This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.
Within this past weekend’s lead story to This American Life, two very astute bits caught my attention.*
It all revolved around a tunnel discovered in Toronto back in January. The story was about the stir the tunnel created. It was hidden, dug out of a greenbelt ravine. It was expertly done. Above all, it was near the site for the upcoming PanAm games. It was so odd. The media and social media quickly burst forth with theories, worries, and potential nefarious scenarios. It was given its own hashtag.
Yet, in the midst of all this hoopla, there was the fact that a rosary and a poppy had been found nailed to the wall within the tunnel. Another unusual angle. What to make of it? The then Toronto police deputy chief knew exactly what to make of it:
Mark Saunders: This [the roasary/poppy] was found inside the actual tunnel itself. And it was nailed on the wall.
Reporter: What does that tell you?
Mark Saunders: That tells me that this was nailed inside the tunnel on a wall.
Nothing. He made nothing of it. He was fully grounded in what’s so, present to what’s so. And what was so was that they had a tunnel, and it had some beads and a poppy.
The truth of the tunnel, it turned out, was not tied to crime, or terrorism, or vandals, or anything of the sort. It was a fellow who built it as a sort of underground clubhouse where he could find release from the everyday and delight with some friends and find some peace.** It was an ordinary, everyday, life-as-lived, personal, and human story and reasons. To quote the program: “It’s so much smaller, but so much less predictable and way more interesting.”
And it was. And it is. And what a great reminder. The world, and moreover, people, are more complex than we often perceive, or let be. We are, as Ira said, such hacks when it comes to writing the stories of what is, or who is, in front of us. We simplify. We boxify. And we all to easily go to the stock library of “what this means.”
And yet, while the scripts in that library are often extreme, filled with adversity or adventure or action, it turns out that these scripts can’t actually hold a candle to how interesting and connected and engaged and actually exciting a much more complex, unadorned, and down-to-earth story/reality is.
While this story was speaking about others and the news/events we hear, it goes equally strong for the stories we tell about ourselves. We’re just as big hacks when it comes to interpreting what happens to us.*** We simplify, and we don’t always tell the most generous story.
When we interrupt our hacks, we get access to something. If we can let ourselves be like Mark Saunders, and just be present to what’s so in our lives, and be present to the actual people in front of us and in our lives, and not form that instant view that will colour all we see going forward, we are open to something. Somethings. Somethings wonderful and rich and diverse. ****
We gain empathy, compassion, and freedom.
And, ultimately, it’s just much more interesting!
* – The story in of itself caught my ear, for I’d heard the reports on the tunnel back in January but had never heard the resolution of it all.
** – I’m really not doing the full story and the individual justice here, I encourage you to listen to it…
*** – “Happens around us” might be more accurate…
**** – Given that we generally don’t like it when people reduce us to a one-note motif, it behooves us to imagine them equally complex, n’est ce pas?