Browsing the archives for the man tag

Rigid and Inflexible – Like Iron Man?

family, Life as it is, Spiritual Journey

Quite a few weekends ago, I assembled what I thought were all of the right elements to get some work done and to have some fun with friends in the process. The fun didn’t really happen like I thought it would, so I reviewed the day with another friend. She listened and then saw immediately the problem.

“You were being rigid and inflexible.”



I didn’t like how that line of observations was going, so I changed subjects and discussed an issue about my daughter, and what might have caused things to blow up like they did. Again she saw an answer.

“You were being Rigid and Inflexible.”

Damn it, I think she might be right. And that isn’t a good thing. It used to be how I lived – this rigid inflexibility about what I planned, what I expected or what I wanted. But I also know of times where instead of being so rigid, I was flexible and able to adapt to circumstances. So what was putting me back into a rigid shell?

As I wondered, I looked on the ‘Net and found this quote in an essay by John Cleese (of Monty Python fame):

We all operate in two contrasting modes, which we call open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned mode that we find ourselves in so much of the time. When is this closed, tight, solemn mode helpful?

Only when action is urgently required, it seems. If you want a decision in two minutes, don’t open up the discussion. If you’re leaping a ravine, the moment of takeoff is a bad time for considering alternative strategies. When you charge the enemy machine-gun post, don’t waste energy trying to see the funny side of it. Act, narrow-mindedly.

But the moment the action is over, we need to return to the open mode; to open our minds again to all the feedback from our action that enables us to tell whether the action has been successful, or whether further action is needed to improve on what we’ve done. In other words, we must return to the open mode, because in that mode we are most aware, most receptive, most creative, and therefore at our most intelligent.

And this fit my situation well. I was, metaphorically speaking, charging multiple machine gun posts in the internal urgency and importance of the work to be done. “It had to be done,” I remembered saying again and again when people wanted to quit.

I was armored in a rigid suit like Iron Man and doing battle.

Sometimes I really like the suit, and I like the narrow-minded approach of, “there is only the next mission, and the mission after that.” But the suit also isolates me from others I care about.

So how then to live outside the armor? I started doing two things. I started just taking the time to meditate and be still and remind myself there is no battle needing to be fought at that moment. I also sought laughter – to see the humor in my own actions, and also to rent some comedies to watch with my son.

How did I take off the armor?

I started playing again.

1 Comment

On Being Teachable

Life as it is, photography, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

I love to learn. Sometimes, though, I forget how little I know, and in so doing I lose my chance to learn something. This is a character defect of mine, this arrogant pride of my intelligence, and it can lead me into being an arrogant know-it-all if I let it get away from me.

But how to do so? That’s a real question….

I’ve worked against this a long time – and not always with success. If the opposite of being proud is to be humble, then I needed to work on being humble, i thought. I tried this and it never worked for me. CS Lewis had it right when he wrote as Screwtape, a senior demon in hell, to Wormwood, Screwtape’s nephew – an apprentice demon on his first assignment in the field. Screwtape warned that humility was fatal to demon-kind, but easily defeated as his advice went.

“Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to this fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble,’ and almost immediately pride – pride at his own humility – will appear”

So how to defeat this, when to try by will alone is to create some sort of proud false-modesty? Yuck! That’s even worse than being a know-it-all in my book. It’s true that the only thing worse than false pride is false modesty.

The answer is in something simple – it is in not trying to be humble. It is in trying to simply stay teachable. In fact, if i can stay teachable in all situations, and with all people then i am coming closer to something good – something close enough to being humble that the difference doesn’t matter.

“Every man you meet is your superior in some way. In that you should learn from him”
Abraham Lincoln

Tonight was the classroom discussion for a wildflower photography class I decided to take. I took it because I recognize the instructor as a master at nature photography, and every time I have gone to one of his workshops, I am amazed at how little I know and how much he can teach me.

So once again tonight, I arrived and since it was a lecture, I found myself skeptical as to what I could learn and couldn’t i skip this lecture – after all, I have already heard several of his lectures. But I could be teachable, so I took out my notebook, and started writing notes on his ideas and the structure of his lecture and anything else I could learn and be taught. And as I opened myself up to being teachable, I found myself learning about topics of which I knew nothing, and seeing the results of ideas I had read about but never seen attempted. This being teachable stuff works!

May we all become teachable a little more today than we were yesterday.

1 Comment

Rejoicing in my Imperfections?

family, Life as it is, Mistakes, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

I found a note in some old writing of mine that says, “If I ever figure out how to celebrate my imperfections, why, I could have a life of constant celebration.”

My inner critic has really been kicking up a storm lately. I was complaining to someone about how I broke a promise to my son to run an errand for him tonight, and that my teen aged daughter was having an emotional meltdown concerning the telephone. I found myself yearning to be a better dad than I am, and to have better skills than I have, and be better organized than I am.

This is the point where I usually will excuse myself for a short self-pity break. Then I came across this brief story in some of my old journals:

A man visited his Rabbi. He sat and said that he had spent his life trying to live according to what the Rabbi taught, but after all these years he had gained nothing. He was still an ignorant and foolish man. The Rabbi turned to him and said, ”But you have gained an awareness that you are ignorant and foolish, and that is something.”

And now, things are still the same in my home. It is hard to be a single father of two teens. It is hard to stay organized and work like i do and also have my own hobby and life. And I have spent a lot of time working and studying and learning and trying and counseling and being counseled and still I am not the father and man I want to be. No matter how long it seems I have been traveling this road, I am just not there yet.



But, I have gained an awareness of the fact that I am not yet the man I want to be. And that awareness of my imperfections is something of value. And it must really be something too, because i can almost catch a glimmer of what it is to celebrate my imperfections and that there is such a well-perceived gap between who I am and who I want to be.

Tonight I celebrate my imperfections. Tomorrow, I will continue my journey. Who will join me in the party and the adventure?

2 Comments