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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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lessons

So, history keeps repeating itself……

…….and the theory behind the repetition of events and actions is this – until you learn the lesson, you will continually find yourself inside it.  This is speaking directly to one’s personal life, of course – relationships that don’t work out, jobs that don’t suit, etc.  But until you identify and change one small thing, you will continue to find yourself in those very situations that you rail against and want to break free of.

And it’s not easy – it requires conscious decision making and discipline to carry it through.  This applies to your own life as well as to the collective world at large.  Change is hard, to begin with, but we are constantly changing from the time we are born.  Surely, conscious change can not only be incorporated into one’s life, but embraced as a positive.

I am thinking of bigger issues than relationships, of course, but they are so huge, I’m not sure I could fit it into one blog post.  It could take up several.  And there so many issues to tackle, that I’m even less sure of where to begin.  And change is frightening to a lot of people – so much so, that they’d rather stagnate than make any real positive efforts to experience something that is outside their comfort zone.

And there it is – comfort zones and change don’t mix.  In order to get out of the comfort zone, you have to open up and change – a perspective, a piece of knowledge, a diet.  Regardless of how concrete the action to change is, the end result is a relative unknown.  The unknown can be acceptance or rejection, whether it’s an idea, a person or a philosophy.  It’s not so much the end result that incites fear – it’s the unknown reaction to that result.

From personal decisions to global ones, the unknown result from an act of change (no matter how positive or good that change can be) is fear.  Where do we belong?  Do we belong?  Am I not a part of this world?  What can I do to be relevant to others?  How can I be a better human being in this world?  What can I bring to the table?

It’s questions like that which define us.  It’s how we answer them that will either elevate or condemn us.

Something to think about.

 

“Some people think the future means the end of history.  Well…We haven’t run out of history quite yet.  Your father called the future…the undiscovered country.  People can be very frightened of change.”
Captain James T. Kirk, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

So, last night, I went to see and hear Gloria Steinem speak……

……..and it was thrilling. An icon for equal rights and the feminist movement for more than forty years, she has lost none of her passion. Her wit and gracious humor and sharp insights into the last few months brought cheers, applause, tears and laughs.

It was an honor to meet her over the book signing shortly afterwards. Her warmth and down-to-earth presence averted any awkwardness I might have felt in engaging with her. I even got to make her laugh over a comment I made, referring to my Ancient Greek comedy.

It was an evening that took root a few weeks ago, when I saw the event listed and it sparked my interest. It was enlightening, encouraging and hopeful. I ran into people that I knew and met others, of whom I hope to get to know better.

In the last few months, I’ve felt like history had been doubling back on itself, repeating the same patterns and events with new names and different faces. From the Dakota Access Pipeline to the attempt to undo civil rights for women and people of color, it is clear to me that we, as Americans, do not remember our history. As an amateur historian, it’s frustrating and surreal and makes me more determined than ever to keep learning history.

We can’t change the past. Going backwards gets us nowhere. As frightening and uncertain as the future is, we have to keep moving forward. If we remember the lessons of the past, we can affect and alter the future.

The goal is for the benefit of everyone, not a select few.

The theater marquee where I attended the lecture.
The theater marquee where I attended the lecture.

So, I’ve been pondering the word ‘can’t’……

…….and it is the most limiting thing to say, either to yourself or to someone else. ‘Can’t’ implies that you are not capable – of changing a tire, of getting a degree, of looking at situations in a different light. ‘Can’t’ implies that you are stuck forever in whatever circumstance you find yourself in. ‘Can’t’ implies that you are victim not of your own making and absolves you of the responsibility for changing it.

One can certainly say, “I can’t practice medicine because I don’t have the required education or degrees” or “I can’t inspect buildings to make sure they’re built to code because I’m not licensed to do so”. Fair enough. Those are legitimate ‘can’ts’ and can apply to areas that require one to be licensed or have a degree in order to find work in those fields.

So then the phrase becomes “I want to….” not, “I can’t do….”.

Let’s take masonry inspector, for example. I actually studied this for awhile and still have the books. I wasn’t particularly interested in becoming a masonry inspector, but it sounded like something I could do and since I didn’t have any real drive to pursue anything else, I chose to explore this as a possible career choice.

I didn’t fare so well – the architectural plan reading wasn’t easy and that’s an important part of being an inspector. You need to be able to decipher the lines on those plans – where the pipes are, what type of re-bar goes where, etc., otherwise, you end up with a building that’s not only lopsided, but unsafe and frankly, I want every building or structure that people live or work in to be safe.

It was a good lesson to learn, taking that class and paying for the books. Yes, it cost me the tuition fees and the books, but I feel that the investment was worth it, regardless of the outcome. Sometimes, that’s how it works – you invest some time and effort to see if it’s what you want for yourself. That’s always the best reason to do anything – exploring possible paths to better yourself, your circumstances, your life, your mind.

However, the only way to take that first step of exploration – of any positive change – is to say to yourself “I can do that.” Curiosity, desire, that insatiable want to see beyond the curve in the path, is what keeps you pushing forward.

“I can’t…..” locks you into a treadmill of fear and insecurity.

“I can…..” opens you up to every possibility.

As Henry Ford (1863-1937) once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

Wouldn’t you rather be right knowing you can?

 

Recommended*:
My Life and Work by Henry Ford
How to Stop Worrying & Start Living by Dale Carnegie
Around the World in 72 Days & Other Writings by Nellie Bly

*to be updated with related material.

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