Thursday, 10 April 2008

Its all a question of context

My colleague who has the desk next to me at work has this fairly amusing calender. Every day I actually look forward to the mini chuckle that I get when she rips off the page to see what funny words of wisdom or quotes are today's.

Today's one really caught my eye:

"Part of growing up is learning how to control one's impulses."

Not very funny huh? Quite true words. And yes, its also part of being a grown up too; not just something which we learn and master as a child, but rather something that is on-going for a lot of us.

And then I saw who had said these words: Hilary Clinton. Ok, fair enough. Still not amusing. But the context in which she said it was when she was introducing her husband before he did a speech. A little amusing Freudian slip perhaps. And brings a small smile.

But there's another, more serious context to this quote. The place where it was said: the speech was to be held at a meeting to discuss gun control. To me, at least, that puts yet another spin on the quote. And a less amusing one when I think of children and guns and impulses.

So context. A noun meaning:

1. The part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.
2. The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting.

(And yes, its a strange process I guess, seeing how my mind jumps from thought to thought. )

To me, this isn't just about taking a sentence and taking it out of its direct surroundings and being able to apply a different meaning to it.

I have been guilty of it many times, as we all are. Of not taking that step back to see all of the layers wrapped around a sentence, a picture, a scene or scenario, a reaction, a thought, a behaviour, a feeling. To gain the full perspective and to truly appreciate the context of something is often to understand something very deep and fundamental about a person.

And about yourself.

Maybe controlling one's impulses is one way which helps us to be able to take that step back and look at the full context.

Shame that I didn't learn that whilst growing up. It maybe would have made some aspects of my life easier.

And...when you take something which is actually out of context and react impulsively - I term that as being judgemental. Not a nice trait. Again, we are all guilty of it from time to time, even those of us who do our best not to be.

Why is it that we can look at a piece of typical abstract art...something which is totally and utterly outside of any contextual boundary...and discuss it and try to make sense of it? It is so far outside of our normal comprehension that we can agree to disagree with others as to what it means. We are more able to accept that what we see may not actually be what is portrayed. other situations, in more important ones, ones which actually touch us and affect us deeply, we're too busy reacting or defending to take a step back, take a deep breath and actually *look* at what is going on. And so we miss the whole context. And with it, we miss so much. Imagine being blinkered your whole life. You might see a petal, a leaf, a bit of bark. And you can have an emotional reaction to this, but you'll never see the whole bush bursting with flowers, or the fields surrounding it. And maybe whilst you were blinkered, you just focused on the thorn.

This happens inside of ourselves, this happens within our relationships and families. This happens at work. It happens when we read a sensationalist headline. It happens when we agree to let our governments invade other countries. And yes, passivity is in the same league as agreeing.

I don't ever say that I have a message to impart, or an answer to give. I just write and think and write and ponder and write. And a lot of it is about trying to work out the answers for myself. :)

But what I think...these blinkers and reactions - they're like safety nets, a kind of perverse comfort blanket. Because we can feel proud of ourselves if we make that step from focusing on the thorn to looking at the petal. Its a positive step. We can pat ourselves on the back. We work then so hard at looking at this petal from all angles...the shape, the texture, the size, the hues. One would then think that we would become braver - look a little around the petal to see what else is there. Gradually expanding our view. And some people do this. And we admire them. But why don't all that many of us do it ourselves?

Because we are petrified that should we look up, that the view might be so breath-taking, or so ravaged; that maybe there is a whole field of stunning flowers where we had just seen the petal of one...or that this petal was the only petal left on the last flower in the midst of a ravaged landscape.

And we are scared of what would then come next. Because after looking up and taking in what is really there, what really is the full context....we could never again lower our heads.


Banjac Serevi said...

Well you were right - it is some post....
Struggling to put it in shot...
I am out on the razz tonight but will ponder over the weekend...must be able to think of something sensible to something as excellent as this..



Poppy said...

You really are so sweet to me and so encouraging - thank you Banj.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate you cheering me on from the sidelines :)

Anonymous said...

Another great post Miss Poppins as always. Its funny how control so affects everything in our lives. Yet, I wonder if we were always in control are we really living life? I feel that is especially true in regards to love and relationships(sl and rl).