Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Did I Do Something?

When Garrison asked Concert Pianist, Andre Watts, if he would be unnerved by the presence of any significant individual at one of his performances, the gentleman said that the presence of his last teacher, a Mr. Fleischer, would give him some apprehension. “I would imagine that he would be saying ‘I told you not to do that’.” Mr. Watts said.

What concerns me here is the revelation that Mr. Watts' thought was centered on the possibility of condemnation… a recognition of “what I did wrong.” Why, I wonder, do we instinctively anticipate a negative critique? All too seldom, to my thinking, do we think that the appraisal of another will be in the theme of “Oh… how pleased I am that you did those good things so well!” Is not a positive endorsement of more worth and value than a “constructive” criticism (or, at least, of value equal)? Why, oh why do we feel that a correction is of more merit than the recognition of the things done well? No!… and again I say “No!” to this habit that we have adopted to feel compelled to offer only a “helpful” suggestion as our first and primary comment when presenting our impression of the performance of another.

Consider with me, if you will, yourself in the tender embrace of your Partner after a particularly intimate interlude. You respond to the “How was it for you?” question with “It could have been worse.” “Unthinkable!!” you say, and of course I agree. It is “unthinkable” that you would be so insensitive, and so just-plain-stupid. Unthinkable because you would never be so uncaring for the feelings of another. And unthinkable for the simple, self-serving reason that you would not want to jeopardize your hopes for a welcoming reception to that ’venue’ for some future ‘performance.’ So, I ask, why would we apply a different criteria to the world around us in our everyday experiencing of life’s ‘concert?’

How could we be so insensitive to the feelings of those who are performing their daily tasks, or accompanying us as fellow members of our life’s ‘audience’, that we respond to some negative imperative and point out the “It could have been worse"s that are an always-present part of living. The news media has a compulsion to point out what could have been the extreme loss of life in a situation that, in fact, was blessed with no loss of life. The weather reporter is driven, by some dramatic urge, to declare whatever could be, or has at some time in distant past been, the absolute worst scenario remotely relatable to a present set of benign indicators. We are inundated with a deluge of “glass half empty-isms” when all we really want, or need, is a sip of encouragement to relieve our thirst for some joy in life. Who even asked for a full glass in the first place?

Isn’t it possible that we could, instead find that act of kindness, in the sea of meanness, to point out with “Look … what a lovely thing!” Is it so difficult to focus on the small wild-flower in the field of brambles, and as the butterfly does, fly over the painful, clutching thorns of “realities” that would demoralize and discourage … and savor the sweet nectar of something just as “real” (though more rare), that sustains and nurtures our souls. Does that mean that we are somehow unmindful of life’s ‘brambles?’ Certainly not! It simply means that we have the option, moment by moment, to see what Life has provided for our happiness and fulfillment … and are willing to pull free of the defeating and spirit-crushing brambles, to fly to it, tell of it, and celebrate the joys of it … whatever it is and for however long it can be enjoyed.

I ask that you consider the response of this famous and well respected concert master of world renown… our aforementioned Andre’ Watts… who has all of the talent, training, and experience that could, reasonably, establish him to be above vulnerability to any anticipation of the criticisms of others. The majority of us, at any age, are not nearly so well equipped. Thus, for him to reveal his susceptibility to an unpleasant critique, serves to accentuate how pervasive (and even, possibly, irrational) this common fear is.

Please, Dear Friend, listen to yourself when next you have occasion to comment on the behavior or performance of another. Let’s agree to lift one another up on the arms of kind consideration. Wouldn’t it be a marvelous thing to have others hoping that You will be the One in their “audience” in life … because they know that You will be supportive, appreciative, and respectful of them?

It is my intent that I will be such a person in your life.

IMAGE (Our "Inner Child"): Martina Brandstetter, BBC News


Suldog said...

Very good. It means so much to give praise or comfort to someone, rather than denigrating them. Who knows what may be accomplished by your kind words? Not to be utterly simplistic and/or flippant, but if a couple more people had praised Hitler's paintings... who knows?

John-Michael said...

I love you, my SulDog friend! I can count on you to see the possibilities hidden from casual passing view.

Thank you for the attitude boost!

Beth from the Funny Farm said...

In some cases, there is joy in the critique. Said 5th grader compared her instrument's sound to a sick duck. The joy was in the laughter resulting from the comparison. ;-)

I am a big believer in "passing on the good stuff." To often, it is only the negatives that are shared and a lack of the positive.

John-Michael said...

I am guessing CLARINET! (nothing more "sick duckish" than a 5th grader with a clarinet. [grin] Also nothing lovelier than that clarinet perfected [though oboe or bassoon are my favorites] [cornet myself].)

I am so happy, Beth, to have another comrade in our quest to "pass on the good."

Jules~ said...

Very good and so insightful. Of course, I am learning that it is your nature to tap into those things that we crave in our hearts. Those things that many have not the courage to voice, you stand up and dare to speak simply in order to bless others.

As people, I believe that because of our sin nature and need for rescue with God, it is a daily struggle to purpose to think of nad view the good in things. If we don't purpose to think of and view the good, it is all to easy to see the bad because we always want more. There is drama and new surges of emotion with that craving. Acceptance doesn't bring drama, but peace.

I was watching a Woody Allen film the other night and he said, "No, I don't believe the glass is half empty. It is always half full...of poison, but it is definately half full." It is a comedic statement and yet there is elements of truth to how people feel.

I am sorry. I have prattled on here. It is just what came ot mind as I was reading and visiting with you this morning.
Have a blessed day.

John-Michael said...

Jules, My Precious, You would be such a delightful part of a neighborhood coffee bunch around a table at a local coffee house. I do love your way of unharnessing and setting free your mind to explore and find. Thank you for your visit!

JeannieTheDreamer said...

Hello John-Michael, thank you for dropping by my blog. You are right about what you said in this post. It is good to lift each other up. That is probably how we will all get to heaven. Heaven on earth, and heaven after earth. It is good to be together in joy, and in God's presence!

God Bless.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I am the forever optimist. My family sees it in me every day. All my daughter needs from me (apart from my love) is my encouragement of which she has continuously. I could never patronise those I love or indeed those I share this confused earth with.

Another great post.
Crystal xx

John-Michael said...

A nice place to view "eternity" from, you present, Jeannie. Pretty well melts the walls of the "eternity box" away and leaves us with an awareness of its "no Beginning ... no End ... Now in there somewhere" qualities.

John-Michael said...

Reading your words (just now), Crystal, I have the unbidden image of "holding hands." And I see in that image a message of the wonder that we can bring about in this small part of what you dub "our confused world" ... if we hold hands in gentle, quiet agreement on the merits of mutual respect for, and encouragement of each other.

San said...

Our culture seems to be addicted to the notion of evaluation of performance. But life isn't a performance.

Wise post. Thanks.

John-Michael said...

It's a whole lot better than any "performance," isn't it, San?

My "Thanks" to you.

Amy Y said...

You should be a motivational speaker, m'friend :)

John-Michael said...

Have done it ... love doin' it ... where's the meetin'?

Thank you for ALWAYS making me feel good Amy (now GET OFF OF YOUR FEET!!)

I love you.

CrazyCath said...

Hi surrogate dad (I'm gonna call you SD. I have so many names for you now I think I better settle on one and SD is ok for me without usurping my dad if it's ok with you!)

Yet another thought provoking post. You are quite right and I hope I do manage to stay positive and look at the achievement not what I think could be an improvement!

Thanks again for making us think.

Classic Charm said...

Ah yes, your words of kindness and encouragement is that ray of sunshine I crave daily and so I visit your blog daily, as I know there will be something kind, and thoughtful, and oh so thought provoking...

John-Michael said...

I dunno, Cath, My sweet Darlin' ... I was considering this weighty question this morning ... and thought that "John-Dad-Michael" had a nice rhythm and 'bounce' to it. Too bulky for easy typing ... so JDM would do the job. Whaddya think?

John-Michael said...

Rose, My Dear, I do cherish your 'hugs' and thoughtful words of encouragement.

Thank you Sweetheart.

CrazyCath said...

JDM is just fine with me and in easy reach of the fingers as the pinky hangs on to the caps shift...

Helped me out again. Thanks.
Off to bed soon. Tired today but ok. :0)

Just Joni said...

a positive attitude contributes to kind words freely given and that in turn contributes to believing in the goodwill of others and from there it has such possibility...oh what wonders the world could see if kindness were such the key.

hopeful words my friend...
hope full.
enjoyed your blog today :)


John-Michael said...

Then JDM it is!

Now, please Cath, DO get that much necessary rest (Thank you, Darlin')

John-Michael said...

Thank you for sharing some of your sweet spirit Joni. You bless!

Lizzy in the Burbs said...


This was a very powerful post! Your writing really makes me think and examine my own behavior, some of which I am not particularly proud of. It is easier to see fault than to seek beauty sometimes, and I am guilty of this myself. Especially when it comes to my children. Thanks for the reminder to step back and see the good!


John-Michael said...

Lizzy ... Lizzy ... WOW!! I am overwhelmed! (not easily done [believe me]) How enormously proud of and impressed with you, My Dear Amazing Lady, I am! I just KNOW that you have no idea of how tremendously courageous and healthy what you just said is. You are so close to your own sense of failing to meet higher expectations of yourself, that you can't see the wonder and beauty of what I see in your statement. My Dear God in heaven, Dear One ... you dazzle me!

You have embraced the idea of swimming against society's stream of guilt-affixing, fault-finding, criticism-stamping, and correction-seeking as the only way to demonstrate that you are a "serious" parent and a "conscientious" and "responsible" adult. (BALDERDASH!!, to that stress-creating, tension-building, relationship-straining frame of disrespectful interaction with each other.) You have voiced a desire to give birth to an environment in which you and your children (family) can have fun! Can relax in the comfort of knowing that the beauty and good in each other is going to be sought (even if it is REALLY trying to hide sometimes.)

I place you, My Darling Lizzy, on my pedestal of high regard today. You have moved my soul!

I am so glad that we are friends ... 'cause I do love YOU!

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