The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Monday, March 10, 2014

Let's give it up for ...

Satirist and singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer’s view of the world owed as much to his being a mathematics lecturer as well as to his innate understanding of how to portray the ironies of life. Nothing, especially the sentimental, escaped his eagle-eyed comedic talent.
In the song “She’s My Girl” he reflects on some of the particularly endearing reasons and virtues that wide-eyed and lovelorn men see in the Ladies of Their Lives, their Soul Mates. Yet there’s one particular line that – in linguistic comedy terms – always gets the biggest laugh from me:

She’s the  ... “The Girl I gave up Lent for”

The idea that this romantic paragon should deserve such devotion as to give up Lent - that forty days and nights period within the Christian calendar where every supplicant is compelled to deeply contemplate the nature of temptation, penitence, abstinence, and Man’s frailty in the face of the deadliest of Sins - places “His Girl” on the highest pedestal, perhaps even the holy of holies! At least certainly beyond the temporal beliefs of mere ordinary beggars.

Yet I believe this is part of the point that Tom Lehrer was making – that no one on the planet is perfect, no one should aspire to being perfect, no one should set themselves out as being perfect, and we should never place the cloak of perfection upon anyone.

Yes, Problemo

Another big problem with lots of people and in lots of places and activities in our world is that to make a mistake or an error is clear evidence of imperfection – and that imperfection is portrayed as bad, as unforgiveable, as a sin. Perhaps this is not a Perfect sin, or an Original one, but a SIN nonetheless.

Someone or somebody, or some body of opinion sits in judgement and pronounces. The trouble, as we all know, is that these self appointed judges are people who pronounce upon perfection from their own perceived tower of purest ivory.
“How dare he?” – “They’ve got no right,” – “That’s totally wrong,” – “He’s rubbish,” – “What an awful person,” – “Should never be allowed,” and so on. You only have to stand on a busy street corner, or in a checkout queue, and certainly on the sidelines at a sporting event, to hear very much aloud a whole range of judgemental sentences handed down.

As I was rightly informed in my youth, when you point your finger at someone there are three others pointing back at you. We’ve all done it, we all do it and will continue. It is our won’t – or perhaps our will! Problem is , there are many that like to wear that wig and gown.

Failsafing Imperfection

Of course most of us would sign up to there being some given and required perfections from our surgeons, airline pilots, dentists, priests, air traffic controllers, and high court judges. At least in the execution of their jobs, that is. And there are certain archetypes for whom such jobs come easy – given their accepted level of competence. But even they too are only human, with human frailties and sensitivities, each endeavouring to lead their own particular human lives.
So, in terms of our jobs, whoever we are and whatever we do, there is a percentage of tolerance of error – of imperfection – that needs to be overcome by a level of supervisory insurance. And that can take many forms.

Without adequate supervisory insurance we are left with reliable imperfection – like a busy major road junction where the traffic lights have failed.
And, sadly it is there, when the likes of cavalier builders and cowboy bankers get away with it, that the vehicles of our lives crash at the intersections, often leaving smoky evidence from burnt out shells.

The Intangible Parapet of the Horizon

Still, now that the ashes of last Wednesday have been swept away, it is into the vast uncharted wilderness our own unfolding lives, where I’d invite you to come now, to explore with me some random number of possibilities in the oceans that are out there. For this time can be our true period of contemplation, provided we give ourselves permission to consider it thus.

The horizon of the unfolding narrative of our lives is a threshold, a parapet of our future. Yet, as we know, it is intangible. Like all horizons, we see it out there away from us, but cannot reach it or touch it.

The intangible parapet of the horizon is about the measure of safety we allow ourselves – rather like the glass ceiling is the level of limitations we impose on ourselves. The more the impositions of safety and limits – the shallower and more facile our lives become.

So what can we discover when we have rested our thoughts on the parapet and looked out and beyond into the folded mists of the future? For all of us - in holistic terms - we get a chance to renew body and soul, as it were.

We encounter the temporal and spiritual aspects of our own particular world – both current and potential.

In practical, temporal terms of course there are many things we can gain when going through any period of abstinence or penitence. We get an opportunity to review the nature of the pleasures we indulge in – perhaps gaining a realisation that indulgence, whilst not a Deadly Sin, is pernicious in terms of moderation. We might gain a reaffirmation that moderation is more virtuous – in terms of our wellbeing – than abstinence itself. Unlike abstinence, moderation acknowledges pure pleasure as something permissible for an enjoyment of our life’s purpose.

However, I’d like to think that this or indeed any period of reflection, is a golden opportunity for encountering and renewing our own inner selves – that which we might call our spirit.

For most of us the hurly-burly of everyday life disengages us from ourselves. We often feel we are being washed along with the tidal race, fighting to keep our heads above water, yet never having the chance to see where the water is coming from or going to, and who or what is deciding the speed at which it flows.

None of us ever seems to have any real “Me” time

Curiously, when we do have proper “me” time, the answers to those questions buried in the hurly-burly or the racing tide become clear and straightforward.

Insights and Devotions

I was talking with a client about her own particular, though not unfamiliar, hurly-burly. Whenever she experienced stress at work or in her private life she then had no time or energy to exercise, but rather she found comfort in eating. She found herself taking inappropriate dietary choices and in considerable quantities.

She was an intelligent and resourceful woman, and yet as these loops ran in her life she felt powerless. Her intelligence and resourcefulness lay motionless in the car park of her life. She couldn’t say whether she was out of fuel, or had a flat battery – but she just couldn’t get fired up.

The thing about spending some quality “me” time at the devotional level – is that we notice the insights and connections when they present themselves.

Now when I use the words “devotion” and “devotional” I am NOT implying anything at all religious here. For me it is purely about devoting all our time and attention to something relevant. So something like proper “Me” time is just about giving all our time and attention into the frame of ourselves – no more, no less, for however long we choose.

So my client took some time out from her hurly-burly, and gained some really good and useful stuff for herself to use, as resources, going forward. Yet, she still seemed perturbed by the questions about that metaphorical tidal race. So I talked about devoting ourselves totally to what we are doing – not in the sense of multi-tasking, I pointed out, because multi-tasking is not total devotion, it is attending to each present moment in a watered down way. And – I reminded her – those are the same waters that make up the tidal race.
“I’m sure you’ve watched a young child engrossed and totally absorbed in play,” I said. “Around them the world has stopped, time has stopped, and they are 100% engaged with what they are doing. That is devotion.”
She began to chuckle and then sat upright and leaned forward attentively, her eyes looking at some distant point, her head slowly nodding, and her mind in a place of alignment with something profound.


So devoting some quality time to ourselves, especially on a regular basis, can tame the tidal race, calm the hurly-burly, and give us the opportunity to notice the insights that come up. They may not always be as profound as the one that hit my client like a bolt from the blue – but there’s always usefulness there for some part of our lives.

And when we ARE more aligned with our inner selves, and get to understand the tidal race questions, we need to thank and applaud ourselves – acknowledge our actions.

“So, Ladies and Gentlemen, please give big hand and a warm and hearty welcome to some real quality ‘Me Time’. Let’s give it up for ...“

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