What Will They Think?

My post from yesterday, The Magic of Muti, wasn’t published right away. I was being absent-minded and it remained as a draft. My first thought on discovering this was – ‘Oh no, I SAID I was going to post every day, and now it’s ‘obvious’ to the casual observer that I don’t keep my word.’ Not keeping my word is quite major for me, the more so since I participated in a self-healing weekend arranged by the Kairos Foundation through their Life-Training program in 1994. (Yeah, the self-healing IS an ongoing process. Just thought I’d mention that.)

”]This is now called the More-to-Life program and it certainly does open all kinds of windows and doors where one thought there were only walls. It also points out that sometimes we imagine there is a door but there’s only a wall and no amount of manipulation, be it anger, seduction, playing the victim etc etc will change the fact that there’s no door there. One learns to Notice stuff. Do Google it if you’re interested in clearing up the odd stuck patterns you may have in your life. Oh alrighty, I’ll do it for you. I just don’t want to come across as evangelical – here it is. (This is not a religious course by the way, it aims to fill the gap between psychology and religion.)

Right now – where was I… keeping one’s word. What I learned on this course was that your word is your ‘logos’ or your essence. The creation story in the Bible conveys something of the power of The Word. People who have a metaphysical world-view are extremely conscious of what they say. For instance, words like ‘I hate..’ have a very strong negative vibration, according to Sonya Choquette, who’s a renowned intuitive from the States. So when you give your word and then don’t keep to your commitment, something in you diminishes, or perhaps I should say, you diminish yourself a little each time. Not only (perhaps) in the eyes of other people, but more importantly in your own eyes. So next time you don’t trust yourself quite as much, and giving your word becomes either attached to stress, or keeping your promise becomes a little less important. Eventually, you become reliably unreliable.

For this reason I like buddies to phone up with spur of the moment suggestions. I don’t like making arrangements or commitments, whether it’s hours or days or weeks ahead, out of anxiety that something will happen to prevent it – life is so very unexpected sometimes. And then I start making it my fault which is of course not much use to anybody. The first time I skipped a day, I resolved to add another post just to ‘keep the books straight’ as it were. That day was gone, and I couldn’t bring it back. I have yet to do that extra blog but I do trust myself to do it. In the spirit of the Walk of Attention game I mentioned a few blogs back, I let the slip-up slide – I’d gone to bed, the computer was off, I was dead tired and it was after midnight already anyway. So, I reasoned with myself, I will simply start again and resolve afresh to do a blog a day.

But then when I came to do tonight’s post, I saw yesterday’s blog wasn’t posted. Here it wasn’t a case of ‘Oh no I didn’t keep to my word’, because the blog was written and waiting. It was a case of ‘What will they think?’ and that is not very helpful. ‘What will They think?’ is a completely destructive and useless thoughtand leads to misery and dandruff. I was mulling this over today on the bike. There’d been some car behind me which wasn’t particularly close or far, just enough for me to speed up ‘because they must think I’m a real slowcoach..’ And when I looked again, the car had turned off and gone its way, the driver oblivious to my existence or my knee-jerk concern about their opinions.

I realised that ‘Whether they think of my actions negatively or positively (and they are looking through their own unique ‘glasses’ or point of view, with a background, upbringing and thought-processes that I cannot possibly imagine or anticipate) – I’m riding this bike as best I know how. Their thoughts are unknowable, and they are out there like the trees and the buildings and the wind. Things I cannot change or influence much. They might even think I’m going like a bat out of hell. Who knows? And why is it so important, what They think?

I read somewhere that according to some scientific study, the fear of abandonment or being banished from one’s community is a deep-seated survival instinct. Chimpanzees are much more intelligent than baboons, but baboons survive much better than chimps because they are communal animals to a far greater degree; there is strength and mutual support –  survival depends on it.  So this fear is hard-wired into the most primitive part of our brains; it was, very long ago, a matter of life and death. And that still brings up the terrible question ‘What will the neighbours/ the people at work/ the other kids at school/ you name it/ think?’ (They might refuse me a share of the roots and berries…)

Colette, the famous French writer, was known for her almost complete lack of concern about public opinion. In her novels, her wild heroines (if not actually courtesans like Lea in ‘Cheri’) are free-spirited women who can do as they like, following a different set of rules to the rest of society. The same is true of geisha in Japan. These women have placed themselves in a position where public opinion can’t really touch them. Significantly, they are usually also financially independent, especially in Colette’s novels.

For all her fame and apparent invulnerability though, Colette was hurt on at least one occasion, significantly in the village where she grew up – she’d returned there with her lover on a rare visit to her mother, and her scandalous reputation (she’d become an actress among other things!) had preceded her. These people rejected the person she’d become and it’s rather telling that they still had that power to hurt her. She didn’t return in spite of a request from her old school to attend and address a function they’d arranged. Even in these times of families in constant transit, people from your childhood hometown or community can have a certain presence in your mind. They may have had great power over your well-being and that of your family – they watched you grow up and one or two of them helped to change your nappies. It doesn’t matter who or what you are now. It’s amazing how important their opinion is. Anyone who’s seen ‘As it is in Heaven’ will know what I’m talking about here.

What will they think? And then what will they do? What will it take to impress them? To ‘show’ them? There are people in my childhood hometown whom I wanted to impress and ‘show’. But sadly they’re all in the cemetery on the hill now and they really, really don’t care. I love getting old. There’s no telling what I can do now. As long as the person in the car behind me approves.

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