Tag Archives: Something To Ponder

Something to Ponder – 7

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Ashley Chambray of Fitchburg, Massachusetts.

“Dear Banaba,” Ashley writes. “Why do people get mad at me when I’m only trying to help?”

To my new friend Ashley, I say simply, “Help is perspective, and it is subjective.”

But, I suppose that is me not being very helpful at all.

Help has been around for a long time. I have heard it said that the desire to help is part of the human condition. It’s instinctual. But as we have come to know, through conditioning, we can often override our instincts so that we act in a way that is driven more by our personal motivations and less by how we are wired.

If you feel people are reacting negatively to your help, we must explore what help you are providing, the environment in which you are providing it, and what is motivating you to act.

First, do they ask for help? That is the best indicator of whether help is needed at all.

I share with you two brief stories.

To start, there is the well-known tale of a man who came across a butterfly struggling to emerge from a cocoon. Because he could not tolerate the notion of the creature’s struggle, felt that the creature was in trouble and would be doomed without action, he decided to “help” by stepping in and releasing the creature. In this case, the creature was working through what it needed to as dictated by nature. The struggle itself is what the butterfly needed to overcome to ensure it was strong enough to survive. The butterfly was not ready to be free in that moment and the help – the man’s actions – only ensured the fate the man feared most.

In the second tale, a young woman recently moved out to be on her own, but she came back to her mother’s house regularly to bake cookies. The mother, thinking she was helping, gave the daughter a new cookie tray to bake with believing it would help make her life easier because then she would not have to make the journey back home just to bake the cookies. The daughter took the tray graciously, but it made her cry. She did not see the tray as a gift of help as much as it was a message from her mother that she did not want her to come over to bake anymore.

And, if you will indulge me, I believe another short story is in order. This time we find a teacher who is constantly telling a little boy what to do. There is nothing wrong with the boy other than he often lags behind the other children when getting things done. The teacher feels that she needs to remind him to do things so very often so as to “help” him stay on task, to “help” him keep up with the other children and to “help” keep him from getting into trouble. In his mind, the boy sees himself very much the same as all the other children, yet he feels frustrated that he is constantly singled out to do the very things he had either already done, or was on his way to doing.

So, now we wonder – who was helping who? Who really needed help? Would everything have worked out as it should without the added help?

The case of the teacher shows us that she may have pushed the boy under the guise of “help” to satisfy her own needs in the moment. The boy was capable. And aside from speed, the boy was successful. He likely did not need help. Yet, her job is to manage the class and the boy could be a hindrance – if even a small one – to her finding her own success in the way she perceived things.

If the mother was to know the real outcome of her help, that her daughter was profoundly upset by the gesture, we could guess that she would most assuredly clarify her intentions with her daughter, so the intent of her effort was effectively understood. But in the moment, the daughter was capable, she was successful, and probably did not need the help she received.

Finally, the man would have no way to communicate with the creature he encountered. He saw a situation unfolding before him and chose to act in a way that reflected the limits of his current understanding. He projected a potential danger onto the very small creature and felt compelled to do something. Was the creature in danger? Probably not. Would the creature have otherwise have been successful? Probably, short of the interference with another predator in his circle of life. Did the creature need help?

Because Ashely did not provide the specifics of what makes people mad at her when she tries to help them, we can only guess that she might be offering “help” where it is not needed or it is the kind of “help” she offers regularly, and some may say unnecessarily, to satisfy a need of her own.

Humans are generally good. They generally want to help others. But we could all benefit from understanding where help is needed most, defining what help will actually help and knowing that help is not often providing a resolution, but enough of a bridge to helping another achieve success. Most importantly, we must explore whether we are we helping those who really need it, or are we helping ourselves.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

 

Something to Ponder – 6

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Langdon Mershon of Park City, Utah.

“Dear Banaba,” Langdon writes. “What makes you feel you are qualified to comment on the human condition as you do? Where do you get off?”

To my new friend Langdon I say, “Since I am already here and I am not on anything, there is no need for me to get off of the thing I am not on.”

But, of course, that would be me kidding you.

Other people have asked me the same or similar question over the years. Those with whom I am close often consider the question, at least in its directness and perceived tone, to be rude or hostile. However, I assure them that the question is merely a question like all the others and that we should not judge Langdon’s intent by how the voice in our own head interprets the words.

That does not mean it is not rude or hostile. It may very well be, but that kind of hostility often bubbles up from the frustrations we feel when we can’t make sense of what we are experiencing. So we try to seek out a space of common understanding if both sides are willing.

When someone takes in the words of another they have two choices. They can agree and accept those words as part of their own developing knowledge base or they can disagree, discard the words as worthless and move on.

To Langdon, I am either uncannily close to his current mindset on so many issues that he is amazed at how in tune we are, or I am so far off, so often that he considers what I share to be so very incorrect that my sharing it offends his sensibilities in some way.

By asking where I might get off, I’m inclined to believe it is the latter. And if that is the case, he would probably rather that I be quiet and go away completely than to write another word.

It would be easy to do so, but he did ask the question and that implies – no matter how slim – that there is a chance to find a place of common understanding.

So to Langdon, I say, I am no more qualified to comment on the human condition than anyone else. That said, I am no less qualified to comment either.

I am a human in the human race and all that comes with it. I experience what everyone experiences. We all see things through the lenses, filters and biases that we develop as we follow our particular path. Each experience, good and bad, works to tune and hone, break, tear and rebuild those elements which ultimately affect how we see the world and how we feel we need to act to survive.

Just because we have these filters and biases, we should not feel that we are completely bound to them, that we can’t work to better understand them and that we can’t work to change them if we find them not to our liking. After all, as humans, that is how we grow.

We can follow the paths of our lives seeing the world as it is, blissfully unaware that there may be something more for us to do in it until we ask ourselves one question – why?

Once we do that, a gateway to a new universe of possibilities opens before us and it can never be shut because our new sense of awareness prevents it.

In many ways, it can be overwhelming. Change is a scary thing. What do we do with so much potential? Maybe we don’t understand what we think might be happening. So we reach out. We talk. We ask others who may have already been there what they experienced and what we might experience, and if there are any handy tips for making things work. A lot of what we do is looking for handy tips for making things work.

He may disagree, but in the sphere of his own experiences, Langdon himself probably offers insights and guidance to others more that he realizes. Even as he continues to question the broader universe that opened to him.

I cannot claim ownership to knowledge and insight. I cannot prioritize my perspective over another’s. I only do what I feel we all can do when someone reaches out to us.

Reach back.

We may not walk away from this any different from where we started, but because there was effort, there is hope.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

Something to Ponder – 5

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Terry O’Keefe of Kellogg, Idaho.

“Dear Banaba,” Terry writes. “What is happiness? Why is it so hard for us to find?”

To my new friend Terry, I say simply, “Happiness is the cloud you walk in.”

When you consider the state of the world and the plights of so many people who struggle to merely survive, it seems that happiness is the most elusive of all the feelings.

Or is it?

We are a funny species. We crave happiness. We long for it. We work very hard to define it. We are pretty certain we know when we do not have it. And yet, when we do, or we think we do, we don’t allow ourselves the luxury of enjoying it. We often squirrel it away so nobody will see it. We feel guilty when someone calls us out for having it and then strongly deny it as if there was a greater value in a common, universal misery. When we see others who may have it, we envy them and instead of celebrating with them, we question if and how and why they may be more worthy of happiness than we are. There are many vicious circles at work here and the very bit of it all is that it all resides in our brains.

I always say you are the arbiter or your existence. You own who you are. Happiness, like misery is a choice. Of course, there are forces in the world that you must deal with every day. These forces may test your commitment to your search for happiness, but only you can decide to give up the power that makes your happiness go away.

So many people scoff at this notion and look at me as if sitting on this mountain for so long has warped my sense of reality and my perspective of the human condition. To them, I say, “not that I am aware of.” Because the questions you pose Terry, are not new and for as long as we have roamed the Earth, humans have done a very poor job of recognizing and embracing their happiness.

To be happy, you must define what it is. You would do yourself a tremendous favor by defining it as something you can attain easily. Why make it harder than that?

If you define happiness as winning millions of dollars in the lottery so you can do all the things you think you deserve to do and have all the things you think you deserve to have, your definition will be quite hard to achieve. You will find happiness elusive and you will perpetuate negative energy when you find out someone else won “your” money. Will the other winner be happy with the money? Who is to say?

If you define happiness more simply, perhaps as a positive state of mind that helps you work toward overcoming the challenges of your daily life, you will find happiness faster and more bountiful. In this case, happiness could be found in a good parking space, making it inside the house before it rains, the sip of an ice cold cream soda…so many things.

So you see Terry, because you don’t really find happiness, there is a sense of futility that comes with always looking for it.

Happiness lies in wait wherever you go and wherever you are. Making that your definition is not ignoring or glossing over the daily problems of life, for that will only lead to its own frustrations. Rather, it is embracing the knowledge of things as they are, knowing what you can do to change those things as needed – if anything – and knowing when to let them go. Accepting things as you have made them, after doing your very best work or putting forth your very best effort, even if they are not perfect – are good. And good is a profound seed for happiness to grow from.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

 

Something to Ponder – 2

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely Mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Myrtle Trisk of Portnoy, North Dakota.

“Dear Banaba,” she writes. “Why are people so stupid?”

To my friend, Myrtle I say, “Because.”

I say because, because there is really no better answer to that question, at least as Myrtle poses it.

It is what some might refer to as a “loaded question.” For without context, the ability to assist her in reaching a higher level of enlightenment is greatly diminished. Despite our very best efforts, to try and divine a satisfactory response that helps illuminate the pathway to resolution related to her specific need is very much like trying to lasso a single star in the great universe that surrounds us.

Let us try instead, to better understand what drives such a question, to then see if a more reasonable answer will present itself.

First, Myrtle is not alone in her search for the answer to this question. Many write to Banaba asking the very same thing with varying levels of related information. But the question itself seems to be more an expression of frustration. The motivation to ask the question comes when understanding the actions of those around us – both in circles close to us and those in representational groups we are forced to recognize – eludes us.

In most cases, it is clear that a person or persons have acted, or are acting, in a way that conflicts with what we see as our own definition of common sense. We see them as behaving contrary to what we deem as “smart” and the action is so far away from “smart” that in order to easily classify them for the sake of discussion, we must ordain them as “stupid.”

As an example, let’s say that many users of the Internet start responding to a common and widely dispersed post that asks, “What kind of cat are you?” You begin to see tens, then hundreds, then thousands of responses from some of your very closest friends and family members to throngs of total strangers, which define for you, and each other, what kind of cat they are.

We know, of course, they are not currently and never will be a cat. Let’s say too, that you do not like cats in the least. Let us say finally, that you find this kind of mindless group exercise to be a fruitless and meaningless waste of time.

You will certainly not be playing the game, for you could care less about what kind of cat you are. In fact, we could go as far to say that your strongest desire might be to post something completely contrary (like being a dead cat) that would wrinkle the noses of those who are playing the game.

However, since you see yourself as better than that, and you are not interested in dealing with the potential rage of a group of angry cat lovers, you do nothing. That lack of satisfactory action and the inability to put an end to the distraction causes frustration. In the worst case, this frustration can make one very angry to the point of wanting to break something, or wanting to punch someone in the face. But again, because you are so reasonable, you boil that frustration down to the point where all you have left is to ask, “Why are people so stupid?”

You don’t really need an answer.

You need a better question.

You need to release frustration that comes with trying to figure out what you may never know. You need to understand that the energy put into figuring out why people do what they do, may never result in an answer that gives you great insights, for the moment you think you’ve seen it all, a whole new crop of stupid is almost certainly guaranteed to rise up and greet you.

Thus, the better question for you Myrtle and so many others; the better possible pathway to a deeper layer of inner peace may be:

Why do I allow people who act contrary to my personal sense of, or definition of intelligence, distract me so that it restricts the progress I make on my personal journey to enlightenment?

Remember too, the you may at one time or another, do something that falls outside of someone else’s personal definition of smart. You will be a distraction to their focus, which feeds the pool of their frustrations, and they may one day write Banaba a letter about you.

Peace to you  – Banaba