“Too busy,” he repeats. But I hear the tiniest break between the two words. He is listening to me.
“Never mind,” I say. I take one step back from the table.
“Hold on,” he says. “I happen to want something from the outside. I’ll take it as payment if you can get it.”
from All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
written by Leslie Connor
Kathrine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2016
“What do you want?” was a question put to me many years ago. “What do you mean?” was my pathetic answer. I really didn’t understand the question. I have since learned that it is not only okay to want (non-material and material) stuff, it is totally necessary to know my “wants” in order to create a definition of my Self. Only then can I turn my wants and needs into actionable goals. I can prioritize my lists accordingly.
Making decisions based solely on what I want, though, is usually self-serving. And deciding on something solely to please others is usually self-defeating.
Seems like everyone is born somewhere on the stiffer/caver spectrum. Some people are stiff: stubborn, unyielding. Some people cave in to the wishes of others without a second thought. Neither extreme is particularly useful to individuals or societies.
We, as individuals and as a society, need a middle ground. We need to consider others without losing ourselves. We need to learn to compromise.
A compromise is a situation in which people accept something slightly different from what they really want, because they are considering the wishes of other people [to achieve a greater good.] www.collinsdictionary.com (bracketed words are mine)
Compromise is art. It is recognizing that even though an observation may have been made correctly, sometimes “right” is not “good.” And most of the time several definitions of “right” exist side by side, anyway.
Our very definition of compromise is giving up something to get something better. Instead of adversaries grasping a perceived “rightness,” compromisers become partners for the greater good.
And the question remains: How to consider the needs of others without being consumed by their otherness.
And how on earth can our leaders make a compromise that keeps us safe without incurring the wrath of one group or another? A wrath born of fear and hatred and fomented to a frenzy with lies, but a wrath nonetheless.
And of course a particular wall is on my mind. Who really wants that wall? Is is merely a “want” or is it a true “need”?
In “Mending Wall” Robert Frost’s narrator declares:
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in [my neighbor’s] head:
"Why do [walls] make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence. (sic)
So do cows mean “danger”? Because they are “other”? Because they will eat my grass and stomp all over my fields?
According to Frost’s narrator, building walls is
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours.”
Certainly, the United States is a sovereign nation whose borders must be protected from criminals and those who do harm one way or another. Our government has the obligation to keep us safe. But not all pines are prickly and not all apples are wholesome.
There are many ways to accomplish this safety. We have all heard what they are.
Before we allow our leader to take drastic steps to make his dream come true, we need to encourage him to build a bridge to compromise. I fear this will be a very long process, if it will even happen at all.
There is no shame in admitting a mistake and correcting it. The shame comes in declaring that no mistake, misjudgment, manipulation of facts was made in the first place.
Back to Robert Frost.
[My neighbor] moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours.”
I tend to agree with Frost's narrator who says, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”
-—stay curious! (and compassionate)