Whose face, I wonder, served as the model for this statue? Even cast from concrete, somewhere at its inception, a face prompted its creation. Though it still stands amid a riot of hostas and wisteria that regenerate year after year thanks to the nourishing rain and the cycle of seasons, it fares poorly with each passing year. Grateful for this stark reminder that cycles, change, and impermanence govern us all.
Today, I’m grateful for the creativity and vision of writers. Let me explain why.
I entered the dreaded Walmart a week before Thanksgiving. I really don’t care much for that store – in fact, I’ll shop nearly anywhere else and pay a little more – but they are the only local store that consistently carries Flatout Foldovers. These sandwich-sized flatbreads boast reasonable calories and low carbohydrate levels, especially the version with flaxseeds. In my quest for nutrition, I’ve sacrificed my integrity to shop there, but in my defense, I’m also lobbying every other area grocery store.
So, it’s a pretty intemperate 68 degrees and sunny. People are in shorts and there’s nary a coat in sight. Passing by the toy aisle en route to the deli, I glance over at the display and see rows of identical toys staring out. Everywhere I look, I see stacks of the same thing, in the same colors, with the same advertising. Nothing stands out. Just row after row of the same toys.
And then I really hear it – the canned music force-feeding the cheery season’s greetings to shoppers (who aren’t there hunting Christmas gifts but rather Thanksgiving items) slams the whole analogy home. “It’s beginning to look a lot like…”
“Camazotz, I mutter. Charlie raises one Spockian eyebow. “Camazotz. These toys remind me of Camazotz.” There’s no relaxation of the eyebrow, so I sigh and explain.
“Camazotz is a planet ruled by a massive disembodied brain known as ‘IT,’” I say. “IT regulates the planet so all the people do everything in unison, like clockwork. The kids all bounce balls at exactly the same time, their parents open their doors at exactly the same time, the moms are wearing the exact same clothing, and they all call their children in to dinner using the exact same words. It’s totally freaky and a horribly distressing concept.”
“It’s a book,” Charlie says.
Yeah, but these rows of identical toys in Walmart’s limited selection that they stock only because they’re guaranteed to sell, not because they’re quality, scare me to death. There’s nothing unique about them! There’s no diversity. All I can picture are children on Christmas morning garbed in identical pajamas opening identical packages and playing with identical toys at the identical time in identical houses all across the country.
Save me – I’m not ready for a Christmas on Camazotz.
In case you’re not a fan of science fiction and fantasy, or not a fan of young adult reading material, Madeleine L’Engle created Camazotz when she wrote A Wrinkle in Time. That, and the following series of sequels, is a Newberry Award-winning children’s book that, as far as I’m concerned, resonates perfectly for adults, too.
Are you with me? If you’ve read her work, you understand.
I ran across a phrase the other day in a Huffpost article.
ASKHOLE: A person who constantly asks for your advice
but always does the opposite of what you suggest.
I’ve been thinking about that lately because, well, I’m a coach. Lots of people talk to me about issues and options, perspectives and decisions. I’m more than happy to listen and to hopefully ask the kind of questions that might help them decide for themselves. Though I try to stay away from advice giving, sometimes it happens.
So I get this whole “askhole” thing. I’m thinking “askhole” is too strong a term, however, because most people who do this aren’t really seeking advice. They’re looking for agreement with their desires, instead. They want you to encourage them to go the way they want to go, do the thing they want to do, choose the option they want to choose, solidify the belief they want to believe. In some deep, often hidden place they may know it’s not the right choice for them … which is exactly why they keep seeking opinions. They’re looking for the one that matches. They get corroboration that way.
Conversely, somewhere (probably in that deep, hidden place) they may think their desire IS the right thing, but because they don’t really trust their instincts, they keep on looking for that corroboration. When they get it, it proves to be too hard and too scary to break out of a rut and leave behind what’s been the norm for so long.
We look for and are drawn to those opinions, articles, and people who think as we think and who espouse the same beliefs we hold. We all do this; it’s human nature. We’re more likely to notice and follow what falls in line with our thinking rather than to question and stay as open as possible to other perspectives. It takes real work to do that.
Which brings me to gratitude: I’m grateful for the askholes I encounter who remind me, when I feel that prickle of frustration over their actions, that it’s good to entertain alternatives.