I remember when I was first introduced to philosophy and philosophic
thought. My sister was taking a college class and was questioning something
that we had always taken for granted. She decided it would be a good idea to
make her problems mine.
Up until that point in my life, things were simple. I didn’t
worry about the subtle nuances of reality. Things just worked and I was content
to allow them to.
Then out of the blue, the bastions of higher thought came at
me hard and I was left undone. No longer did my world consist of basic truths
but complexity and variation.
I could no longer be content knowing. Now I was pressed to
know why and understand context.
Overall, I’m grateful for this lesson at an early age
because it has helped to prepare me for the world today.
I have a motto. Not sure if I came up with it or if it’s one
of those things that I stole. The origins, for me, are no longer relevant.
The motto? “Everything is a thing.”
I’m going to write in depth about this motto in the future. For
now, I’ll just say that maybe the things that we assume are simple, aren’t.
Maybe things, especially in the age of digital information and enlightenment
are complex and nuanced. For everything that is nuanced, people are more so.
In this age of digital enlightenment, it’s easy to lose sight
of the truth that advice is, in fact, personal. Each of us has a lifetime of experiences
that have shaped and molded us. Our likes, desires, impulses and aversions have
been galvanized by these experiences.
When we receive advice, the giver is speaking from their
experience. When we listen, we are listening through the filter of our experience.
It’s a volley back and forth as the conversations drive on. Does this person
understand me? Do they value me? Do they care? Is the advice relevant? And on
For me, the moral of this story is to eat the meat and spit
out the bones. There is value in the input and feedback of others but I’m not beholden
to their opinion. Sometimes they will understand and sometimes they won’t.
The same is true for giving advice. We give advice based on
limited understanding and on our experiences. We aren’t talking about simple
math but people’s lives that are complex and messy. I used to believe that we
could distill life’s choices down to black and white, right and wrong. I don’t
think that way anymore.
Now I’ve come to embrace the gray areas. The ambiguous
experiences of life. I’ve learned that good can come from bad. I’m not afraid
of mistakes because I know I can learn from them.
I have also learned that when you give advice, it’s coming
from a personal place. You are sharing a bit of yourself and for that, I am grateful.
The frustrating thing about words is that they can be so
elusive. I know what I want to say. It’s on the tip of my tongue and it’s powerful.
If I could get the words out, I’m sure you would be impressed.
Trouble is, I can’t get the words out. At least not in any
meaningful way. So, what do I do? I ramble.
My words meander like a stream, growing into a creek, they start
to gather momentum as I string thoughts and concepts together, and then they
form a mighty river of bloviated thought. A colossal wind tunnel of mind-numbing
lecture and platitudes. My sermon reverberates off the walls and echoes off
into the ether.
It’s a shame really because these ideas are gold. I just
wish that my disciples would take heed of my wisdom. If they knew who I was and
if they would drink deeply of my profuse knowledge their lives would bear the
mark of enlightenment.
If only they would listen when I spoke. Instead, they are
interested in their own thoughts and ideas. My audience is caught up in their
own life, coming to terms with their own reality. They have questions and
opinions, and they are malleable, if only someone would meet them where they
I suppose that’s the frustrating part. In my efforts to be
heard, I overlook my audience and focus intently on my message. Instead of my
words being a soothing ointment to the soul, they are arrows and pin-pricks wounding
I need to learn to listen and ask questions. I think people
do want advice, but they want it on their terms in a way that is relevant to
them. They aren’t obstinate. Rather they are lost and looking for friends that
will walk with them. It’s only when I stop preaching that they engage. It’s
when I am listening that my audience listens as well.