Curiosity and contempt

Camino Edith Wharton QuoteIt has been a little while since I have blogged. I’ve been either too tired, too busy, or too uninspired.  Anyway, I was reminded of this quotation from Edith Wharton today, always a favorite one of mine, so I made a meme out of it.  That got me thinking about how often my own desire and willingness to live as Wharton’s words suggest.

With the reminder that when I write, I’m talking to myself allow me to begin. Right up front we are reminded that being unafraid of change is step one.  Change?! Unafraid of change?! Oh sure, many of us will say we are fine with it… that’s generally the case as long as it is a change of our own choosing. Any change that chooses us? Not quite so easy to like that kind of change. That goes for change that comes forth as challenge in both large ways and small, as well as the less obvious invitations to grow. You know, like the promptings of the Holy Spirit? Those kinds of changes… are they so welcomed? Not always.

Having said all of that, I have long believed the words of a little wallet card that came into my possession in the mid-90’s. It read said, “Change always comes bearing gifts.” The moment I read those words, I immediately hated them. Yet, something in them caught my attention, the slightest little tug of something pulling at me… So I decided that the card might have value, so I kept it. And I kept looking at it, as if staring at it would somehow change me. It took awhile, but like all ice jams, the one in the frozen river of my heart began to break apart, clearing the way for change. And like all big ice james, it broke apart slowly, then violently, lasting quite some time. As this happened, each transforming frozen molecule of water was shouting and whispering “change, change, change.” Thus some real change began, although I do not proclaim myself “unafraid of change” at large. I’m probably best classified as “change curious.” How open are you to change?

Up next, insatiable in intellectual curiosity. This one comes easily to me, and has since my earliest days. There is always something to be learned, something to discover. However, the piece I was so long missing, and that I still miss from time to time is that one must be intellectually curious so that one might… wait for it… change. Isn’t that a cruel joke? Intellectual curiosity brings for knowledge, and knowledge always changes us. This leaves me wondering, do I change for the better? What about you?

Interested in big things. Who isn’t? This is all very connected to the curiosity noted above. What about you? When I was little my family life was often tumultuous. That said, there were good things, really good things, and among them we lived in a house of books and books and books. Instead of remembering my parents fighting, although I have not erased that reality, I often reflect on a memory from when I was about 4 or 5 years old. My mother had finally yielded to my endless pestering of her and had taught me to read. The picture in my mind is this, we three are perched on our different spots in the living room, and we are each reading. I think I must have wanted this because reading meant the opposite time of fighting. So I connect my love of reading and my insatiable curiosity as one big thing and both mean a more calm place. Do you think that they are connected? How does this work for you?

Lastly – happy in small ways. This may be the most difficult one of all. Why? If you ask me, being happy in small ways is very much about making choices with every step. One of the happiest moments of my life involved a spoonful of orange jello. Now I am no big jello fan, and at the bottom of the jello list would be orange. However, I was in the hospital for 2 weeks in 2010, and had not had solid food in 13 days. It was a Saturday night and in comes a tray with a mini-can of ginger ale and one cup of orange jello. It was terrifying to contemplate that first mouthful of anything, and worse yet that it was something I did not like. Yet, I called it the “eucharistic jello” because it was to take in heaven to put a jiggly little orange morsel into my mouth, allowing it to slowly dissolve on my tongue. I was so grateful! That may be one of the happiest “small ways”moments in my life. What are your happy in small ways experiences?

So where does contempt work its way into this post entitled “Curiosity and contempt?” Well, I saw this little snippet of video, which I sadly can’t seem to embed, in which Arthur Brooks talks about contempt in the current political environment. You can see the video by clicking into the link below, even if you are not on Twitter. At 1:16 I think it is worth your time.

Essentially the question is this: How do we treat our enemies and adversaries? If we look to social media for answers to that, we will find that blasting is often the chosen path. Or vilifying. Or just blocking and ignoring. None of these seem appropriate to me although I have done all of the above.

I’m not sure that Brooks’ idea about converting enemies to friends is such an easy thing, or that it will always work, but it is not the worst idea. As someone who follows Jesus, it is pretty much what he is about. At some point it simply cannot be “my way” vs. “their way” or there will be no way. After living on the seesaw of the political playground for so long, it can be hard to get out of that mentality, but it is necessary if we are to go forward. Are we humans capable of such things? Or have we (de)-evolved out of finding ways that serve a common good.

If you find yourself thinking that you are absolutely unwilling to talk/interact/be in relationship with anyone who either believes something, or holds a particular political point of view, or anything that is unlike what you believe, then please consider this an invitation. I’m getting a little long winded here, so I’ll try to be quick about this by asking some questions.

What is the point of things going only 100% the way you wish? Is there ever room for compromise? What is the other half supposed to do with their beliefs/wishes/hopes when another half “wins?” Can we let go of revenge?

I’m only saying this because having it be one way (read: MY or OUR way) means there will be big political backlash. I’d say it is wise to plumb the depths of our hearts and consider what is most important. All good negotiating begins and ends with knowing what you are not willing to give up, and with full awareness of what you are willing to let go of.  I’m not suggesting some holding-hands-kumbayah campfire happiness, but this is where our convictions matter. And convictions are not feelings.

I wish I had some startling conclusion to deliver here, but we all know that life is a work in progress. The change that we may want is hard to come by and is always in high demand. But I’m thinking that as I grow older, the more I am unafraid, curious, interested, and happy overall, the better things will go. Who knows? Not me, but I’m trying – or trying to try. Because every time contempt trumps curiosity, things do not tend to end well.

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2 thoughts on “Curiosity and contempt

  1. As ever, we vibrate at similar wavelengths. As you know, I advocate embracing curiosity, generosity, and delight as spiritual practices. These days I’m thinking a lot about change and/vs. transformation. More specifically, I whimpering to myself (and the Almighty) about how I welcome transformation but hate change. How I think one will happen without the other remains to be seen. And with that sentence fragment, I think I’ll go write a blog post!

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