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The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.

Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...

And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fending for Ourselves

In all my meditative digging over the past year, I have been considering offense, defense and boundaries in general.  Boundaries are sometimes even fences, aren't they?  And people defend, or offend...and fence-sitters are condemned for wanting the best of both worlds.  Also there's that saying about good fences making good neighbors...

I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the movie "10 things I hate about you" which happens near the beginning.  "I've heard of people being overwhelmed, and people being underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?"  (Her friend responds "I think you can in Europe.")  So here I re-formulate it:  I know people can play defense, and offense, but do we ever just fense?

This lead to me looking up the etymology of both offense and defense in hopes of learning the Latin root or something fancy, linguistic, and nerdy and fun...but I have to do some deeper digging to satisfy those urges, but since my reboot on this blog I am making an effort not to let red pens and research stop me from airing my thoughts.  (PS, I think offence is a legit alternate spelling...just sayin'.)

So I plunge onward sharing my unedited thoughts:

In order for me to get offended about something someone says or does, there has to be a receptor in me for that.  This was one of the teachings I received from Michael Barnett during my meditation immersion.  When I was in a state of being offended, it was easy to blame the other person, the circumstances, the "other," so it came to me almost like ice cold water in the face while still trying to wake up to be told that I had something to do with my own offended-ness.  It was not a welcome message at all.  But upon reflection it is true that there are times when offensive things are said or done and they do not touch me, rattle me, enrage me, engage me.

So two questions arise in me; is it possible to choose which things trigger or do not trigger these defenses in me, and if so how will I accomplish this?  I know that a series of such 'offenses' triggered a large response in me recently, inspiring me to write the piece about uptalk & vocal fry.  Which rattled something loose in me, and felt good to express.  Which raises a third question, having to do with whether offenses are undesirable in the first place, as one, ahem, meaning me  I might have originally thought.  Or perhaps offenses yield a lot of worthwhile engagement, which then makes me re-calibrate my position on offenses.  Maybe offenses are desirable after all?

But I feel like I'm jumping around.  Let me go back to the first question.  Can I choose the triggers to which I respond?  I think there are two realities.  First I want to acknowledge that responses that have become automatic will not disappear from wishing them to, or overnight.  So in that sense I think no, I cannot choose when it is still automatic.  What I can do is observe, reflect, and begin to recognize that those automatic responses happen in me.  And then my awareness can grow, perhaps large enough to recognize them from further away, or closer up.  And someday my former unconscious reflexes can become conscious ones, and ultimately perhaps even in the hot-trigger moment I can become a chooser rather than a reactor.  So in that sense, yes, I can eventually choose to become conscious, grow my awareness, and begin to celebrate the possibility.  What this leads to is not the kind of detachment that dis-engages me, but an inner wisdom about engagement in general.  And it allows me to engage in a way that my core self has no need to refract segments of shame, guilt, or regret over.  I don't aspire to be un-triggerable.  I do aspire to engage in meaningful ways, and in ways that foster healthy open communication, a free exchange of ideas, and the opportunity to learn even more.

There is an interesting worrisome phenomenon in the online world.  With the advent of google and twitter, facebook and instagram, like-minded people are finding each other.  Is that a bad thing?  On the one hand, no, not at all!  We gravitate toward things that resonate in us in a positive way.  Who would seek out opposing viewpoints?  They offend!  But there is an 'on the other hand,' to be wary of.  (I know, I know.  Ending this sentence in a preposition is making my inner red pen jitter, but I am forging ahead inspite of the red pen these days!)  On the other hand, if we are not confronted with alternate points of view that challenge our thinking, help us learn or grow, then we risk stagnation.  We also risk a false sense of feeling that 'everyone agrees with me.'  When I studied the Colosseum in school, it was explained that the structure was built to prevent any kind of riot or uprising, by segmenting the sections of the stadium.  In isolating by beliefs, we might be giving up more than we are gaining.  I may have read about the search engine version of this in a Gladwell book, or something similar, where based on your search history the machine will begin to show articles higher in the search that will agree with your political leanings, which might sound convenient, but also contributes to the narrow-minded convictions of whatever beliefs I might already hold.  It's slick and dangerous.  I hope we all have friends in our online and real life social circles with whom we can respectfully disagree, a gadfly or two, a devil's advocate, and the tolerance to hear another perspective than our own.  A willingness to be offended, and learn through that encounter one of at least two things...at the very least!  If nothing else, we can learn the courage of our own convictions, because nothing proves our belief better than being tested, prodded, and asked to justify that belief.  And the opportunity to grow and learn and expand our awareness is exponential when confronted with diverse and varied opinions.

Fight the urge to flock together!  Fight the urge to follow along with the visible trends!  Buck the system.  Friend an enemy on social media, and then actually try to understand their point of view.  Engage and enrage, watch and observe.  I am not suggesting that we go around trolling our enemies, blasting and shouting opposing views.  I am suggesting an online expansion, and inner expansion, and a true courage...the courage to let our convictions be tested, tried, and demolished when necessary, fortified when appropriate.

And so I guess I landed on yes...offenses are desirable.  Funny, not the conclusion I would have expected myself to come to - but there you have it.  Leave room to surprise yourself in this funny life!


3 comments:

  1. Well reasoned. Well said.
    And, welcome back. (Yes, I know, I'm a bit late. Time is funny in the toddlerocracy.)
    If you ever dig up the root meanings, I'm a collector of interesting facts like that.

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    1. Thank you for your feedback...I have a few more followup thoughts I might tack into the comment thread down here.
      Toddlerocrazy, you mean? ;-) I get it...enjoy it!
      And for sure I will keep you in any delightful linguistic loop I uncover.

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  2. Many thoughts, but first some research:
    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=defense

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=offense&searchmode=none

    http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=fence&searchmode=none

    So, yes, people DO fence, but as a form of DEfense. Loopy, right?

    But Frost's poem "Mending Wall" is about the fact that fences don't necessarily make good neighbors at all.
    He and his neighbor are walking a wall that runs between their properties, each on his own side, each picking up the stones that have fallen out of it on his own side and replacing them (those marvelous New England stone walls!), and Frost is questioning the purpose of this particular wall.
    "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence."
    As I often say, GMTA, btw...

    His neighbor is the one convinced that good fences make good neighbors.

    I agree that we all need some boundaries. What's that saying about standing for something or you'll fall for anything?
    Seems to me that being ON the fence might be a neat vantage point. You can see clearly in all directions and, if you see an offense coming, you can decide what to do - jump down on the other side to avoid it, rush out to defend, or just stay on the fence and let the drama play out below. Maybe that's similar to your point about not surrounding ourselves with "yes folk" who parrot our own views back to us, but allowing the potential offenses to present themselves. Once they get close enough to see, we might find them less offensive than we imagined.
    I've had some pretty interesting encounters - and even had my mind changed (horrors!) - when allowing conflicting points of view to be fully explained to me. Even if some friendly debate or arguing ensues, the experience is still enriching.

    Besides, there's an epidemic in this nation of taking offense about everything. When did we start seeing ourselves as either so fragile we can't withstand (there's that "stand" word again) a confrontation with ideas we don't like, or as the warriors who have to wage (often preemptive) battles for the people at whom the potential offense is aimed - as if they are too fragile to defend themselves?
    Now *that* is what I find offensive! ;-)

    I like the fun you're having with the whole concept and it's making me play around with it too!

    Here's what Frost had to say about it.
    http://www.bartleby.com/104/64.html

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