I was recently meditating, in a moment of doubt and hurt, and in the stillness found an odd question sort of dangling in mid-consciousness, just waiting. “What would I have wanted to be taught, differently? What other things would I have exposed myself, too, had I know more than I did?” That’s not verbatim; it seemed both simpler and more encompassing, but the words are lost now.

The path isn't always paved...

The path isn’t always paved…

It got me thinking, over days, about who I am, what makes me thus, and what sorts of things I was taught, shown, lead to, and what people and ideas I was encouraged to pursue, favor, and build upon. I couldn’t help but observe that years of far right conservative thinking and values, in my teens and twenties, align to the thinking of my parents and many teachers, my culture at large at the time, and even the larger portion of my military peer group. This was the thinking I was taught, immediately after my TBI. I considered the gaps, too. Thinkers and ideas I had not been exposed to, or had been actively discouraged from considering suddenly have profound value for me; they are an unknown. They predictably and reliably have something else to reveal than what I see now.

I timidly and carefully explored the corners of my heart that most need support and nurturing these days, and smirked at myself; my education feels pretty directed and rather worthless.  I dredged up what recollections I have of authors, philosophers, educators, speakers and people of renown, that I had been actively discouraged from reading, or listening to. Would I be very different if I had read Timothy Leary and Ram Dass with the same devotion with which I read Ayn Rand? It took a very long time for me to ‘move left’, as an adult.  I giggle when people make jokes about politically conservative thinking and brain damage; I have no argument to offer.

I remember a conversation at the kitchen counter with my Dad late on some muggy summer night. We spoke of utopia, and ideals, and making the world better. I was young. Before my injury, maybe? No younger than 9…no older than 13.  I passionately spoke in favor of action ‘for the good of mankind’. My father countered cynically, and equally passionately, that mankind is a lost cause, unable to appreciate the effort or value, and that the better choice would be action in the favor of the individual. I don’t recall my father reading, aside from some sporting and gun magazines, but he was quick to quash the words of thinkers he didn’t approve of, whether he’d read them or not.  His bias quietly crept into my programming, with all sorts of other nastiness to untangle over time.  I realized, with some astonishment, that an entire era (genre? category?) of philosophers and thinkers had somehow quietly been locked out of my experience. How strange. I read so much… how is it that I turned so firmly away from the psychedelic thinkers and philosophers? Oh, not all of them, not all their work… I read Castaneda. I flipped through enough pages of Leary to pat myself on the head and move on, having learned nothing. I let some words in through my eye holes; I was not hearing what was being said. I wasn’t listening; I was checking off the box on a reading list intended solely to validate my educational requirements, and ego.

We choose who we are. Through our choices, we also choose who we become.

Yesterday I began reading Love. Leo Buscaglia definitely finds his place among authors, philosophers, and thinkers of whom my father did not approve. Writing about Love? Teaching Love? I actually finding myself pausing now and again, anticipating mockery. Yes, the things we teach children go that deep. I struggle with some of the language, too… the casualness of it, the 70s vernacular, the emphasis on love. But I am also moved, caught by the wisdom of some of the words, and inspired by others.

“First of all, the loving individual has to care about himself.” Wait…what? I could have used this information sooner! Another lesson, another exciting adventure, another step on my path… Everyone has a story. Everyone has something to offer the world in the way of wisdom. I’m a little irked that some of this was withheld from me, and that I myself chose to reinforce that with my own will for so long, failing even to recognize that there was a bias in play. Pop quiz aced – I have more to learn.  I smile, planning to ‘sneak’ a real book into my camping gear tomorrow, adding to the adventure.

Today is a good day to be open to the unknown. Today is a good day to recognize bias and choose differently. Today is a good day to embrace Love. Today is a good day to change the world.