The first step towards wisdom is the acknowledgement of ignorance.
The first step towards wisdom is the acknowledgement of ignorance.
As those of you who follow my blog regularly know, it has been bloody hot where I am. So much so that I have pretty much stayed inside my apartment within touching distance of the air conditioner. Well on Sunday that trend broke. So, I decided to do one of my favourite pastimes and go down to the lake to watch the birds.
There has been some recent flooding so my favourite spot was out of bounds. No worries. I chose another and sat back to watch. I saw ducks playing in the water and I saw a big beautiful swan preening within close proximity to those ducks. Everyone seemed to be getting along.
And then . . . an ear shattering sound erupted from several feet behind me. It was a woman who had perhaps never seen a Swan before. The air around me shattered as she burst forth to the edge of the water with camera tightly gripped in her hand or perhaps it was a phone. Evidently the Swan was not facing in the appropriate direction so she proceeded to stage direct this beautiful wild creature. ‘SWAN! HEY SWAN! LOOK THIS WAY!”
Now a few minutes prior to this incident it was quiet. I could hear people in boats a few hundred meters away quietly speaking to one another. I could hear the water lapping on the shore as paddle boats went by. The gentle swish of the canoes as they made their way to open water. It was an idyllic setting. And then she exploded on to the scene.
The Swan looked. As did the ducks, the people across the bay, the paddle boaters and I’m pretty sure most of my small town were jolted out of their reverie and looked. She screamed “I GOT IT!” Whirled around and left. That’s it. She didn’t see the beauty; she saw an acquisition. She had her picture and I doubt she noticed anything else that was going on around her.
A few minutes later a duck with nine or 10 ducklings in tow came to within a few feet of me. These ducklings were so young they didn’t have their flight wings yet. Adorable little bundles of down. There were some sandbags placed to, I guess, stop the flooding and they hopped up on to them and nestle down for a nap. It was an incredible sight!
Every now and then one would stretch its little wings or raise its bum and deftly poop to a distance. Mom kept an eye on me but I didn’t move. I didn’t want to disturb them. After about 15 or 20 minutes, mom and most of the ducklings moved on. Three them sat and watched me for another five minutes. Then one of them raised his little head and the three of them hopped into the water to follow after mom and the rest. I felt blessed to have been a witness.
I feel sorry for that woman. Those ducks would never have approached amid her loud observations of her surroundings. And I’ll bet she wouldn’t see anything anyway. She was too concerned, too focused, on one trophy. She’s going to miss the world. She will have proof of being here but no memory of the experience. Perhaps that is a sign of the times. Life will become a digitized trophy in a .com file somewhere.
I am not old! I am older than I was and not as old as I will be.
Words work best when shared.
When I was a child I had an annoying habit of making sounds. Nonsensical noises came out of my mouth. I would hum, make clicking sounds or pop, pop, pop. I would tap walls as I walked by. It drove my mother mad. Figuratively not literally!
Often I would hear my mother say “If you keep pursing your lips like that they may stay!” The idea of going around with my lips in the kissing formation was a sobering thought. But it was hard to stop. When friends at school started turning around at my odd noises, I pretty well suspended that portion of my higher education. The teachers never knew where the sounds came from. I wasn’t about to tell!
Move ahead a few decades. I have never had a singing voice. Speaking or sound effects, yes. That I can do. I joined the choir in high school but when it was decided that everyone should have a chance to shine by singing a solo, I quit. I love to sing but not where anyone could hear me! I have spent many great hours singing in my car with the windows up. I would sing with wild abandon, when I was alone.
Move ahead a few decades. No longer driving a car, I no longer sing. But I also find I have a lower tolerance for sound. And as quiet as my apartment may be, it ain’t silent! As I sit at my computer I can hear a couple of clocks ticking, I can hear the fans moving quietly blowing cool air through my apartment. My refrigerator works through the cycle and it starts to hum for a few seconds. It’s not really aggravating, it’s just there, like a white noise.
Now I’m starting to listen carefully. I can hear the cars go by on the street below my window. I can hear people talking, or perhaps it’s one person talking on phone. I can hear the wind whistling through the few trees that are close by. I like that sound. If I’m very quiet I can hear a faint roar from the highway that is not too far away. Occasionally I can hear a train. I love trains. Depending on the time of day the birds can be quite active down here. In the morning it’s the songbirds. Midafternoon, the gulls. They are quite noisy! Oh, there it is: the ubiquitous beep, beep, beep, a truck backing up. I hate that!
These are sounds from a first world country. There is affluence here and people are happy (mostly). I hear car alarms and laughter, I hear shouting and cell phone rings. I don’t hear gunfire or tsunamis. I don’t hear angry protests or children crying from fear and hunger. I wonder if people who are deaf actually experience real silence. I wonder what it would be like to experience that. I wonder about a lot of things. Sometimes it’s quite scary!
True wisdom can only be achieved by first embracing true ignorance.
I cannot remember
The things I have said,
The act of remembering
It feels me with dread!
I remember the past
As if I was there.
But what I’ve just eaten?
It’s really unfair!
People I’ve known,
For short or for long,
The names that they have
I’m afraid that they’re gone!
I want to remember,
I’m afraid to forget,
I feel I am losing,
Now that is a threat!
Time passes on
For thee and for me,
I’ll live in the moment
Until I am free!
We all have those memories that we wish we could forget. Those instances when we performed in a less than stellar manner. Ah, yes, those embarrassing moments.
More than 40 years ago I behaved abysmally. In my defence I was young and stupid. I use that word intentionally. It’s more than 40 years later and I’m quite sure the parties involved are no longer alive but I am embarrassed at my behaviour.
Why am I sharing this now? Well I had an epiphany. It only took four decades to figure it out! Have I mentioned that I tend to be a little slow? Let me tell you what happened.
I was in my late teens and while I had an aspect to my character that was quite shy around people, I was a beast when it came to defending my family. At the time we shared our lives with a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. She was beautiful, friendly and not particularly bright. We loved her dearly. And she clearly loved everybody without exception. I used to take her for her last walk of the evening when it was dark. It was the wintertime so it was cold but not a lot of snow. The air was crisp and we were having a wonderful walk. She was off leash which was legal in those days but she was well trained enough to return when I called her.
We were walking in a residential area near a Catholic church. In the distance I could see what appeared to be a man in a dark coat and a small dog. Blue, my Chesapeake Bay, saw them too and raced to say hello. Her tail was wagging furiously. The individual in question picked up the little dog and tried to kick Blue. She was quick, the kick missed, I called her back and I got angry. At no time was Blue aggressive.
I proceeded to chastise the individual loudly and vehemently. Two more steps and I saw the white collar on his neck. He was a priest! Now one would assume that when presented with someone of the clergy, one would proceed with more decorum. Not a chance, I was angry!
But I did recognize the significance and changed my tactics.
“How dare you call yourself a man of God! I won’t share the same space with you if you feel you have the right to abuse one of God’s creatures . . .” Like I said, I was angry, a redhead and a family member was involved. You might call that a perfect storm.
Many years later I’m able to look back and understand his point of view. A strange animal, no matter how friendly it appears, can be frightening. I should have stopped and assured him of how gentle Blue was. I didn’t. I held my anger like a shield and refused to let him in. Sometime later when we returned from our walk along the same path, I saw him again. He was waiting for us. But I was still in the throws of that anger and I refused to speak to him. I’m sorry for that. I am sorry that I missed out on an opportunity to connect with another human being.
Sometimes those memories that we hold onto are there for a reason. Maybe we need to be humbled occasionally by our remembered mistakes so that we do not repeat them. I can never make up to that man for my inadequacies but I can hold onto his memory as a lesson. He was an important individual who has helped me to become the person I am even without knowing his name. And I hope I never forget the lesson he taught me.
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