Archives for posts with tag: do no harm

Consideration is a funny notion. The idea that there is value in making a specific point of considering another person, other people, animals, children, the moment, the circumstances, the timing, the consequences, the lighting… all of the things… it’s complicated. What we choose to consider matters, and we often don’t seem to… consider that, too.

Consider a common enough commuter scenario; congestion, cars close together between intersections, blocking side streets, waiting for lights, pedestrians crossing in their turn, and someone in the oncoming lane, stopped with their left turn signal on, waiting for any chance to make their left turn – but the intersection is blocked by the car ahead of you. When the car ahead of you pulls forward, do you considerately remain stopped, allowing that left turn vehicle to turn left? If do you, did you also consider the cars waiting behind you, maybe for more than one cycle of lights, also eager to get home, also possibly waiting a long while, or faced with a time crunch of some kind? Did you consider, too, the car on the side street hoping to turn right, blocking most of that narrower street, maybe making it difficult for the left turn driver to make their turn efficiently? More delays. What about the cyclist coming up on your right, have you considered whether that left turn driver can safely make that turn – does the driver even see the cyclist? So many details, so many perspectives – it’s probably why we’ve made rules about rights of way, and order of operations (life, traffic, and math – all have their rules). Things may work ideally well in a particular sequence, or using a particular set of rules that, if everyone does it just that way, it all goes so smoothly. (When given a manual, tutorial, or opportunity to study the rules – for fuck’s sake, please do!)

I use traffic as an example because it’s hard to take it very personally, unless you’re in your car reading this right now – in which, omg, please do not do that. Not while you’re driving, anyway. Save it for later – literally nothing I write is worth dying over. Seriously. Nor worth taking a life carelessly. Just don’t. It’s terribly inconsiderate to drive distracted, anyway. So rude. So unsafe.

Life doesn’t create a lot of easy puzzles where consideration is concerned. I’m still figuring a lot of that stuff out, myself. Is there such a thing as “too much consideration”? What would that look like? Certainly, there is “consideration gone badly wrong” – we can so easily take actions based on the best possible intentions, truly noble compassionate and loving actions, and still cause terrible harm. I tend to think of consideration as also a possible solution for that particular problem, but we are each having our own experience – and like it or not (I don’t) it isn’t possible to be entirely right, entirely good, and also have nothing but beneficial (to all beings) outcomes of each of our actions and choices. Sooner or later, we’re likely to find that the good we thought we’d done turned out poorly for someone (maybe us) – or that something that experience suggests should have gone very badly indeed has some profoundly positive result… for someone else. It’s easiest to be sure after the action is completed, and the moment is a memory – that’s just not very helpful at decision-making time.

I don’t have any answers to this one. I do know that consideration – basic consideration, delivered in each interaction I have throughout each day that I can manage to remain sufficiently aware to do it has benefited greatly. I just don’t know the words to tell you how. I wish I did. Maybe if I were better at it myself? I’ll work on that. 🙂

In fact… I’ll begin again tomorrow. 😀

It’s hard to dodge all the news about the ‘upcoming’ US presidential election – next year. I’m fairly bored with the bits that are about the election itself, and like many citizens I already have a good idea who I will vote for when the time comes. All the fuss and bother between now and then is just media foolishness, marketing to undecided voters, and a ludicrous waste of time and money for everyone else. Well – my opinion. I’m sure people who make their living marketing human beings for sale to voters probably feel quite differently about these sorts of things.

The barrage of human interest details, media-marketing of character qualities, and increase in spin (both positive and negative) spilling all over every pundit, issue, or moment that might brush past an ‘issue’ relevant to the upcoming election also tends to highlight some peculiarities of human beings that I do find worthy of study. I study the use of bias to drive cultural opinion. I study the use of social media to manipulate public opinion by charismatic grass-roots personalities, YouTube celebrities, and professional pundits. I study the deliberate use of inflammatory language to shift public opinion such that really horrible treatment of other human beings seems somehow… acceptable. I study the ferocity with which human beings strive to ‘be right’ – or to prove to someone else that they are, over the objections of other thinking and other experiences.

I most particularly study my own reaction when I read something, or interact with someone, and find one human being or another in some way ‘lacking’ humanity – a ‘bad person’. I’m very much aware that some people whose speech or actions I find entirely reprehensible quite likely seem fully justified and justifiable to the person using the words, or taking the action. Cops shooting people, for example – as a human being, I often find the circumstances (as presented by the media, that I’m able to be aware of) objectionable – and therefore, the law enforcement person who committed the act seems ‘in the wrong’ to me, and potentially ‘a bad person’ if they take their action to the ‘court of public opinion’ and try to excuse or justify it. From my outside perspective, I see the dead person as having every bit as much to live for, and every bit as much significance, as that law enforcement person. I don’t understand how people take a life without being affected by that action, myself; it is inconsistent with my experience of the value of human life. That’s an intense example, but there are equally troubling examples that don’t involve life or death in such an immediate way – politicians who push to cut government programs that benefit the working poor don’t focus on the impact those changes would have on people who rely on that help, they focus on the intended benefit to the bottom line. Employers who don’t pay a living wage don’t put their emphasis on any awareness that their employees are having to rely on government programs to make ends  meet, they focus on gross margin, and meeting financial goals. Most people, most of the time, think they are ‘the good guys’. So very very often we are not the good guys at all. It’s worth thinking about.

What is truly the outcome of my words, my choices, my actions – even my opinions and values? Who is being hurt by what I say, and what I do? I’ve given up on making an effort to ‘be right’ – even at work, which has real moments of hilarity; people definitely tend to expect a person to stand firm on some opinion or policy moment-to-moment, and being more invested in a greater understanding, and questions over answers, is unexpected. (I make a distinction between being accurate and ‘being right’; the former is about data, the latter about opinion.) On those rare occasions when I get pulled into a discussion where I feel I may ‘be right’ and inclined to defend that position, I notice pretty quickly; I question why I think I am right, and why I feel moved to defend my opinion – would the stronger position be to ask questions (and listen to the answers), and find a shared answer, an inarguable mutually respected truth, or a new solution? Listening has more value than ‘knowing’. All that worthless certainty generally just adds up to waiting for a turn to talk and not listening (or learning) much at all.

Just for fun, when you are reading articles in your feed, or listening to politicians talk, ask yourself ‘who is this position hurting?’ Just that. Go with the assumption that the more certain someone is, or the more they fight to be recognized as ‘being right’, the more likely their position does have unacknowledged consequences – collateral damage at a minimum – and ask the hard question; who is this hurting? Make a point of acknowledging for yourself the fundamental legitimate humanity of each human being participating in our culture (yes, all of them, even ____ ). Isn’t it easier to talk about cutting social security benefits if we don’t also have to think about elders who count on social security to live on in their final years, and what the practical realities of that scenario really are? Isn’t it easier to talk about ‘constitutionally protected gun ownership’ if we don’t also focus on innocent lives lost to gun violence, to accidents, to misuse? The media knows this is difficult stuff and applies a generous helping of spin – depending on their preferred audience – to ensure our attention is ‘well-placed’ to keep us glued to their channel for their advertisers – it sure isn’t about ‘truth’, or informing us.

Compassion was much harder to develop or to experience when I was firmly focused on being right. Turned out ‘being right’ has a lot less value for me, personally, than compassion has.  I’m sometimes fairly dismayed at how willing human beings are to hurt each other in the name of being right. It’s not a pleasant quality. Being willing to listen more, and being committed to letting go of ‘being right’, it is also hard to allow myself to look at another human being (however ludicrous or evil their opinions seems to me to be) and judge them as ‘a bad person’…but it is appalling to me how many people build their fame (or notoriety) on treating others poorly… and how often we allow, or encourage, it. Maybe it is time to stop rewarding such people with our attention – or our votes? Well… it is for me.

Walking my own path.

Walking my own path.

Thoughts over coffee on a chilly autumn morning. It’s a good day for taking time to listen. It’s a good day to include my own in the voices I listen to myself. It’s a good day to recognize the value of my attention and to be quite selective about what media is allowed past my eye holes into my thoughts; the profit margin of any one business, pundit, or news outlet is no concern of mine (and I am aware that it is their sole concern as a business). It’s a good day to change what I hear about the world by setting boundaries, and asking questions: “just the facts, please”, “who profits from this position/proposal?”, and “who will this hurt – and how badly?”

3.43 miles of steep, sometimes muddy, narrow trails clinging to hillsides, and an early start on the first day of summer; this morning’s hike followed me home in pictures, and recollections of scents, birdsong, and that certain glint of unexpected sunlight reflected into my eyes off glossy summer foliage. It was a worthy choice that tested my fitness and my awareness moment-to-moment. The air was fresh, and although audible in the distance now and then, the world was so remote as not to be a bother, certainly no distraction from the gentle ‘now’ of a summer morning on a narrow and steep trail.

I am aware of the steps I take, and the path I am on; I am unsure of the destination.

I am aware of the steps I take, and the path I am on; I am unsure of the destination.

I’m home. Showered. Relaxing with some reading, a nice cup of tea, and some quiet time to meditate.  As I recall, I am also doing laundry, but it is such a small piece of my experience today, it is easy to overlook the small obligations to mundane future needs.

If someone were to ask me to provide a template for a lovely Sunday, today would be a good choice.  I’d say more…the feeling of it is so incredibly peaceful and lovely it rises to a level that wants to be explained, and explored…but not at the risk of damaging this delicate, tender now, so infused with contentment, satisfaction, and serenity. There are metaphors aplenty in the pictures, and my one moment of regret is that my camera does not also capture the scents of fresh, and green, and dawn, and fragile wildflowers, along with birdsong, and chuckling creek tumbling merrily over rocks and snags, rushing madly to find a calm, still place, too.

My journey continues, a step at a time, and plenty of opportunities to be grateful for a clear path ahead.

My journey continues, a step at a time, and plenty of opportunities to be grateful for a clear path ahead.

Taking a moment for a flower, and a moment for loveliness - when is there not time for beauty?

I take a moment for a flower, and a moment for loveliness – when is there not time for beauty?

...And time, too, for small mysteries, and a bit of fun?

…And time, too, for small mysteries, and a bit of fun?

I value the chance to see things in a new light.

I value the chance to see things in a new light.

Or to change my perspective on something small...

Or to change my perspective on something small…

Open to the possibility of the unexpected, the unusual, and the wonderful.

Open to the possibility of the unexpected, the unusual, and the wonderful.

I happily trade in the noise and fuss of 'the world' for the knowing chuckle of a creek, and the cheeky commentary of birds and squirrels, for a handful of happy  hours.

I happily trade in the noise and fuss of ‘the world’ for the knowing chuckle of a creek, and the cheeky commentary of birds and squirrels, for a handful of happy hours.

So, pictures, and just these few words. Today is a good day to chill, to smile, and to share joy.