Friday, May 8, 2009

knowing more

Jane was doing the page 1 job last night and I was doing the wires. We were sitting perhaps five feet apart and from time to time would discuss the merits of one story or another -- whether it was worth trying to get into the paper.

Jane is a good-natured, hard-working and bright person. Like a lot of Jews, she admires and exhibits intelligence. The fact that she has a sense of humor adds to her capacity to grab my admiration. She's fun to talk with.

And so we were talking at one point about a particular economic-downturn story and I got off on a mildly-cranky rant about the blue-suit, manicured-fingernail set who had been largely responsible for the collapse of the house of economic cards and yet seemed unable or unwilling to assume any responsibility for it. No where have I read or heard that any of these smug, sophisticated, upscale twits said "I'm sorry." They seem to see no connection between their activities and the very-concrete sorrows that have been visited on very real people.

Yes, I was mildly cranky about it.

Jane listened to me. It is polite to listen and Jane is polite. But somewhere in the midst of my small rant, I looked at her face and saw there what I imagined to be a kind of awe, as if I were saying something she had not thought of and, having thought of it, was wowed by my having thought of it. Her face said to me that somehow I had become elevated in her estimation.

Of course I may have been wrong about the situation and her reaction. Perhaps she was reacting to a a complete idjit and wondering how anyone might be so emphatic about what was so utterly wrong... as if I had espoused some "intelligent design" platform.

It was all happening in tandem with our conversation. But it was below the radar. It was silent. And yet something seemed to be happening.

And it made me think: Isn't this often the way of things? -- Someone offers a point of view that is new to our minds and hearts, explains how something works or doesn't work, and we ascribe the wisdom of the view to the person offering that point of view?

And the dangerous part is that just because the other person sees things in this way, the one offering the point of view might think s/he really is elevated or wise or right. I have known people who are pleased as punch or scornful as an alley cat that they might know more than someone else. Since human beings are social creatures and rely on each other for feedback and comfort, it may be understandable. But it strikes me as dangerous territory...and worth noticing.

My take: Offer what you will. That is enough. What others make of it is their business and is not a reliable basis on which to lead your own life. This is not to say there is not room for correction based on the views of others, but the correction is the point, not the views or the relying on them or the elevation or diminution of self or other.

If any of that makes sense.

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