Memory… the diary that we all carry

Summary: Poster for the Illinois WPA Safety Division promoting safety in the workplace, showing silhouettes of working class men.

Sometimes I worry I’ll never change.

I talk a good game. But I’m often paralyzed by self-doubt, daunted by the knowledge that many of the changes I strive for require breaking habits I’ve cultivated over a lifetime.

For instance, I have an unhealthy preoccupation with “fairness.” When I’m walking and three people abreast approach, I feel a twinge of anger. They’re taking up more sidewalk than is fair.

Earlier this morning, I watched a guy sitting on a bench, outside my Starbucks, smoking. He dropped lit butts at his feet, in a neighborhood filled with puppies, children, and me.

I’ve seen him before. I’ve watched cleaning crews sweep up his mess around him, while he stares into his phone, unbothered.

Why am I angry? Is being inconsiderate the same as “unfair”? I think I equate the two.

In either event, the first thought that popped into my head was, “polite society.”

I came to believe the universe is filled with unwritten laws originating from  a single concept, “do unto others…” the foundation of a “polite society.”

I  also learned the power of prejudice, specifically, anti-Semitism from my father. My dad possessed a keen radar for subtle slights he considered racially motivated. I unconsciously adopted the same posture.

Ultimately, I think I’ve applied the “Broken Windows” theory to polite society.

Broken Windows theory argues minor crimes, vandals breaking windows in an abandoned building, if ignored, lead to serious crimes. Maybe I look at smoker-guy and sidewalk hogs as “broken windows.”

In Radical Acceptance, my new, favorite book on incorporating Buddhist thinking into a Western existence, author Tara Brach suggests that unless you feel compassion for yourself and others, your journey toward mindfulness will be impeded.

I get that.

Or, I want to get that. How do I find compassion for smoker-guy?

He’s obviously addicted to nicotine. I acknowledge that must be painful.

He drives a late-model Mercedes, and has an iPhone. So he’s not destitute.

Short of having an actual conversation, I have no idea where to look inside myself for compassion. That’s a challenge I have yet to understand.

I have no desire to talk to smoker-guy, to change him. Likewise, there will always be people taking up two parking spots. I cannot change them either.

I can change my reaction to them, a concept simple to write, yet so challenging to accomplish. Especially when my immediate reaction to smoker-guy and sidewalk hogs is righteous indignation.

I guess those moments are opportunities for a mindful pause while repeating my mantra of “respond, don’t react.”

One of the benefits of writing this blog is it helps me understand me. I hadn’t connected Broken Windows to my perspective before I began this entry. So maybe there is hope for me. Maybe I can make change. I just have to give myself a beak first.

Until next time,

Stay in touch. Connect. Comment.

P.S. The title of today’s post is a quotation by Oscar Wilde

P.P.S. A little clip from Annie Hall. Not really related but awesome nonetheless

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3 thoughts on “Memory… the diary that we all carry

  1. The dude that just flicks his cigarettes onto the street is the same as the people you referenced in a previous post who drive as if they are the most important and they’re in a rush so everyone should get out of their way while they break the law. They’re self-centered, and if anyone challenges them on it, likely response would be “F*** you.” I worked in downtown Silver Spring for years. I can’t tell you how many times drivers turned right on red arrow lights while I was about to cross the street, how many times when I was jogging across a pedestrian crossing with a STOP for pedestrian sign and drivers did not stop. I learned to stop because I knew drivers wouldn’t stop despite the stop sign and seeing me waiting to cross. It is partly a Washington/urban thing. People in a rush and thinking what they have to do is more important than common decency. Dude with a cigarette could easily snuff it out, get up, and put it in a receptacle. But he feels like throwing it on the ground, who cares what anyone else thinks. He’s more important! That’s my rant for today, thanks for accepting it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Narcissism is on the rise. But on to bigger things. Have you read Carlo Rovelli’s new book? You’re at Starbucks all the time. “Theoretical physics has not done great in the last decades. Why? Well, one of the reasons, I think, is that it got trapped in a wrong philosophy.” What’s that got to do with anything? Don’t know. LOL But we better not be driving any cars.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll definitely check out Rovelli. As far as Narcissism goes, I recognize that smoker-guy is prolly as much as one as the guy in “The Importance of Being Important.”

      I initially started to connect the dots in this post, wondering if my interest in “fairness” is connected to feeling unimportant. But I don’t think that’s it. I think there’s more there than feeling unimportant. We’ll see. With hope.

      Liked by 1 person

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