Friday, June 02, 2006

On platitudes

Pretty Lady has spent the last couple of days feeling vaguely creeped out. She got into an Esoteric Wrangle with a gentleman she knows slightly. Usually, Pretty Lady thrives on Esoteric Wrangles; in fact, these are some of the major joys of her existence. But not this one; not this time. She feels, though, that perhaps she has learned a profound lesson about Not Going There.

This particular gentleman is a friend of a friend, who was introduced to Pretty Lady back in January. After piecing together the psychodynamics of the situation, Pretty Lady concludes that what actually happened was that this gentleman had an unrequited interest in her friend, and the friend tried to scrape him off on Pretty Lady. Being just slightly too young to understand what a bad idea this generally is.

At any rate, in the beginning, Pretty Lady took the gentleman at face value; a shiny-eyed, 'spiritual' martial artist with a strong predilection for intellectual metaphysics. Just her type, in fact. The two of them got into a rousing debate on the relative historical staying power of Christianity and Judaism, with side forays into the different methodologies of pranic healing, and the karmic psychomechanics of random assault. Fun, fun.

Pretty Lady casually bestowed her card upon this fascinating man, and prudently awaited a phone call, which did not materialize. Ah, well. Philosophically, she moved him into her 'friends and acquaintances' file.

After one dinner party and a couple of emails, however, even the acquaintanceship foundered. When Pretty Lady bothered to remember it, she was mildly irritated to note that even though this man purported to be interested in fostering 'community,' and lived a bare few blocks away, he could not be troubled to RSVP her open house invitation. This, in Pretty Lady's book, crosses the line from 'not interested' to 'needlessly rude.' She prepared to delete him from her address book.

Then, out of the blue, she received an email, sent from him to his entire acquaintanceship. It read, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." --Mahatma Gandhi.

This was too much.

Pretty Lady has been thinking, in latter days, about the fact that it drives her quietly bonkers when people bombard her with spiritual platitudes. Usually, her instinct is to smile, nod, and say, "Of course Love is all there is. Of course Jesus Saves. Of course we need to Be the Change we'd like to See in the World. Absolutely. No question. You go, there. Whoopee."

But truthfully, she doesn't FEEL particularly loved when some stranger tells her earnestly that Love is All There Is. She feels as though they haven't taken the time or trouble to get to know her; she feels as though they're firing clichés in her general direction, in order to prove what a Holy Person they are. And when she smiles and nods her head, it is with a certain contempt, and resignation that no real connection has, or will be, achieved.

So when she received this cavalier note, for once she decided to BE the change she'd like to see in the world. She decided to say what she really thinks about this sending forth of indiscriminate spiritual platitudes, and sent the gentleman a paraphrase of the three paragraphs above.

He responded, 'LOL! i am very happy that you chose truth and honesty above social mores.'

Would that it had ended there.

But no. Pretty Lady, in her eternal optimism, made the mistake of attempting to engage further. She replied with a thoughtful note on the characteristics of a Spiritual Master, such as Jesus Christ. She propounded the notion that a true master Pays Attention, and Listens, and Knows All, so that whomever he is interacting with, he will say the precise thing to unlock that person's individual loving consciousness, no matter how bizarre that statement may sound to others.

In any case, what he says will almost never be a platitude.

Well. The gentleman, evidently aspiring to Masterhood, send Pretty Lady a ream of the most abstract, clichéd, inappropriate, disconnected spiritual rubbish she's ever been privy to. She will not reproduce either the rubbish, or her insouciant reply, in this context. It was nobody's finest moment.

However, what chiefly struck Pretty Lady was the total absence of personality or feeling in the gentleman's reply. It was as though he were channelling abstract verbiage from a Higher Being from Alpha Centauri, with only a tenuous grasp upon the English language. One wondered how, or why, he'd managed to write it at all.

So, in her reply, Pretty Lady joshingly attempted to get him to be a little human. She asked, in effect, "Is there anybody in there?"

He answered, "No."

Let us leave, for today, any discussion of why Pretty Lady was wasting one second of her time on this self-avowed shell of a human being. That is between Pretty Lady, her closest friends, and her wisest of sisters. She's working on it.

No, regardless of any remaining Aces of Spades on her forehead, Pretty Lady wishes to discuss, in a general way, the fact that it is unbelieveably horrific--mentally and emotionally abusive--to freely discuss Unconditional Love with a person toward whom one's actions are anything but loving.

You see, as M. Scott Peck so astutely puts it, "Love is an action, not a feeling." Love requires time, patience, and above all, attention. Primarily, in Pretty Lady's view, love is about listening; listening in such a way that one is open to changing one's mind about things, if truly convinced by what one hears. It is about giving the other person the credence of an equal.

This is why Love is not a platitude. Platitudes are words flung forth into the void of effort; they are alibis and excuses. When they are cast in the direction of a lady to whom one has failed to RSVP an invitation, they are a studied insult. In effect, such a person is saying, "this is all the love you're entitled to. If you want me to read your blog or attend your party, that's your ego problem."

This is why Pretty Lady has vowed in future to pay closer attention to people in general, but particularly to those who do not talk so bloody much. She realizes that she herself has been guilty of spiritual narcissism, as much as all of us are. But she is past the point of thinking that narcissism in others is her particular cross to bear.

28 comments:

Roland said...

Very insightful.

Jesus said, "Go and do likewise."
If only more of us did, instead of said.
Hard enough to do with my family.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Sperro che non stai parlando della nostra conversatizione sui spiriti gnostichi.

danonymous said...

did Anonymous say "WOuld like to say something, but I can't talk while my mouth is full of gnochi"?
or am I paraphrasing?

prettylady said...

No, Anonymous was just being pretentious and disingenuous at the same time, but that's okay, because Anonymous is my BUD.

As I told Jake earlier today, it's not the words--it's the context, and the source.

hee, hee. Boy, am I lucky to have such good buddies. They're helping me get the slime off my aura.

Roland said...

something about not speaking about gnostic spirits?
My translation stinks.
Oh well.

prettylady said...

Roland, try this.

If you want to be up all night, that is. And Anon, I do apologize, I hadn't realized you'd continued the conversation. We shall have to take it up another day.

thimscool said...

Credo che la parola cercavi era 'presumptious', e non 'pretentious'. Era soltanto una barzelletta, eh allora certo che era insincero. Non ci preoccupiamo.

Che sara, sara. ;)

Anonymous said...

Pretty Lady,
(sigh)... You are so complicated.

Have you heard of the prophecy contained in the Bible? "The Love of many will wax cold." I believe that has happened. Not all people, but many. What we do now won't change this world. Only God can change it by coming back... You can improve your lot in life by caring for people , but you won't change the world. Not anymore. Too many Christless people now.

PL, sometimes you sound like a feel good Christian. and not.

You kind of confused me. But then I am easily confused when it comes to people....

-rlh

prettylady said...

Credo che la parola cercavi era 'presumptious', e non 'pretentious'.

I stand corrected.

(sigh)... You are so complicated.

NO, really?

"The Love of many will wax cold."

How very apt. I must read my Bible more often.

sometimes you sound like a feel good Christian.

Feel-good Christians are anything but complicated, dear. You can't have it both ways. ;-)

rlh said...

Sometimes you sound like it. But you do go WAY beyond the feel gooders, and the name it and claim it. Nevermind, I don;t ever wanna go there.

So, hows life?

Morgan said...

"When they are cast in the direction of a lady to whom one has failed to RSVP an invitation, they are a studied insult. In effect, such a person is saying, "this is all the love you're entitled to. If you want me to read your blog or attend your party, that's your ego problem.""

Or it could mean they are scatterbrained, forgot or had something come up. More people than not *don't* read my blog. I certainly don't think they're not reading it doesn't mean they don't love me. That would be a bit silly.
We live in a busy world, and poor form doesn't necessarily mean a person is horrible, just inconsiderate.
I had a friend once named Derek who would flake out if I didn't respond to his email in a timely manner. He was going through quite a bit (he always was) and was on constant journeys of self-discovery. One week he was going to study for the priesthood, the next week he'd decided he'd become a Wiccan. A week later he was comparing airfare to Alaska because he had a vision that he needed to live a hermit's life to get in touch with himself.
I liked Derek; he was entertaining, but he was exhausting.
He had a hard time understanding that other people may be leading such busy lives that they couldn't write back or come to the ceremony he was preparing to hold to "present" his new hawk. (He was also a falconer, a very quirky falconer whose birds invariably flew away, crushing him.)
If I didn't respond, though, he'd send me these email saying, "I guess you don't have time to talk to me, and I don't care for disloyal people so have a nice life."
I responded to like, three of these over the period of our friendship explaining that I hadn't failed to respond because I didn't care, but because I was busy.
Here's my question, and please don't be angry that I'm asking it. Don't you think it might be a wee bit narcissistic to assume that a person who doesn't visit your blog doesn't love you? Maybe they just don't have time.
I feel I can ask you this because I *do* love you, and it makes me worry that you draw such assumptions.

rlh said...

Alright, I am now starting to get a complex. I don't understand any of this. I thought I did, but Morgan just drove me deeper into the mud. I am completely lost. Bye Bye

Morgan said...

I'm not trying to confuse anyone, rlh. It's just that things are what they are, and sometimes the stories we tell ourselves about the people who slight us might not be completely true.

The Pretty Lady admits that this guy sent the email about love to everyone on his list. Now, I could understand her focus on the irony if he'd just sent it to her. But she was in his address book, so it's not like he was trying to send her and her alone a message. He was just musing to his list of friends, lovers and marginal acquaintances. Pretty Lady was apparently in the marginal acquaintance list and she didn't care for that after a.) not getting a callback and b.) not having him attend her opening.
But the sad fact is that sometimes people - even people who have us in their address book - aren't interested in us personally.
This guy probably had his own reasons, and while it may have hurt her pride, it does *not* make him a bad person incapable of love.

rlh said...

Ican admit one thing. My little brain still doesn't grasp it. To me it's silly.

prettylady said...

But the sad fact is that sometimes people - even people who have us in their address book - aren't interested in us personally.
This guy probably had his own reasons, and while it may have hurt her pride, it does *not* make him a bad person incapable of love.


Of course this fellow was not interested in me, personally, dear Morgan. Of course this does not make him a bad person. You will note that I was not drawing the second conclusion from the first; nor was I coming out and calling him a bad person.

No, my point merely was that it goes beyond tactless to send a ream of speculation on the nature of 'unconditional love' (which did NOT go to his entire address book, only to privileged little me) to someone with whom one is completely unwilling to engage. He was not responding to anything I had said, done or written, because he paid no attention to any of these things. He was simply using me as a metaphysical Kleenex, and this I believe I have every right to resent.

The Aardvark said...

The only thing worse is when a "spiritual person" sends one a curse.

You know, "If you send this Prayer to fifty people, you will get a Great Blessing. If you delete it, a boulder will fall on your head, like it did to Irving Feemich, fifteen minutes after he deleted it!

The Tao of Ponzi, perhaps?

prettylady said...

Aardvark, you crack me up. Blackmail spam, indeed.

Morgan said...

Pretty Lady, I was going on this:

"Then, out of the blue, she received an email, sent from him to his entire acquaintanceship. It read."

It did sound like he'd sent the intitial comment went to everyone.
I dunno, I just think resenting anyone or anything is a complete waste of time. If someone doesn't attend your opening or visit your blog as you'd hoped and they send you a platitutde, just delete it and move on.

What if he'd called you back? What if he'd come to your opening. What if he'd visited your blog and commented? How would you have responded to his Email 'o Platititudes then? I think it would have been quite differently because the story you told yourself about him would have been better. It would have painted him as a good person all based on how he treated you.

I don't think this is an uncommon reaction. I think we all do this to a certain extent. We get our backs up over something someone does and the next thing you know we're building an unflattering image in our mind of that person based on their interaction with us.
It's not entirely a fair or noble thing to do, and that's all I'm saying.

The Aardvark said...

Hey Morgan!
I dunno...I'm not getting "resentment" from PL, here (unless she actually said "resent" and I missed it in my work-addled state of mind.) Seems that she is just loath to "suffer fools gladly" anymore . Yes?

prettylady said...

We get our backs up over something someone does and the next thing you know we're building an unflattering image in our mind of that person based on their interaction with us.
It's not entirely a fair or noble thing to do, and that's all I'm saying.


Now, Morgan, I can only assume you are playing devil's advocate, here. I have been precisely the sort of person to fall for this line of reasoning in the past--the one who cringed when my spoiled brat of a roommate called me 'selfish' for wishing that she'd occasionally reciprocate when I cooked her a meal, the ex-boyfriend who declared "People just like those who affirm them, and dislike those who don't, and they're all pathetic automatons."

If the gentleman in question HAD engaged as a friend, of course the story would be different, because it would be coming from a different context. There would have been an actual friendship in which to place the conversation, not a random deluge of hogwash from On High. I am not, and never have been saying, that the fellow is a Bad Person because he doesn't like me--I'm saying that spiritual integrity in general has much more to do with actions than with words.

And when someone's actions don't match their words, I have no reason to take those words seriously. I would say the same whether or not it was myself he treated this way. It is lame to treat ANYBODY like that.

Morgan said...

I agree, Pretty Lady, that a person's actions should match their words. But I’m not playing devil’s advocate, just giving you my opinion and I’m hoping that’s still OK between friends.

I agree that people should reciprocate kindness, but in this case you have overreacted by deciding that this man’s lack of response somehow meant that the quote he was somehow spiritually superficial. Forgive me for cringing, but I just can’t help it.

Maybe the guy does want to change and is in the process. You admit that you'd view him differently if he'd given you the attention you'd sought from him, but isn't defining a man's character based solely on how he treated you just a different sort of narcissism?

It's a sad fact that people may not call us back or come see us because there's something about us that puts them off. It doesn't mean *we're* bad people, it just means we aren't someone they want to be around. It may hurt, but we need to realize that we all have freedom of association and if we aren’t getting called back we may need to look at ourselves, not at the other person. If we're sure the problem is with the other person, then why pursue it at all?

The Ghandi quote was sent in a mass email, and made you angry because you'd already decided Not Calling Pretty Lady = Disingenuous and Not Really Spiritual. That's quite a leap. So even though he hadn’t contacted you prior to that, you contacted him. Call me crazy, but if a guy hadn’t called me back and I was sure he was a jerk, I’d just delete the email.

Then to say that if he'd been nice to you, the comments would have been seen differently is a bit...well, bewildering. It just seems wrong - not knowing how this fellow reacts with and to others - that to assume he's vapid based on how he acted with you. Again, sometimes people just don't like us because they don't like us. They don't call us because they don't want to call us. And they don't come over because they don't want to come over. It's not nice to avoid the issue. It's certainly not polite. But it shouldn't warrant such an unforgiving assessment, either. You don't really know this guy.

Just because someone isn't nice to you or me doesn't mean they're not nice to other people. Think back on all the people who may seek our company, but we push them away because we're not interested for our own very good reasons. Yet we still speak of spiritual things. Just because we’re selective about who we let into our lives doesn't mean we don’t care about community or mankind.

So while I love you, Pretty Lady, I think you're way off base on this and made a judgment based not on fact, but on hurt feelings. But that happens and we've all done it so you're far from alone.

Either way, something good came out of it for you. If you don't want to be around people who aren't interested in making themselves available for the privilege then good for you. Who wants someone who's not interested in them anyway.

Morgan said...

I agree, Pretty Lady, that a person's actions should match their words. But I’m not playing devil’s advocate, just giving you my opinion and I’m hoping that’s still OK between friends.

I agree that people should reciprocate kindness, but in this case you have overreacted by deciding that this man’s lack of response somehow meant that the quote he was somehow spiritually superficial. Forgive me for cringing, but I just can’t help it.

Maybe the guy does want to change and is in the process. You admit that you'd view him differently if he'd given you the attention you'd sought from him, but isn't defining a man's character based solely on how he treated you just a different sort of narcissism?

It's a sad fact that people may not call us back or come see us because there's something about us that puts them off. It doesn't mean *we're* bad people, it just means we aren't someone they want to be around. It may hurt, but we need to realize that we all have freedom of association and if we aren’t getting called back we may need to look at ourselves, not at the other person. If we're sure the problem is with the other person, then why pursue it at all?

The Ghandi quote was sent in a mass email, and made you angry because you'd already decided Not Calling Pretty Lady = Disingenuous and Not Really Spiritual. That's quite a leap. So even though he hadn’t contacted you prior to that, you contacted him. Call me crazy, but if a guy hadn’t called me back and I was sure he was a jerk, I’d just delete the email.

Then to say that if he'd been nice to you, the comments would have been seen differently is a bit...well, bewildering. It just seems wrong - not knowing how this fellow reacts with and to others - that to assume he's vapid based on how he acted with you. Again, sometimes people just don't like us because they don't like us. They don't call us because they don't want to call us. And they don't come over because they don't want to come over. It's not nice to avoid the issue. It's certainly not polite. But it shouldn't warrant such an unforgiving assessment, either. You don't really know this guy.

Just because someone isn't nice to you or me doesn't mean they're not nice to other people. Think back on all the people who may seek our company, but we push them away because we're not interested for our own very good reasons. Yet we still speak of spiritual things. Just because we’re selective about who we let into our lives doesn't mean we don’t care about community or mankind.

So while I love you, Pretty Lady, I think you're way off base on this and made a judgment based not on fact, but on hurt feelings. But that happens and we've all done it so you're far from alone.

Either way, something good came out of it for you. If you don't want to be around people who aren't interested in making themselves available for the privilege then good for you. Who wants someone who's not interested in them anyway.

Morgan said...

Sorry for the double post. Blogger has been a bit wonky today.

prettylady said...

Morgan, honey, I get it...I get it...I get it...thanks for your concern...

British National Party member said...

I see what you mean now about the differences inbetween men and women. Not from this guy that you wrote about, but from the vox popoli post that you commented on about books taking you through a crisis.

Not only did you think what you wrote in your post, but you bothered to write it down. It was written interestingly which is why i read it, but at root its.. i was going to say entirely without meaning to me, but thats not entirely true. Its just that a shrug would suffice for me, where i to be in a similar situation. And those social grades you mentioned... again, im just freinds or not. Or i guess to be fair here, i quite like you but were not freinds. Or maybe we are and this is our first exchange (im not meaning to be cute there, just trying to compress you into one of my boxes)

It was a good comment at vox, its a shame some decided to attack you for what was a fairly encouraging comment.

Oh, and i do hope youve got a new place to live.

prettylady said...

Its just that a shrug would suffice for me, where i to be in a similar situation.

Of course it would, dear, and will for me, in future. We all must learn our different wisdoms sometime.

its a shame some decided to attack you for what was a fairly encouraging comment.

Once you get to know the personalities involved, you know not to take it personally. People see what they are looking for.

Oh, and i do hope youve got a new place to live.

Thank you, but I have decided to keep my current quarters. I have an ironclad legal case, should my aggressively-solving-of-the-wrong-problem landlord attempt to get rid of me, but I trust it will not come to that.

Anonymous said...

PL, good form old girl! You were totally in the right, the fellow was a weenie. He was not at all being "selective about who was in his community;" he was fairly frothing at the mouthpart to spew his silliness on whatever receptacle was willing to accept such nonsense without comment.

Email is not exempt from the common manners one expects over the telephone, and had some bore called my home with similar tripe and a similar response to my query, I would have soundly trounced him as well.

Don't you dare start doubting your own sane assessment of tactless behavior. His words remind me of Brat's eruptions on the way to and from that One-Armed Bandit of a Vet you see.

Have a most auspicious afternoon and I quite enjoy your blog.

Alex

prettylady said...

Thank you, my dear Alex! I suspect that we know much the same kinds of people. You strike me as someone who has had to cope with this sort of thing yourself.