In Which I Wish for 20/20 Vision in 2020

I am longing for glimpses of civility.
“Let the Wookiee win” is an amusingly pragmatic solution on film, but in real life, how do I deal—especially in the immediate setting of daily life—with someone who begins from a presumptively inarguable, nay, an aggressive and adversarial, stance? To those who know best, people who are convinced of the legal, logical, or even moral rectitude of their positions, any contrary or even slightly variant ideas and approaches are inherently impossible. A challenge to an atom of it is an act of war on the whole.
In these situations, all communications, responses, and interactions are, from the outset, likely to occur in the form of avoidance, delays, dismissive patronizing, and bait-and-switch tactics, and are nearly always adamantly declared someone else’s choice, fault, and sinister plot. Rather than moderating over time, those with such attitudes tend to move only further toward insults, bullying, and threats of legal or even violent action. There is no possibility of reasoned discussion or compromise; only 100% I-win-you-lose is the acceptable outcome.
Sure, easy to say just don’t go near those guys. But that’s the voice of people who have experience and/or foreknowledge, not to mention alternatives.
We’ve been dealing with this kind of extremism and incivility on every level in the current world social climate, but it almost seems we’ve become so accustomed, if not inured, to it that it’s only when such attitudes and behaviors fester to the surface in our own bubbles of daily life that we return to the painful task of making sense out of this pernicious non-sense. Yelling louder doesn’t fix anything. Threatening worse and hitting harder might force the weaker of us back into the corner for a while, but what then?
Really: I’m asking. Because what’s become clear is that every one of us touched by the toxins of such attitudes tends to become poisonous, too. It seems easy to tell when somebody else is being unreasonable, intractable. Crazy, even! But if the response is to simply dig in, shore up, and become more convinced of our own rightness, even to the point of cherry-picking information and sources of it to back our own claims, aren’t we all just becoming equally crazy in our own extremism?
My head’s spinning. I’m hungry, thirsty, desperate. For moments of silence, of kindness. Space in which there’s no need for chosen sides or declared allegiances or power plays. I’m looking out toward the great distances of space and looking for a star that lights the way to greater warmth and wisdom than I’m sensing under our own sun right now.
All that’s certain is that I had better figure out how to re-civilize myself or I won’t even recognize civility anymore when I do see it in anyone else.

19 thoughts on “In Which I Wish for 20/20 Vision in 2020

  1. Well said. I’m not even sure how to comment, Kathryn. All I know is what is going on hurts. And I’m so weary from the ranting and yelling and lies. It’s why I rarely get off of this place and why I’m more prone to spending time in nature.

    • So grateful to know that there are still a strong community of us who, no matter how widely, wildly divergent our views and beliefs and dreams may be, do realize that our connections and commonalities matter far more than anything that would seem to separate us. I keep you in my heart, my lovely friend!

      And now that we’re back Home in the PNW and see our local black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk on a very regular basis, you know that I think of you with every sighting! I’m relishing the return in numbers of bald eagles, too, even though I know their dominance puts pressure on my other favorite area raptors—at least I am still seeing the latter in large numbers, too, even if it’s because the added competition forces them out into the open more visibly. And all of this is a strong reminder, if I needed any, of the interdependence of all of us living critters and the importance of our recognizing what an impact even our own small lives have on others’: might as well make the impact as kind and positive as possible!

      Sending big hugs your way!

  2. Thanks for caring and reminding us of the value of civility and compassion. I too am tired of the divisive positions and posturing. We no longer seem capable of having real discussions and holding alternative viewpoints without making people our enemy. Welcome back Kathryn.

    • Thanks for being here, my friend! So glad to reconnect with people who not only ‘get it’ but Live it very intentionally and gracefully. I hope that the presence of such determinedly kind and communal attitudes experiences a powerful enough surge in response to the harsh social environment we’ve been fostering in recent times that we can turn things around toward more healthy and peaceful and joyful living for all! For my part, it’s grand to reconnect with people like you and D (Little Sundog) who remind me regularly of the many good and lovely things in our existence right in the here and now!


    • Hi, Steve! Hope you and Eve are doing WELL. Yes, I think this piece might be even more relevant, but hey—I could just re-post and say so, right? All old content becomes new again? In fact, I’ve just been considering doing something like one new post a week and then the rest of the week, reposting my content from the beginning forward, with addenda and/or changes as current events and ideas require…. Meanwhile, Richard and I are (in our curmudgeonly, introverted ways) making the most of ‘enforced’ home time and it makes it really lovely to see how much we like our new home in WA!
      All best to you two!

      • The Romans had a saying for it: Nihil sub sole novum, Nothing new under the sun. Except your home in Washington is new for you, so “Happy new,” as Eve is wont to say. Like you guys and so many others, we’re mostly staying home. Eve has read a bunch of books and just started in on a big biography of Churchill. The big exception to staying home is that I’ve been going out and taking as many nature pictures as ever. What better way to do what I like while still avoiding people?

        • Good grief, so much for my online content intent! Still keeping very busy with the settling-in process. Happily, it’s spending time contemplating what wildflowers and other plants to use as I build our new yard, something I know you’d approve. It’s fun to see how I can mix flowering and green native stuff with the other pretties I appreciate into what I hope will be an eventual nice big, blowsy explosion of growth. Given the ‘stick it in the ground’ kindness of weather here, it’s much more forgiving and willing than anything I worked with in Denton! I should send you a link to my Sequim-yard picture collection that I do just for family and friends and personal diary. Remind me with a note to my address and I’ll connect you, if you like.

          Love that you’re having time to read, too. Richard’s got what’s probably the same Churchill bio sitting in his home queue, along with something like six zillion others. Once again I’m needing to buy-assemble-install more bookshelves, but at least it’s for a happy habit! Hope Eve enjoys the further reads—Happy New Books!!! And I still delight in following your blog ‘travels,’ of course, just with more limited (surprisingly, given the circumstances!) time to respond/correspond. Know that I am lurking, in any case!


    • I was thinking the exact same thing! I think the sensitivity in artists makes us somewhat prescient. Here’s hoping for civility and health in the future!

      • Many thanks for the good wishes, dear NB—and the same right back! I know you seem to be keeping quite as busy in your bubble as we are in ours, and hope it’s all as fulfilling, comforting, and joyful as possible. We all need balm for the spirit at the best of times!

  3. I’m not the first one to say this: strange to think that you wrote this in January and how your words resonate with where we find ourselves now, during this pandemic. I hope you are doing well!

    • My friend! I hope you and yours are all doing very well in this strange new world. Richard and I are among the fortunate: though we’ve had a streak of unaccustomed challenges this year in addition to the semi-quarantine, we have each other and a safe, solid, happy home in a place that really IS Home. When he ended his 10-year tenure (no pun intended by the accidental pseudo-duplication there!) in Texas last summer, we moved back to our familiar turf in the top left corner of the country and are now in both the beautiful surroundings with which we grew up but also proximity to much of our US family. I truly hope we’ll see some improvement in attitudes of compassion and acceptance worldwide, sooner rather than later, but I assume nothing. Humans are nothing if not fear- and desire-driven, and the last decades have managed to open floodgates of seeming permission to wear these nasty prison stripes of ours publicly. However, our species also has amazing capacity for love, sensitivity, and generosity, and I hope the day isn’t too far ahead when the uprising I’m seeing of *those* qualities amidst the pandemic begins to overtake the darker impulses.
      Warmest regards!

      • Good to hear that you are doing well! So are we, it’s a situation we cannot change, but we are privileged not to be hit as hard as many other. “…these nasty prison stripes of ours…” There you nail it! I want to think that we are now at rock bottom, and the only way is up. Perhaps naive and over-optimistic, but that’s my way to cope, and to also think that there might be – eventually – some good things coming out of this crisis.

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