The Waves We All Make

The Waves We All Make

The story in the picture: “”Heading home on the Q train yesterday when this young black guy nods off on the shoulder of a Jewish man. The man doesn’t move a muscle, just lets him stay there. After a minute, I asked the man if he wanted me to wake the kid up, but he shook his head and responded, ‘He must have had a long day, let him sleep. We’ve all been there, right?'”
We could always use more people like this.””

Picture source: Pulptastic’s Facebook page


As of the publishing of this article, I am half way between 30 and 31 one years of age. Not that old. But many men of the past would count this to be the downward slope of their lives. Thanks to advances in medicine, nutrition, and the beauty of specialization, unless I am unlucky or fail to take care of myself I can expect to live to at least my 80s. That number is getting higher every year too. So when I make the statement, “When I was younger.”, I am not trying to make it out that I am old by any means. I am not. But I am not the same person I was when I was a teenager, or even the impatient young man of 5 years ago. I am not even the same person I was last December. So here goes…

When I was younger I was very much more impatient. I was ver much certain of many things, and very much convinced of many, many things. It has only been in the last few years that I have realized what true uncertainty there is in life. Oh, there are things I am certain about. Furthermore, this is not an argument to not seek certainty. The better I understand the world around me, the more I understand that I know very little. This in turn drives my knowledge for understanding. The world I saw a year ago is not the same as I see now. The world I saw as a youth is not the same as I see today. Why? Because I have grown in knowledge and personal power. That knowledge and power is what makes the waves we make in life.

I committed a writing error. I used a comparison without first introducing the metaphor. But I am okay with that because I am correcting it now. The metaphor is that our life is like a pool of water. Our actions, accomplishments, and legacies are simply pebbles splashing in the pool. Eventually the ripples will disappear. There will come a time when I am dead and this domain will expire. My words will be lost to the sea of data that is the internet. This may seem futile to some, but to me it is wonderful. I was able to make a ripple. A wave. But I ask myself the question, “What sort of waves did I make?”

In my younger years I splashed about with blind certainty of thing. I believed things. My beliefs were what gave me power. Or where they? Everyone can believe something. But belief in itself is not enough. I can believe that drinking motor oil will cure mean of all disease. Technically I would be right. I would be dead eventually. Anyone can justify their beliefs. It is when one questions a belief. It is when one seeks to disprove themselves rather than prove themselves, and the belief becomes something that informs their view rather than defining who they are that the belief actually has power. Furthermore, it is when the individual can realize when a belief is silly, in whole or in part, and reject that part that is silly, this is when true growth in knowledge and power. The scientific is seeking to disprove ones ideas is crucial because it prevents the justification of confirmation bias, blind spots, and cognitive dissonance.

Back to the waves. So I made many splashes like a flailing swimmer in a pool. I am afraid that the caliber of my waves was rather poor at a young age. Egger to be right, I fear I burned many bridges. I could excuse myself by claiming that my learning disability of Non-verbal Learning Disorder (NLD) was the main reason for this. But that would be excuse making. I teach my students the difference between and excuse and a reason is blame vs responsibility. I have found that taking responsibility for myself has brought me happiness, even when that responsibility is hard. NLD is a social skills based disorder that is now considered a part of the Autism spectrum. Essentially I missed/miss nonverbal social cues. That is the reason, but I know that I caused harm in the past. I am fully aware now that I have hurt others by my actions and words. So you know the reason, but I still take responsibility for me.

It was only when I discovered that I have a desire to question and understand that I was able to reach point, and I have a feeling that 5, 10, and even 50 years from now I will look at me now and realize how much I do not know. Still and all, I have grown. Part of this is because of my personal studies, part of this is because o my profession as a teacher, and part of this thanks to my work with my friend Bob in creating Phaseology. Whatever the cause may be, my personal power and knowledge have grown. Before I was angry, convinced of my correctness and everyone else’s incorrectness where their view did not jive with mine. Now I know a lot. I am convinced of a lot, but I am willing to question all of it. What I have discovered is the secret to making the biggest and best waves.

The waves that last the longest. The waves that change the most, I have discovered, are based in kindness and understanding. It’s just seems too easy for most, but this is how we make the world a better place. It is easy to get caught up in the rush of life. To forget that the person who is tailgating you is probably late to pick up his kid from daycare, or that the person in line in front of you taking forever is probably trying to figure out how much food she can buy for her family without going overdrawing an already struggling bank account. These may be fictions I have worked up in my head, but how much better would life be if for just a moment we stop say, “I wish other people would…” or “It should be a law for…” or “They should have to…” and instead we actually stepped up, stepped forward and did something kind. Or even just had a little consideration for that person who we assume is a jerk, an asshole, a bad person.

Consider this. Assuming you are a non-smoker, perhaps the next time you smell a person light a cigarette, instead of being angry that they are “polluting your air”, you should consider that perhaps they are having a really hard time. Maybe that nicotine is the only thing that they think they can turn to when they feel stressed out. Instead of dirty looks, sidelong glances, and sullen silences, perhaps a kind word. Maybe a nod. Or eye contact. Maybe compassion will do more than anger.

My world view is heavily influenced by my faith. As preciously mentioned, I have taken to questioning everything. My faith is no exception. I feel that my faith is strengthen by this. In either case, I will use the context of my faith to express how important kindness and understanding is.

Jesus the Christ, also know as Joshua bar Joseph (Jesus is Greek for Joshua) lived 34 years, and as far as we know, the only time he directly applied anger in his interactions with others in an extreme and firm manner was when he cast out the money changers form the temple. Not long after that, he was crucified. But when he was on the cross, and before that in the garden, his actions and his words did not contain anger. Rather, he asked that God forgive them, “for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

The man who I follow. The man who’s teachings guide my life spent much of his life doing service as far as we know. It is the kindnesses that change hearts. It is the kindnesses that give us compassion and change our hearts. I know that I could not have grown to this point had it not been for the kindnesses that others did to me and I did for others. In truth, to have a hard heart means that you are unyielding and unwilling to try and see things differently. Yet to have a broken heart and contrite spirit means to being willing to see things differently. To be willing to offer understanding. To be willing to offer compassion even as you hold your boundaries so that you are not harms. It means to have compassion by putting yourself out there knowing that sometimes, even most of the times, people will make poor choices or do something disappointing.

This entire post and thought process was inspired by the picture, the screenshot I saw on Facebook. The compassion, the kindness of a simply letting someone rest is overwhelming in its power. Already thousands of lives have been impacted by the sharing of that simple story. But even if the story were not shared, what of the impact of that action to those two men. One gets the rest he so obviously needs. Perhaps by having that rest he was able to make some better choices later. Perhaps he was able to remember something he needed to do. That is unknown, but perhaps. And for our friend who let him rest. The feeling of understanding, of kindness, of compassion is payment enough. For just a moment, perhaps longer, he gained understanding of others around him. His mind was for a moment able to conceive a part of the universe that is often closed to each of us. Because when we can see things with compassion and understanding, we can see things from the eyes of others. Nothing is more mysterious, wonderful, confusing, and frustrating than understanding another person. Even with years of study they are still confusing to me in many, many, many ways. Yet to be able to understand gives us knowledge and power. Here lies the power in those long lasting waves. So if you want to make a difference in the world, compassion and understanding will serve you more than any amount of conviction and belief. At least, that is what the evidence I have observed points to. What do you think?