Sunday, October 11, 2009

Strange and Foolish Walls

“The years of all of us are short, our lives precarious. Our days and nights go hurrying on and there is scarcely time to do the little that we might. Yet we find time for bitterness, for petty treason and evasion. What can we do to stretch our hearts enough to lose their littleness! Here we all are—all of us—all upon this planet, bound together in a common destiny, living our lives between the briefness of the daylight and the dark. Kindred in this, each lighted by the same precarious, flickering flame of life, how does it happen that we are not kindred in all things else? How strange and foolish are these walls of separation that divide us!”

--A. Powell Davies

This was the unison reading text today in church. I was really touched by it, mostly because it is one of the things I struggle with from time to time.

I like to think that, overall, I’m a pretty easy going person. Considering that I spend the bulk of my time in a classroom with teenagers who have varying levels of “I don’t wanna be here” stamped on their faces, I think I’m pretty positive. I try not to be too negative, either with students or coworkers. I am an ardent believer in the idea that you choose your mood. Yes, crappy stuff can and does happen to you, but how you react to it is your choice. I would much rather spend my time solving whatever problem is dogging me than sitting around whining about it and being mad at the world for my plight.

Every now and then, though, I’m just not able to let it go. I’m not sure why. I don’t know if it’s anger I’m steeping in or just a general disgust in particular specimens of humanity. I just know that there are a few people I just can’t be in the same room with. The mere mention of these people’s names raises the hackles on my back and causes my pupils to dilate in disdain.

Of course, my other standing philosophy is that I do not want to say anything that cannot be unsaid. You can forgive someone for being ugly to you, but you never quite forget what that person’s uncontrolled behavior looks—and feels—like. For this reason, I am often silent when I would rather be telling someone how I feel about them. This leads me to repeat entire conversations in my head, trying out different insulting combinations until I get it ‘just right.’

(As it happens, this part—the ‘conversation’—usually happens when I’m in the car driving. Alone. So basically I’m in my car, looking really angry, hitting my steering wheel, saying really mature things like, “Oh yeah? Well you’re just a big fat fatty-fat that no one likes because you’re so fat!” Oh, the zingers I throw! Oh, the concerned glances from the other drivers on the road! Oh, the wide berth they afford me while I’m driving!)


So far I’ve avoided the confrontational aspect of this whole dilemma by just avoiding the people. They’re people I see rarely enough—once every few years, if I’m lucky—that I don’t know if it would be any better for me to go stirring up this hornet’s nest. At worst, I think of them with disdain and disgust, wishing discomfort towards them but not really wishing them dead. At best, I just don’t think about them at all.

I’m really not sure how to approach this. I really want to remove the ‘walls of separation that divide us.’ I don’t know if it’s as easy as ‘I forgive you.’ I don’t know that there is any single transgression that could be absolved in my mind. I really feel with these people that it is more a repeated pattern of behavior that repels me. More to the point, I feel like going down the path of forgiveness with these people will cause me to have to spend more time with them. More time seeing the behavior that drives me bonkers in the first place. More time listening to them say things that just make me angry. More time spent in my car, having imaginary conversations, telling them exactly what they think.

I’d have to ask them to forgive me, as well, probably.

It seems silly that I’m wasting energy and thought on this. It seems that A. Powell Davies was a better person than I.

I wonder with whom he built strange and foolish walls of separation?

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