Imagine that you’re severely stressed. Maybe that’s not too much of a stretch for you right now. If you’re anything like me in tense times, then in addition to stress-pounding Skittles to cope, you develop an irrational suspicion of other people’s motives when they encounter you in your turmoil. Someone asks “How are you?” But the inquirer seems afraid, and you interpret the nervous eyes to say: “The answer to my question is any number of positive words, followed by your grateful acknowledgement of my asking.” If you do give an upbeat answer, no matter how dishonest, and you follow it up with your thanks, no matter how insincere, you think you spy in their smiling response not only happiness, but relief. And that makes you boil. Or, someone just looks at you in your stress but doesn’t ask how you’re doing, and you get mad about what seems to be an obvious lack of concern and you suspect that they’re silently condemning you. Either way, they can’t win. Stress and the charitable judgement of others are not natural friends.
Is your loyalty as a friend being put to the test? It might be, publicly, and you might have no idea it’s happening. It could be happening right now as you read this! Perhaps you’ve seen something like this in your Facebook feed, posted by one of your friends: “I’m tired of people just pretending to be my friend. So I’m going to see who among all my so-called ‘friends’ on Facebook really is one. Whoever cares enough to take a few extra seconds – seriously, how hard is that?! – to read this ENTIRE post, please copy the last line and post it on your page. Then, I’ll “like” it and know that your friendship actually means something. Everyone else I’m just going to unfriend. I’ll leave this up long enough for my real friends to notice and to make themselves known. You have one day. Go.”
When I was five years old, my parents took me and my sister to a farm – I think it was a farm – I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings so much as the reason for the trip. We were getting a puppy! Pretty soon I was standing in front of a wire-fenced, makeshift kennel in which a litter of mutts happily yipped and played together. They were a mix of Golden Retriever and German Shepherd, and the one with a white tip on his tail immediately caught my attention. So did the fact that he nipped me. Yep, this was going to be our dog.
Last month, NPR’s This American Life published an episode entitled “Batman.” In this case Batman was not the caped crusader of Gotham, but Daniel Kish, a blind man who learned very early in life how to find his way through the world using echolocation (like a bat…get it?), even to the point of being able to ride a bicycle. Through the hour-long show, the interviewers and participants give extraordinary insight into what it’s like to be blind in America – especially how low expectations (often based in fear) may hinder young blind people from experiencing the world more fully. The priority is usually to protect blind people from physical harm; whereas if they were set loose and pushed they may very well be able to develop skills like the Batman’s. So much so that some neuroscientists believe blind people who learn to echolocate (by repeatedly making clicking noises with their mouth and listening to how the sound changes) develop something that is very close to actual sight. They cannot see colors or read, but their brain’s visual cortex is operating at a level similar to the rest of ours when we use our peripheral vision.
The first thing that amazed me is simply […]