Thursday, August 23, 2012

the next blank page, part 2

Writing is a time-consuming proposition. This is probably a good thing as it serves to weed out those who are less committed to the art of communicating through the written word. It is an art and a craft, and it most certainly requires commitment. If one is going to take the time and make the commitment to write, the result may as well be something that matters.

It's been 21 years and almost 11 months since the idea for this book suggested itself to me. I can be precise about its genesis because it took place within the first 24 hours of my nephew's life. I've written of this before, but to save all of us the trouble of trying to recollect when and where, I will repeat myself!

Jesse was born late on a Saturday night. The next morning my brother Jamie made the appointed calls to members of the family to announce that "he's heeeere..." and we galvanized to pay a visit to this first member of the next generation of our family. My mother, then living in Westchester County, NY, drove into Manhattan to pick up my grandmother and the two of them motored to Connecticut to greet the newborn. We all converged at the hospital late in the morning where we oohed and aahed at Jesse through the glass partition of the nursery, and my grandmother proclaimed that he was "trying himself out." Indeed he was.

In due time we decided that Barbara needed to get some rest and have some respite from the crush of family, so we parted company and headed back to their home. The detail of why Jamie rode with me is now a part of the ether, but it doesn't matter. I drove through town and turned left off the main drag to wend my way via back roads, avoiding traffic lights and congestion. I knew this route because I am blessed with the "good sense of direction" gene, and because I also have the gene that likes to be efficient in most aspects of life. Knowing the most direct route between two points is just one of those things that I determine as quickly as most people blink.

As I made that left hand turn I noted from the corner of my eye that Jamie was nodding with a smile and approval. Shortly he offered, "There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who do and those who don't." I knew immediately what he meant. Jamie and I may not be on the same wavelength on every subject, but we are related, after all, and carry the same aforementioned genes. While his do and don't reference was inspired by my navigation it went beyond directions and shortcuts. It included as well the tendency to pay attention, whether to details, actions, or as a consumer of knowledge. It also meant drawing on what we learn by paying attention to guide decisions and take action.

As we drove the remaining minutes to the house I reflected on his observation, and the way that the phrase "there are two kinds of people" can be used. To note that one person is of one view or inclination and another holds a different view can be used to suggest that one is right and the other wrong. Sometimes this is employed humorously, like the take, "There are two kinds of people: those who like bacon and those who are wrong." At other times intimidation is the goal, "There are two kinds of people who understand Marines: Marines and their enemy." Mostly it seems that the phrase is put to work justifying one's preferences with a subtle, defensive tone: "There are two kinds of people in the world, and one of them puts ketchup on their eggs." Most of the time "two kinds of people" seems to emphasize differences, and in a way, division.

As a person who was raised to respect differences between and among people and who has learned to value those differences, I see "two kinds of people" as an opportunity to bridge the difference gap with understanding. Years ago a friend and I were discussing our teaching styles. We employed different methods in our teaching, and this had resulted in some conflict. After some lengthy conversation she finally sighed and said, "I need to remind myself that you don't think like I do." I took her words to mean that she felt she was unsuccessful at persuading me to her viewpoint, the "right" viewpoint. All along I thought we were trying to understand one another and learn from each other.

Because it matters to me to work toward understanding different points of view, using "two kinds of people" as a framework to consider our differences in a new light is where I would like to go with my book. In the next few days I'll share a reflection on a "two kinds of people" observation, and I would like to invite your thoughts about what "two kinds of people" pop up in your life and world. 

How about it, are you game? Or are you the kind of person who doesn't like to play. (Wink).


Terri said...

Perhaps you will share this, or a version of this on the WordsMatter blog?

I do hope that we humans are more finely nuanced than "two kinds of people" but in truth I think we are living in an age when polarities are rampant and we are each called to belong to one polar extreme or the other. Living in between these extremes is challenging because we are dismissed as having no values, no theology, no definition of who we are. But living on the extremes begins to feel like the same message of anger and vitriol just using different words and opposite perspectives.

Perhaps there are two kinds of people - those who choose the fringe extreme and speak from their anger, closing down their ability to think in possiility - and those who strive to find balance and equanimity?

The Bug said...

This sounds like a really good jumping off point for the book. As a person who very often can see all the sides to a story, I find polarization fascinating. Seems like it takes more energy than I have to be that firmly rooted on one side or the other - and where does that leave compassion? Lots of things to think about!

Jayne said...

Indeed, the assumption always is that one is correct and one is fully misguided. Sounds like an interesting topic for exploration!

Jayne said...

Just thought of one I use a good bit... there are two kinds of people, those who life happens to and those who manage life. :c)

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