Openness – Dr. Matt’s Thoughts – October 14th, 2007
People, today I’ve got the subject of openness on the brain. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have the tendency to say whatever it is that comes to my mind. And it baffles me when other people choose to shut themselves up, to hide behind a concept of “politeness,” or the fear of how their words will be perceived. Say it, people, just say it, stop giving me that look like you want to procreate with me and let’s just talk about it.
But Dr. Matt, you say, I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. Yes, tact and discretion, those are good reasons to consider what you’re saying, but I don’t think that’s the real reason you’re not speaking up. Watch the people around you. Do we not seem all wounded and afraid of each other? It’s like we’re not sure which one amongst the crowd might be one to cause us pain, and so we react as if they’re all dangerous. Let me tell you, folks. They’re not. They’re simply not. Yes, someone in that crowd is a complete ass, let’s be honest. Yesterday, when I was standing on a sidewalk making a phone call, someone in a moving car hurled a ball of wet Kleenexes at me which struck my shoulder. Yes, those people exist. There are truly people in the world who wish to harm others. But folks, the answer is not then to fear all mankind. The answer is to improve your ability to recognize chaff from wheat, to use an old metaphor.
One of the gifts of getting hit with a ball of wet Kleenexes was that it reminded me that these acts are truly not personal. It was not personal because they did not know me. Even if they knew me, it would still not be personal. Even if someone knows you intimately, and they hit you with a wad of metaphorical Kleenex, it’s not personal. Because it’s not about you. It’s about whatever is sick inside them that makes them act in that way. Evil acts are all part of the same disease, like a cancer that manifests in different ways. Sometimes it’s hurling something out the window at a stranger, sometimes it’s hurling an insult at your partner. No matter how much they might imply that it’s about you, or, if you’re doing the hurling, no matter how much you might feel that it’s motivated by something the other person did, sorry Charlie, but your actions only tell the story of you.
I got a little sidetracked from the topic of openness, so let’s bring it on back. Why is openness a solution to this problem? Because to fear a person, or to get angry at them is to make it personal, which makes it part of the same disease. At the very least, it’s participation. It’s a non-verbal affirmation of the idea thrust upon you that evil actions are personal.
Take Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush. Now, since I hate politics about as much as I hate metaphors, I’ll say that the following examples are not political, but are, to me, good human case studies. Osama Bin Laden committed evil acts claiming that they were motivated by the actions of the other; that is, as a result of U.S. presence in the Middle East. The president’s reaction was to make further claims that the actions were of a personal nature: hatred of freedoms, jealousy of our way of life, etc. In other words, he became a participant, an ally of sorts in the message that evil acts are personal. He took no contrary position. He only took contrary acts, but still, participatory positions. Afterwards, people scratched their heads, and are still scratching their heads about why evil persisted, and in fact, seemed to grow even further. How? Why? You see the answer, don’t you? There appears to be opposite sides, or, in the case of sectarian violence, multiple sides, yet all participating sides are taking unified positions. It’s like a tug of war with everyone on one side of the rope. The true enemy has not been addressed, at least not by those directly involved.
Now, that’s about as close to political as Dr. Matt is willing to get (which is to say, not at all) so let’s bring it back a notch. …On the other hand, could it be that your favorite fake doctor has just encountered the core of this idea? That is, openness is not just about what you say and what you do. It’s not about speaking your mind, it’s not about keeping yourself from being reactionary. It’s not just about seeing that acts are not personal, and it’s not about keeping yourself from invading Iraq for no good reason. You see, often I want to control the outcome of what I write. Sometimes I write about A and I wish I was writing about B. But openness is about allowing. It’s about getting out of your own way. It’s about being more than doing. If a political message comes out, so be it. If a metaphor surfaces, well, I guess there’s a reason for it, as much as I might hate to admit it.
Openness is not about what you put out, for we can just look at the word to know that it’s about what you let in.
… Although I would think that it specifically means that if you are, say, thinking about invading Iran, then don’t. Because that would be stupid.
Just My Thoughts,
* Dr. Matt is not a real doctor.