Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Inspiration Week: Truth-tellers, Patient and Impatient

Personally, I need both, sometimes at the same time. There are pluses and minuses to both approaches.

An impatient truth-teller is great, because that person is usually so fed to the teeth with having the exactsameconversationoverandoveragain, ohwhenwilliteverstop, that s/he will probably aim for blunt, concise, and devastating. When you only get one shot, or rather when you only want to have to take one shot, you don't fuck around. I have no patience myself, so I'm sympathetic to the urge to just quit fucking around.

And then again, an impatient truth-teller is more prone to spraying the place indiscriminately, kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out. Plus, the problem with being so damn devastating is that people wind up crawling away from you all devastated-like. I'm not saying they don't sometimes deserve all that and more; I'm just saying.

The impatient truth-teller can also attract a nice crop of people trying to do the internet equivalent of suicide-by-cop:

IMPATIENT TRUTH-TELLER: --bunch of assholes, and I--

[Someone with a frequently updated MySpace page comes barging in]

MYSPACE USER: I can't believe you just called me an asshole!

ITT: Huh? Who the fuck are you?

MYSPACE USER: And you won't stop swearing at me!

ITT: I wasn't talking to you. I was talking to--

MYSPACE USER: Now you're silencing me! My voice doesn't matter to you!

ITT: Do I know you?

MYSPACE USER: And DISMISSING ME! You really are the meanest meanie in all of Meanville! And now I am become the saddest sadster in Sadtown!

ITT: Look, I have no idea what you're doing here, who you are, or why you're upset. I was only trying to tell these assholes over here that--

MYSPACE USER: I can't believe you just called me an asshole again! [runs off to alert 400+ friends to the meanness]

Not that the patient truth-telling approach is without its own problems. The risk you take with patient truth-telling is that some folks are going to wind up conditioned to having their hands held, their dribbly chins wiped, and their nappies changed all the time; and the first person who kills this dream by saying "Clean up after yourself, Mr. Toddler," is going to hear like all this whining and crying and complaining, because Mr. Toddler was SO certain that learning would always be sweet and free and easy.

But then again, you can't rush learning, and everyone's speed is different. Someone's got to take the time and make the effort or we'll only wind up with a world full of insufferable little smartasses who think they know everything because damn it, they were in the gifted program--and if the vision of that future doesn't make you stop to give thanks for all the dumbasses among us, I don't know what will.

It would be a pretty barren landscape without the patient. In the end, all you'd have left would be 8,736,450 nation states, each home to exactly ONE impatient truth-teller apiece--or to rip off P.J. O'Rourke, a bunch of The Republic of Me and You and I'm Not Sure About Me's.

Sometimes the impatient truth-tellers get to clean up after the patient truth-tellers by taking Mr. Toddler out to the woodshed. And sometimes the patient truth-tellers wind up having to educate--gently!--the shattered victims of the impatient truth-tellers.

If anyone is fixing to get all upset about anything I've said so far, it may soothe you to know that I've been guilty of every behavior catalogued here: I have needed my hand held and my chin wiped. I have hurt innocent bystanders in the course of shooting my mouth off. I have been too patient with people who didn't deserve it, to the disappointment and frustration of friends who had Mr. Toddler's number long before I did. And way too many times to count, I have needed my conscience and my thought processes kick-started by someone all out of patience with the same old shit.

I don't say that to make this all about me; I say that to ward off complaints that I'm overgeneralizing or setting up a false binary like, oh, I don't know, "popularizers" and "purists," say, because the truth is that everyone has a little of each of these characters in them and it's all really a spectrum anyway. I've been all those people sometimes in the same conversation, and sometimes more than one of them at once, and sometimes I haven't fit neatly into any of those roles but have just sort of muddled along in the middle. And I'm sure you have too.

I wouldn't even be writing this right now if some very impatient truth-tellers hadn't kicked me in the ass, hard, over some horrifically stupid ideas I once held.

And I wouldn't be writing this right now if some very patient truth-tellers hadn't endured all my petulant little tantrums, either.

I owe both. And worse, I owe too many of them--too many to link right now. For today I think I'll just point you to some mostly patient, occasionally impatient truth-telling going on over here, with bonus cute dog pictures.

Thank you, everyone who told me the truth even, and especially, when I wasn't too eager to hear it.


Tsunami said...

Hahaha nice. As someone who likes to learn and spends a lot of time wishing the conversation could move past the beginner lessons, I'm often grateful for the impatience.

ilyka said...

Me too! But I know sometimes in my case that's just me being a self-centered ass: See, it was perfectly okay for ME to take all the time I needed with the material (my education is so important!), but now you! Over there! Stop slowing everything down! Come catch up with me! You can work nights and weekends to do it!

You do get some funny, funny stuff from the impatient people on occasion, though. I really can't live without either mode.

Theriomorph said...

Truelio, ilyka - what I love is how *endlessly* trusting I am of how that dynamic comes out in the wash in *other people's* discussions; 'there will be an harmonius balance in the end, we can trust the process, la la la.' But then about my own role? Neurotic mess. Should I have been tougher? Was I blasting the wrong person? Was I just smack-down with a real potential ally, or (ahem, recent shower-inducing episode) *way* too generous in extending the benefit of the doubt to someone whose agenda is entirely malicious and self-serving?

And you know, all that flailing's just kind of self-serving, too. So I try not to indulge it too much.

For me, I think the inclination toward wanting to err on the side of patience and generosity comes from 2 things: 1) the world's already a mean place, it doesn't really need my help, and 2) I am really, really good at being mean and I do not like what it does to other people or to me when I do it.

That said: sometimes?

A good ass-whuppin' is the most loving act.

How's THAT for NUANCE? : )

So lovin' you in the 101 thread. So glad you're there.

Anonymous said...

And a collision between two impatient truth-tellers who have different truths? There's some fireworks, all right.

I've been reading a book on Buddhism by Thich Nhat Hanh, who definitely prefers the patient appraoch... at one point he says (I'm paraphrasing) that beating others over the head with your perceived truth is futile, because they'll only close their ears.

But I don't know. It seems to me that both approaches have to be used, depending on the situation. Someone who uses the patient approach has to be persistent, because (s)he can be yes-but'd almost endlessly. Sort of the way you can hit the snooze alarm over and over until you're two hours late for work.

I think, on balance, that I've learned the most from impatient truth-tellers, and though the process was rough, they helped me (afterwards, anyway) to "hear" the more patient ones who had similar messages.

(BTW, glad to see you blogging again, ilyka!)

CLD said...

Someone's got to take the time and make the effort or we'll only wind up with a world full of insufferable little smartasses who think they know everything because damn it, they were in the gifted program--and if the vision of that future doesn't make you stop to give thanks for all the dumbasses among us, I don't know what will.

OK, now that one sentence made me laugh until I peed. Thanks, I think. :)