March 28, 2007

Heart Of The Matter

A Don Henley tune from 1990. I'm not a big fan of the guy but he could write, & write well at times. This particular ditty is a nicely composed lament for a lost lover who seems to have found someone else. More so than just regretting the loss he seems to regret the mistakes made which led to the loss; & for both their sakes. He broaches the subject in a direct but not overbearing way & delves into the introspection of the song with a simplicity that leaves little else but honesty in its wake. All with really nice harmonies & a memorable (if not catchy) melody. The song is believable; you can understand what he's trying to express even if you've never been in that place before. Here are the lyrics. Read them sometime if you haven't before as I don't think an excerpt would do it justice (though that line about pride, competition & work always gets me as well as what follows the "even if"). Funny, some writers (Henley being a prime example) are very astute when it comes to personal relationships, but I'd hate to even briefly envision a world where their politics controlled things. Anyway Here's a rather nice vid (arrangement wise) of the Eagles doing the tune on their "Hell Freezes Over" tour. Just cause I thought the arrangement was cute here's India Arie doing the tune.

This isn't a long post by my standards but - well I tried to be brief but y'all know me. It's mainly about something that's both necessary & yet harmful if done improperly. & yes; it's surprisingly gun related.

My maternal grandmother taught me about forgiveness. She was only to be in the world a few more months though no one knew exactly how long she had at the time. I took her to KFC because she liked their mashed potatoes (as did her husband who passed 2 years before). I was trying to take care of her like I had since I was a young teenager, but I wasn't doing a great job. After we got her snack (it was more like dinner for her) we went riding around the countryside. She kinda got a kick out of me driving her because all her life she never drove a car (her people were muleskinners & she never quite trusted those newfangled horseless carriages) & here her grandson whom she had raised was now her chauffeur. Anyway I looked over & saw how happy the old lady was looking out the window & looking over at me & I got all choked up. I was stammering a bit but I said, "You remember all those fights we got into & all those times we argued? Well I'm really sorry for each & every one of them" (which for an arrogant 20 year old was a lot to get out in one sitting). She looked out the window with a sort of odd expression on her face & said, "I don't remember any of it".

This was a woman; bless her soul, who actively held grudges for years. She wasn't vengeful but she seldom if ever forgot a slight or perceived slight. I knew damn well her mind was clear enough that she could probably recall every bitter word I ever flung at her in my youthful idiocy & every instance of us being angry with each other over things trivial & substantial (as well as every time she had to switch me). But she simply forgot it.

I learned a lot from her but there are two things that I recall most vividly. Never say anything in anger that you don't mean. To this day I've never bought the idea that anger will make you say things that you don't really believe. It can cause you to say things you wouldn't otherwise have said, but it doesn't usually make people lie about their opinion of others. ĒHoney, I didn't mean it when I called you all those names (especially the ones you had to look up)" just never seemed truthful to me, as I never said anything in anger that I didn't really truly believe. Course I said a bunch of things in anger (& in the heat of other emotions) that I shouldn't have said, at least in the context I did, but I never regretted the substance of what I've said to anyone.

The other thing was to forgive. Simply forget all about the offense for those you care for & continue like nothing had happened.

See where this is going yet?

The lesson she taught me was a valuable one, but I'm afraid that because of my nature I've misapplied it to no good end.

Now I've hurt a few people in my day & I've been hurt quite a few times myself. It's inevitable; if you care about someone they have the power to hurt you & usually they will even if unintentionally. Caring about someone is quite like baring your throat & having that person stand on it with very sharp heels & asking them to catch the 100 pound anvil that's falling from the third story but to try not to hurt you in the process. It doesn't mean they're bad people; it's just an unfortunate consequence of actually giving a damn about someone else.

There are 2 people I've hurt in the last few years. I did so by forgiving them.

Let me interject here that I have a very strange (compared to most folks I know) sense of obligation & responsibility. When I was younger I bought into predestination & oh what a joyful existence it was. But as I grew older I couldn't reconcile that with free will or personal accountability. So I gave up predestination in any form (more or less) & have been trying to deal with that ever since.

Everything that happens in my world is by my own hand. Sure; there are some things out of control, but if for example I got broadsided by a bus while it'd be the bus drivers fault for running the red light (or what have you) it'd be equally if not more so my fault for not seeing what was about to happen & avoiding it. As a friend of mine put in once when I borrowed his car (we were working on mine at his place & I needed to grab some smokes), ĒI donít care if youíre sitting perfectly still at a stop light & a meteor comes down & hits my car; itís yoí fault & you gonna write me a checkĒ

I don't think it's anything I can correct in myself at this point - I'm simply too old & accustomed to this line of thinking. It has its pros & cons for sure but for me & the way I try to live itís the best way I know how. (I am open to suggestions though lol).

In light of this I hold myself to very high standards (& usually don't quite achieve them) but for some reason I cut other people much more slack than I do myself. If someone messes up something twice as bad as I just messed up something else I'll be much harder on myself than I will be on the other person.

K that should be enough background to be getting on with my point (yes, I actually do have a point to all this, & it may even turn out to be gun related).

The 2 people I've wronged most recently each did something that caused me harm. They didn't intend to & at the time I genuinely thought they cared for me so I tried to follow the lesson my grandmother taught me; I forgave them & let it slide.

Now that would have been really cool except that it negated any chance of talking the respective incidents over. With my line of thinking I simply didn't bring the matter up again (or so I thought). It was forgiven.

What made it worse is that while one person did do something of a questionable ethical nature the other person didn't. There was no wrong morally or ethically that I could see at the time or even now. In fact it took me until just a few months ago to understand what happened that caused me harm & subsequently caused my actions to be harmful. So obviously it wouldn't be cool to bring up an act that was forgiven that wasn't really even wrong would it?

I won't go into much more detail about the 2 people & our interactions because it seems we're not on speaking terms any more. I even called one of them to make sure they heard about the pet food recall (since I donít think they read me anymore) but it seems the number has been changed since we last spoke (at least there was a different voice on the machine & I never heard anything back so I assume itís no longer a valid number). & while I would like to talk with both of them & try to explain my actions (though they were inexcusable for me) as well as see if there is anything salvageable (I wonít ever claim to not feel their absence in my world & I have enough ego to think they arenít quite as well off without me as they were with me in theirs) I also learned someplace long ago to never try to force an apology on anyone. It seems they have both moved on (if they even considered my relationship with them something to ďmove onĒ from) & I freely admit to having too much pride to go chasing someone down when they donít wish me to get in touch (& I'm probably a bit too quick to take a hint in that regard, but so be it). So with me not being able to tell the affected parties what my crimes were (in detail that is) I wouldn't feel right about disclosing them here. Perhaps one day I'll be able to chat with them about things, as I do miss both of them in their respective ways (they are two of the coolest people Iíve ever known - & there is a cat involved - go figure) but for now I'll just wait till they're each ready to get in touch. (If theyíll ever be ready to get in touch is another question altogether, & not one I like contemplating unless I must).

Getting back to it, because I forgave them we did not come to any resolution about what had occurred. Another lesson from way back was to never throw up something to someone good or bad for trivial reasons. If I help someone out or someone slights me but we make peace then itís bad form for me to mention it for almost any reason. Well, having forgiven them, bringing the respective matters up in any context would have seemed trivial to me. So I didnít. Consciously at least.

Subconsciously it was there almost every day. It effected how I interacted with them & not usually in a good way. I had genuinely forgiven them & bore no grudge, but the fear of the acts or the root cause of the acts manifesting themselves again led to actions & reactions on my part that were less than cool for everyone.

Not that that's what caused the outcome with either of them; in fact it's quite probable that the results would have been the same had I understood what was going on with me & dealt with things properly. But it would have been a more honest outcome.

Another thing I learned long ago was to try to never regret the consequences of your actions; instead only have regrets if your actions were wrong in form &/or execution. Not that it's a universal lesson or always applicable but generally it is how I view things. (A friend of mine once asked how I dealt with my demons. I told him that dealing with my demons was easy - it was dealing with my angels that I wasn't sure I was up to). There are a few times when I've done things that I don't think would have materially changed an outcome (one of those times was with one of the aforementioned friends) but I regret that my actions weren't as cool as they should have been. What Iím clumsily trying to say is that while there are some results that I regret I have far more remorse for things I did that just werenít proper even if a particular outcome wouldnít have been changed by me doing what was right at the time.

Getting back on track (I think) forgiveness is necessary & proper for those you care for & at times even for those you dislike. I'm not saying to forgive Hitler by any means. Hate that bastard & his kind as much as you can. But for those whose crimes are less than murder forgiveness is usually good for you as well as them.

However (& there's always a however) forgiveness does not mean nor should it mean to not deal with the causes of the grievance. That was my error & it (in part at least Ė I think) cost me dearly. 2 friends (3 if you include the cat) that I thought would be in my world as long as my world existed & were among my closest friends are now memories; all because I did not see the signs in myself that things were not cool. It's certainly not their fault as I don't expect anyone to read my mind when I can't do it myself. While I regret what happened even more I regret the way it happened, & my considerable part in things. Thatís simply because I should have known better (& known myself better). But it seems I didnít. I misapplied a very good lesson & the path as well as the destination was much less cool than they should have been.

Now how is this gun related you may be thinking? In general we see those who opposed the right to arms switch sides. Or try to at least. It usually happens within a year of an election (odd coincidence isn't it?). Specifically though there's the case of one mister Zumbo that comes to mind.

For those of you not familiar with Zumbo miss Tam from View From The Porch summed it up best:

"...a gunwriter who was apparently tired of his 42-year career put his word processor in his mouth and pulled the trigger."

(For more reading on Zumbo check out The Smallest Minority's Gun Bigot archives Or follow this link to the search results on Say Uncle's site.)

The gist is a gun writer with a 4+ decade career decided to opine that AR-15's were the weapons of terrorists & should be banned from the hunting world. He wrote that on a Friday. By Monday he was unemployed & his former sponsors were making so much distance from him that Scotty warned them about the engines not being able to take much more. This is because a swarm of pro-gun folks lit up e-mails & comment boxes all across the net expressing their displeasure with Zumbo's sentiments. Since then Zumbo has seen the pro-gun light & admitted the errors of his ways whilst some folks on our side have been calling on us to forgive him. I neglected to write about it at the time because of a family emergency that popped up, but even I, who disdains AR's was kinda hot about Zumbo's comments.

& we should forgive him.

But trust him?

He issued an apology a few days after he realized he was job hunting again, but it was along the lines of being sorry for not knowing the AR was a legitimate hunting tool. A few days after that he issued another apology (after getting some heat for his first apology) where he said that he understood that it wasn't about hunting; it was about owning & possessing arms. & forgive me for not linking to his specific statements but they should be in The Smallest Minority's posts or Say Uncle's.

What Zumbo did was done out of abject ignorance. That's easily enough corrected & it seems to have been corrected. As for the harm he caused us it is something we should forgive, especially since he seems to sincerely want to make amends, but there's that trust thing.

Anything that comes out of Zumbo's keyboard should be suspect & it should be scrutinized. Not so much to make sure he's not conning us, but to make sure the root cause of his error doesn't manifest itself again in a way that would harm us. & I believe itís been done with Zumbo but the most important thing is to discuss why something was harmful & what can & cannot be done to prevent that harm from occurring again.

Again going back to my sins I forgave too completely (not too easily but too completely). As a result the condition that caused the grievance never changed or was dealt with in any meaningful way. With Zumbo I think we aren't in too great a danger of that on the whole, but I don't want to have my errors repeated by us the next time someone imitates Zumbo.

Forgive Zumbo? Yes. But keep an eye on him. Not because he might get a pay off from the Brady's but because it'd be much better to try to correct him on the spot if he gets something wrong due to ignorance again than to sit idly by while he does us more harm.

If I were Zumbo the last thing I'd want to do is talk about my error. I know if I ever communicate with my aforementioned friends again my strongest desire will be to talk about the weather or how the price of salmon has been going up again, but I'll try to swallow my pride & tell them a few things that I should have spoken about a while back. Not that it'll be easy but we all must pay the price for our sins.

To Zumbo's credit that's exactly what he's been doing (so I hear at least). He's been talking to hunters trying to preach the Gospel of Browning to them & even quoting from the non-canonical Book of Stoner. It could very well turn out that in the long run he does us more good than he did us harm. (Just out of curiosity though has anyone asked Zumbo how he feels about machine guns & bayonets? ;D )

But folks were right to jump on his case & pressure his employers about his words. & the next time something similar happens I hope it generates an even bigger reaction. & if the responsible party sees the error of his ways I hope we can forgive him, but not so completely as to prevent us from dealing with the cause of the harm.

Even if done innocently our actions can effect others. Sometimes the effects are for the good & most of the time theyíre done with neutral results. But sometimes we cause damage to others, even those we care about. Forgiveness is a great thing, but it should not happen at the expense of solving the underlying problem. When we let that happen then despite the initial actions we become the ones who cause the harm to ourselves & others.

Posted by Publicola at March 28, 2007 06:04 AM | TrackBack