and/or those on the opposite side of the fence? I'm a talker, good, bad and ugly. How do I let the steam out without verbalizing it? I know, I know. Running - and it helps, but I can't run every time I feel it building. Maybe if I could only complain to Eric, (not about him, but to him) that would work. But that might take a toll on our relationship. Yikes! It's a hard one.

I do know this though. To be happy or unhappy, angry or not, even stressed or not, is a choice. We can choose our reactions. Sometimes our bodies react before we can calm them (think blood pressure rises, tight chest, adreneline surge) but we can choose to pause and breathe, and choose another response. It is much easier said than done, but I always try!

Downhillnut said...

I've been trying to teach my kids that very lesson, and they're just not getting it.

Did I just complain? about the very darling humans I made? Maybe this is harder than I thought...

I understand backofpack, because I'm a talk-it-through person too. We CAN choose our attitudes, but sometimes we lose patience anyway.

One way I've found of letting stuff out without offending other folks is journaling. When stuff really gets to me I vent on paper and just let it go. It sits for a while until I calm down. Usually after a while I find another perspective on it, like listing things I can do about it and things I can't, and then the serenity prayer helps a lot.

I'm not serene by any means (ask my kids) but I used to be worse (ask my mom).

Sarah said...

Interesting question. I've actually been working on this for awhile. I have a co-worker who used to get on my nerves big time. She's actually a very nice person, but her way is not my way. Over time I finally came to realization that I needed to appreciate her for who she is and value her strengths....and let what I consider her faults slide. Its really helped me to make a conscious effort to do that.

Glad the running is coming along. Keep up the running/pondering! : )

angie's pink fuzzy said...

look for the safety - what is it about grumbling that keeps us safe? that's why we'll never stop. we continue to do things - even ones that seem negative - because there's safety there. if we can find the safety in not grumbling (generally, taking responsiblity for ourselves and our thoughts and actions) then we could do it....

robtherunner said...

I live this daily, trying to see the strengths in the kids, but getting frustrated by their faults. It's not easy to look at the good and choose to look past the faults. It seems more natural to punish than praise. I went into my interview last year with my current job talking up my intent to focus on positive reinforcement, but I soon found out how difficult it is to focus on the positives. It is a pursuit worth focusing on. Let me know when you got it all figured out ;)

Turtle Guy said...

There's good, strength and beauty in everyone.


My experience over the last number of months - almost a year - has proven to me that all we need do is focus most of our energy on all the GOOD, and somehow the bad is just... well, taken care of. Not that it doesn't exist, it simply isn't in the foreground. Life seems to become much easier, and more good things happen.

You continue to be critical of people, you will in turn be criticized.

Appreciate people for their good, and let them know it, and watch your life transform. Literally.

olga said...

Last two posts are awesome, glad I picked this time to come over:) Especially the question posed here. It is important for me to focus on it, but even more important (for me) to do so mindfully and not simply because "ah, I love you all". For some reason I think it might make a difference in a lot of thought process. Thanks!

ipm said...

great for the return of running!

I wonder if it is just our natures to gripe, even just a wee bit. but I love this post and let us out here in blogland know how it continues...