I went to bed early tonight…real early. Not because I was particularly tired or anything like that. I went to bed for one reason only. I went to bed because my beloved University of Kentucky (Football) Wildcats were going to get throttled in Death Valley at the hands of the LSU Tigers and I didn’t want to be a party to that in any way. I figured if I was asleep it wouldn’t bother me as much. So when I awoke three hours later – at 11 (yes, I went to bed at 8) I discovered that we had lost 41-3. Worse than I thought. But, “Oh Well I’ve seen worse. (Kentucky Football fans everywhere are smh – ing.)
Anyhow, once awake, pondering what an abyssmal failure Kentucky Football is, I began to think on my own most recent failure. As those who know me already know, I’m quite into making pottery lately. Today I bisque-fired 4 real nice pieces. Two of them blew apart. Bummer. And….it was my fault. I failed.
Now I think I’m a pretty good potter. Other potters might disagree, and considering today’s failure they might be right. Nevertheless, despite today’s failure, I do not consider myself a failure as a potter. But this failure “du’jour does indeed point to some greater failures. Better said, perhaps, my recent kiln fail, it seems, is rooted in some real, honest to God, ontological, deeply-rooted, systemic, failings that I do have, and seemingly, can do nothing to correct.
So let’s talk about me and my failings.
First of all, I’m a poor listener. Oh I may appear to be listening. I mean, I’m not impolite. If someone is talking to me, I don’t interrupt. I nod appropriately. I make responding comments that might make me appear as engaged, but at least a lot of the time, I’m just formulating – as you speak – what I am going to speak in response to you. I am generally always more concerned with what I am going to say, than I am about what you are saying. The result of this failure is that it is not often that I really hear you. And you know what? This isn’t fair to those who honor me enough to speak with me. It isn’t fair to me either, ’cause I miss out on a lot. Sometimes, a lot of times, what you (or someone else) are saying to me is something I really need to hear. Take, for instance, today. My first pottery teacher told me – and I was nodding my head – responding appropriately – that one should never open the kiln before it completely cooled, or guess what – stuff would break. Well, I had peaked into a still warm kiln before and gotten away with it. Not this time. But then this “bad listener” failure is close related to another failing. Bad hearing,
My ears work as well as any other 55 year old ears, but they have, for as long as I can remember, hear only what I want to hear. My Sweet Lord, I could right a whole book about this subject. I’m reminded of a Paul Simon lyric: “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” A thousand voices can tell me something is bad, or wrong, or harmful, or stupid, or damning, but all too often I hear that one little voice that says, “naaa, don’t listen to them (or that). It’s Okay. Go ahead. It’ll be alright. You’ll have fun. No big deal.” Too often that’s the voice I heed. The one that tells me exactly what I want to hear. Almost everytime what ever “it” is that the one voice encourages me to engage in, ends badly, or at least not nearly as well as it would have had I listened to the chorus of voices telling me what I didnt want to hear.
There’s no better example of this than politics, and this is the political season. And again. MY SWEET LORD, on this, at least, I am not alone in my “hearing what I want to hear” in October of election years. And be clear there’s no shortage of cookie-cutter candidates telling me, and others, what I, we, want to hear. Sadly, almost comically, when these issues are discussed among friends, particularly friends who will likely vote differently, it becomes clear, quickly, that all of us are just hearing what we want to hear and disregarding the rest. It also becomes very clear, quickly, that we are all most concerned with being heard rather than hearing….and…..that we are all more concerned with ourselves than others. Oh some may fancy their politics more altruistic than others. You know, those on the left, care more about the poor and disenfranchised than do those on the right….or say they say.. And those on the right, they say the same thing. They too, want everyone to be prosperous and happy like they are….or aren’t. We all agree that we want everyone to arrive at the same place, or at least we say we do, we just disagree on how this should be achieved, and guess what? We all hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest. And the idiots that think differntly than I do…well there problem is that they’re all just vomiting forth talking points of the candidates they like, unlike my well-reasoned vomitous talking points which I am parroting. I’m telling ya. It tries my patience. Which leads me to another of my failings. Patience.
In a word, or three, I have none, Patience, that is. Perhaps this is the greatest of my many failings, and there are many. I’m a poor dancer, I procrastinate on a lot of things. I’m constantly battling my weight. I seem to make poor automobile choices. I don’t pick up after myself very well (Frankly, I don’t consider this too much of a failing, but since my wife points it out ALL THE TIME it must be). I’m sort of clumsy. There are more I could mention, but my failing that causes me the most anxiety, pain, discomfort and trouble is without question, my lack of patience.
If I text or call one of my daughters…well they’ve got an hour to respond before I start wondering if they’re alright. If two hours go by, I’m certain they’re having relationship problems. If three hours go by, they must be stranded. If it goes any longer than that, well then images of dead girls in ditches, plane crashes, and all sorts of INSANE images start running through my mind. Seriously. I start texting boyfriends and calling local hospitals. Clearly, I should stop watching Dexter re-runs. I’ve lost way too much sleep over unanswered texts. (I do hope the girls read this and will alter their behavior and have their cell phones with them, fully charged and not on silent, all the time….every single second of every day and night!)
If there’s a problem, I want it fixed….now….dammit. If I find an unsightly mole on my back at 7 O’ Clock on a Friday night, there better be an urgent treatment center available with a doctor – not some under trained Nurse Practitioner or Physician’s Assistant – that can assure me it’s not Melanoma (that really happened.) If my car blows a head gasket, I better get another one the same day. (That really happened) If my dogs eats a peach pit, he better throw it up right away, or I’ll lose my mind for fear that he’ll have a bowel obstruction. I’ll either spend $500 dollars at the all night emergency Vet clinic, who’ll give him a vial of $1 medicine, or I’ll have to follow him around breaking up his poo for a few days until I know the pit has passed. (That really happened too.)
Anyhow, it’s late now, and I must get a few more hours sleep. It’s become clear over the course of this writing that I have some serious work to do. I’m gonna give up on some things. Politics, UK Football, becoming a good dancer….well there’s really no hope with any of these I’m afraid. I’ll leave these to future generations and incarnations of myself. I’m not sure about the texting thing with the girls. I might be able to do something about that. (I know they could) I probably can pick up after myself a bit better. I can at least try to be a better listener. But I know I can – and will – be d&@* sure not to open the kiln til it’s completely cool.