Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Big Difference

I saw a meme on Facebook that caused an epiphany for me.  It`s a great quote, but I don`t know who actually wrote it to give proper credits, but it`s too true not to pick up.

"The hardest part of my job each day is being nice to stupid people."

It's definitely not a nice thing to say, but it's one I know I've muttered too many times in the last 20 + years.  In fact, many years ago, some colleagues and I admittedly would take our coffee breaks at a coffee shop across the street from our work and compare the idiocy we'd had to deal with that day in competition for a completely fake award we dubbed the "dummy trophy".  Also, I'll confess as I write this, I recognize (as I likely did way back then) that this is far from "nice", but inevitably and very truthfully, it's the only visibly safe way to cope with some of the things smart people can be faced with in day to day life.

Which is kinda where my epiphany plugs in.  The general population learns in high school science class that every action has an equal reaction.  Simply put, EVERYONE knows that if you do something like push a ball, it will roll away.  Not rocket science.  It's basic logic.  And THAT's what differentiates the really smart people from the, shall we say, not quite as smart people.

Really smart people realize that there is not just simply an equal reaction, but that there are two equal reactions - one positive and the other negative.  Using the same ball example, when the ball rolls away, you no longer have the ball and must chase it in order to roll it again, OR risk losing it forever.  On the flip side, clearly you can be entertained by the rolling ball, you can analyze it, you can even potentially watch the ball bounce off of or be redirected by the things that impede it's path.  In every action, there is a risk and reward decision that must precede it.  That's why smart people have angst - and probably why the genius have gotten over their angst in not giving the negative reactions any power over the positive ones.

So I'm far from any declarations of "genius".  I'm far too angst riddled for that.  And my angst centres directly on the fact that I recognize that by every decision/action I take, I am both sending positive and negative messages, and that I honestly have no control over which message resonates loudest for the receiver of it.  It's also why I am constantly at odds with my job.  My job is not soul filling, nurturing or making the world a better place.  I get paid well to do a good job that makes other people filthy rich.  BUT, I make damn good money that keeps my family fed, healthy and living a good first world kind of life, and which affords me the luxury of finding other ways to make the world a better place for others.  It's not enough, but it feeds the smallest corners of my soul and gives me hope that retirement will be more fulfilling.  But it's also precisely why the meme speaks so much truth in such a simple statement.  In a world where we're doing things that don't fulfill our souls or make the world a better place, and leave us at constant odds with our own human purpose, well, it is the straw that breaks the camel's back to work with people who seem numb to purpose, and immune to the impacts of "reaction" in their day to day work.  Stupidity in it's own right, becomes the action that doesn't recognize it's negative impact on the world around it.

Which leaves me with a final thought - I learned from a wise teacher when I was very young (before people thought "Stupid" was the new four letter word that could no longer be used in the English language) that "the difference between ignorance and stupidity was that ignorance could be erased with education.  Stupidity won't."  In stark truth, this lesson was taught in specific relation to racism and it's impacts at a time when the world rallied around South Africa and Nelson Mandella as they fought apartheid.  Quite apropos that it's the epiphany I have as tensions rise in New York and Ferguson in the United States.  If insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results, then I'm not quite sure if Stupid or Ignorance is the reaction desired.  My guess is "stupid wins" and he who looks for a new solution to address the racists will move the needle further.  Protesting made a difference in the 60's and there were powerful voices that were silenced all too early.  Their sacrifices underscored the protestors' messages with the biggest yellow highlighter the world has ever witnessed.

Without inching into anarchy, in 2014 there has to be a different way to raise this and eliminate the issue once and for all.

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