I love my backyard trees. Used to be I only had one huge one. Its actually taller than the house (I live in a two-story). But I eventually added two more trees in the backyard, from branches that had been removed from this same tree. It was a foolhardy thought – I have never grown a tree before, but apparently it worked, because I now have three trees. Anyways, I love my trees. They are the best barometers for the seasons that I have. In the Summer, when they start wilting from heat distress, I know that I need to change the water system to a longer time period to help out. In the Fall, when the change to Winter is about to happen, they will lose ALL of their leaves over a three-day period. Not that I enjoy raking up the result, but it tells me its time to winterize the watering system, and prepare the yard for the Winter. In the Spring, I know that Winter is over when the leaves start to bloom. That happened the day before yesterday. Thus, I know that Spring has arrived here in North DFW.
I was only really aware of this connection between the seasons and my backyard tree at around five years ago. Five years of observations have confirmed a lot of my thoughts on the cyclical nature of the Seasons and how to tell when one ends and another starts. The calendar is no help there, its happened on various points of the calendar year. Nor have the cycles of the moon phases been helpful either. But, keeping an eye on my three friends of Nature…I have managed to step into each phase in the right frame of my mind. So interesting to “see” all these connections with the world around me.
You can also watch similar cycles happen in an “un-natural” environment such as the internet. I am not going to argue the point of natural vs. “un” natural – though that can certainly be the result of a future post for my thoughts. But there is a cycle to some of the behaviors that one sees, particularly in the social online forums. As things begin to settle down, an incident, post or statement will allow folks the opportunity to come out and bash against the perspective of the individual making the statement. The reasoning and the topic is immaterial. The resulting behavior will happen. Then the “defenders of the faith” will step forward to offer counter-points or throw in some very offensive behavior to drive away or snuff out the statements of the original dissenters. And slowly (sometimes very quickly), what was a simple statement of belief evolves into a flame war filled with hateful statements and insults.
Now, I am not saying that every single conversation on every single social platform will result in this type of behavior. In fact, I would posit that most people that utilize a social platform will roll their eyes at such behavior and move on without a response. But there are those that are wanting to wade into the fight, merely to fight. And before anyone makes the statement, let me add the following… My observations are not on any single individual out there – in fact, I would say that less than ten percent of the people I have observed exhibit this kind of behavior. And of that ten percent, I can name one right off the bat: ME.
That’s right. I am naming myself as being a part of the ol’ Troll brigade. In fact, anyone who remembers me from the ol’ BBS days, is well aware of my ardent behavior in “discussions” (and I am being kind here) of all types and flavors. Over the past two years, I have been attempting to work myself to a far better plan of discussion behavior, particularly where social platforms are concerned. My preferred way of operating is to make my point, restate or refine it if necessary in response to someone, and then let everything drop afterwards – particularly if the discussion begins to descend into the maelstrom of an argument. And over that year, I have come to understand that what one person considers to be “discussion” another may construe to be “argument”. Which makes the time to remain or dislodge one’s self from such moments a matter of personal choice.
Where does the blame lie for all of this? Why have we become such a changed world-wide society, where we argue at the drop of a hat, but barely seek out a discussion of the topic to locate the common-ground to work from? There are many theories as to why. I have my own. The anonymity of internet communications, the lack of news reporting in today’s modern media, the desire of the average news consumer to be entertained rather than informed (and thus the birth of the Infotainment format). And in many ways, changing any part of those aspects will remove the freedoms we cherish within our current political environment. The fix, in my way of thinking, is to attempt to change the way in which we communicate. To change the way we deal with the communicative techniques presented to us by others.
For instance, and again I am using myself as the example here, on Facebook I had taken to marking people’s political postings as “spam”. As someone who thoroughly dislikes the stupidity of the political memes, I thought it appropriate to do so. This past week, I made a status post thanking people for posting their politics so that I could mute the place that the posting came from, and then mark the post as spam. Several people came back with angry retorts (see above notation about angry retorts). However, one friend contacted me privately and explained to me in a reasoned, calm (if you can truly get “tone” from a writing) perspective of why she felt this was a wrong way for me to deal with such postings. She did not come at me about the possibility of someone getting a banned account over the spam markings (it takes a LOT more than just a single individual marking posts as spam to get an account banned on Facebook). She noted that the folks had a freedom of expression to make their points. That merely marking the posts as “Annoying” (another option on Facebook) would be far more appropriate. The difference here was that she didn’t come at me like I was a criminal for handling this in a manner that she did not agree with. Instead, she came to me in a composed, reasoned, adult manner and explained why my actions were wrong. No angry. No disrespect. No finger-pointing or name-calling. And most interestingly, she did so privately. When I asked why, she reminded me of a conversation we had back when we were both in the Air Force together – she was my subordinate at the time.
Me: ….a piece of advice for you.
She: Yes, sir.
Me: Praise your subordinates publicly, but never ever scold them that way. Always handle bad behavior behind a closed door, and in a calm voice. You will get far better results. Treat your subordinates as the adults that they are, and they will respond far better than if you treat them as bad children.
And she was absolutely correct. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded of what is appropriate and what is not. And the delivery of that message, can mean the difference between getting results, and getting ignored. There’s that connection stuff again…I really can’t thank Emma Restall Orr enough for writing her book “The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature“. Its been a big part of getting me to change not only my way of thinking, but also my way of behaving.