General

Now, Listen

We want it so to be this way, so we fill social media with the likes of this:

[From Instagram.]

There is something to be said for “positive thinking.” Yet of course Mondays are when we often feel the most hemmed in and our lives the most out of our control. However, before we (as most of us have to) face another week of batterings from blockheads…

[Cappuccino. Photo by me, 2019.]

…indeed how about a morning coffee and pausing a moment?

Prior to the Kindle, my pocket paperback life of Abraham Lincoln traveled back and forth with me across the Atlantic several times. I’ve had it close to thirty years.๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ๐Ÿ˜ฑ and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it. It is a great “starter” book on Lincoln:

[My well-worn, many times read, With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln, by Stephen Oates, 1977. Photo by me, 2019.]

During the American Civil War (1861-65) Lincoln pointedly noted that he had sought to control events, but events had actually controlled him. That is quite an on target general life observation. It is an admission that may speak to how we all feel at one time or another and often especially on Mondays.

Thinking about that brought this again to my mind. Over two decades ago I was in a post-graduate seminar in history: half of us were history students; the other half were secondary education students who needed only a couple of history courses for their degree. (They wanted to teach US high school.) The near-retirement age instructor – I don’t actually remember his name – was in this sense unimpressed by education majors. In our separate tutorial, he said privately to us half-dozen history students: “You know you don’t know very much, so you listen and ask questions; but [the education students] won’t ask because they are afraid to look like they don’t know, or worse they think they already do know more than they do. That’s the difference between you.”

Whatever the truth in it, as you see I have never forgotten that stinging, behind others’ backs, commentary of his.

[Excerpt from Passports: Atlantic Lives, 1994-1995, on Kindle for iPhone/iPad. Click to expand.]

The more I write, the more I feel what I write is often a product of what has happened to me that I could not entirely control – memorable people, unexpected events, new ideas, and intriguing experiences and exchanges. All of us also occasionally feel ignorant, out of our depth, and even stupid; I have found the best way to fight that and to learn is indeed asking questions and then listening. That cranky history professor did in his way long ago make an excellent point.

Importantly it is how we react to, and put into life practice, what we learn that is most vital – since, chances are, we “control” almost nothing. Even Lincoln could not. Sh-t Life happens.

Have I gotten your head spinning you thinking this morning?๐Ÿ˜‚ Have a good day, wherever you are. And don’t be afraid to listen. ๐Ÿ™‚

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