Authority: You’re Not The Boss Of Me (ABC Wednesday, 1/15/14)

A is for Authority

Let me tell you about this stupid thing I do.

When I’m driving at night, if a car coming from the opposite direction has its brights on, I stare intensely into that bright light, destroying my night vision even more than the light already was. Unless I remind myself that this is stupid, I glare into those rude fucking high beams until they’re past.

I used to do this without really being conscious of it, but some time in my twenties, I realized what I was doing. I was fighting the cars for dominance, staring into their eyes, refusing to look away and show weakness.

Of course, the cars — and their drivers — neither knew nor cared that I was clearly the alpha in the situation, and I was only hurting myself. I still catch myself doing this sometimes and it usually cracks me up.

An old friend of mine used to call me on the phone (an endeavor which, historically, already has a statistically insignificant chance of success), and when he reached the answering machine — which I did monitor — he would  loudly bark “Tim, pick up!” And my gut response, even if I was standing right by the phone, even if I wanted or needed to talk to him, was NO. Sometimes I would push that reaction away and answer the call. Sometimes I wouldn’t.

Again, I ultimately realized what I was doing, and I told my friend to change his approach, that he had a much better chance of reaching me with a calm “Tim, are you there?” than with a brisk command.

I don’t like being told what to do. I have what is often called “issues with authority.” Though I am willing to humbly and gracefully follow the guidance of someone trying to teach me something or guide me in doing a job, it’s my natural tendency to see us both as equals. I’ll honor hierarchy as much as I need to for practical reasons and no more. If you’re in a position of authority over me, I respect you no more than I do someone in a position under me. I respect you both, until someone earns my disrespect. Once that happens, it’s tough to get back on my good side.

I respect the authority of someone who knows things that I do not. I respect the authority of someone in a leadership position who is ostensibly the boss of me as long as they treat me with respect and make decisions that serve our shared goals.

Years ago, my commander in the Army told me pointblank that I had to respect him because of the bars on his collar. I told him that wasn’t going to happen, that the respect I showed him would be entirely based on the actions of the man inside the uniform.

My First Sergeant, who liked and respected me (and wound up running interference between me and the commander), once said, “Byrd, you’re a damn good soldier except for one thing. When you’re given an order, you think about it, which you’re not supposed to do. And even worse, if you don’t like the order, you ignore it.”

“You’re not the boss of me” could go on my coat of arms as a personal motto. I even used a variation on a bumper sticker I had custom-made to put on my truck when G.W. Bush was [allegedly] president: “You’re not the president of me.”

All of this comes from an essential, primal, animal place in me. I’m mostly self-guided, and I don’t have much will to power. It’s not that I want to be Alpha, it’s that I refuse to be Beta. Sometimes, in gracelessly-run organizations, this can lead to me being Omega, and even banished from the pack.

This is why I tend to run alone.

Α

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter B. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

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The Nature of Apology

I’ve been thinking, of late, about apologies.

Saying “I’m sorry” is an act of humility, and of strength. But it can also just be a tool used, insincerely, to alleviate conflict and evade direct responsibility for one’s actions.

Interestingly, this week I had someone pull out an apology I had made to them months ago and try to use it as a bludgeon against me. She pointed to the fact that I had apologized to her, for whatever part I had in the collapse of our friendship, as proof that I was not only fully at fault but downright malicious. That’s right: by apologizing, I had apparently admitted to complete culpability and that culpability proves that I’m a vicious bastard.

Had I not apologized for anything, like her, I’d presumably have the high ground. I’d be free of all guilt. I’d be the victim.

For the record, if I sat down with you and tried to tell you what the hell happened, what I did that was worth throwing a friendship away for, I couldn’t do it. I’m as perplexed now as I was then. And ultimately it doesn’t matter, because clearly a friendship so cagey and fragile is no friendship at all, and its demise is to be celebrated, not mourned.

She was the one who turned hostile. She was the one who literally refused to discuss whatever was happening. She was the one who responded to my apology by blocking me on Facebook. She was the one who then wrote a lengthy blog post that wasn’t about me, but in which she defined herself by listing things she doesn’t like, which happened to be things I like (pulp fiction, comics, Bruce Springsteen) which she had apparently been pretending interest in to get close to me for months.

So, if I say I’m not sure what I did to enrage her so much, and that she acted with such unreasoning hostility, why did I apologize in the first place? Continue reading

“Wild Soul – Nature, Civilization, and the Ecological Spirit” (Now Available, Just 99¢)

 

JUST 99¢!!!

My essay “WILD SOUL – Nature, Civilization, and the Ecological Spiritis now available from Amazon as a Kindle download for 99 cents.

In the near future, it will be going up at other online venues, in other ebook formats. (If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read Kindle books with free programs downloadable from Amazon, like Kindle for PC. I read Kindle books on my iPhone and desktop computer.)

Traditional tales across the world describe mankind’s joyful rise in a wild paradise like the Garden of Eden. But they also tell of our fall from such lives of bliss and natural grace.

Our technology, our cities, our toys, our wealth, all have done nothing to ground us as individuals or as societies. If they had, we would live in a near Utopia, rather than the reelingly chaotic and violent world-on-the-brink around us, for surely our affluence and level of comfort is greater than it has been for any people in the history of the earth.

Is Eden forever lost, or is there a way back?

Can we access that marvelous, mythic place in our souls, find a path to its joyful, natural wonders? Or have we slumbered so long in civilized ways that our vital selves are banished for the rest of time?

Can we reclaim the power of the primitive without denying ourselves the comforts and wonders of the modern world?

Exploring sources ranging from the Old Testament and Eastern mysticism, from poetry to popular fiction, from ancient fable to contemporary deep psychology, novelist Tim Byrd finds the prescription for our ills.

We need to live and love more fully, and do things that matter.

We need a renewal of a sense of sacredness towards the natural world, and intimacy with that world.

We need wild soul.

Writing & Those Moods You’re Having

Start writing more. It’ll get rid of all those moods you’re having.
–Ray Bradbury

I used to have this quote on a sticky note stuck to my computer monitor, and it has never lost its wise charm for me. Bradbury is absolutely right: the act of writing, itself, is a great balm for heart and soul, and the gods all know by now I need that balm, these days more than ever.

I’m never happier or healthier than when I’m into a writing project full-tilt, over my head, spilling over. This isn’t to say that the writing is always enjoyable, because often it’s anything but. But the intense application of self  produces satisfaction and engages the brain in wonderful ways and an act of pure creation is a soulful thing.

Writing something can be hard work, but the hardest part is beginning. Oh, and keeping at it. Yes, those are the hardest parts, along with ending it. Other than that, it’s all a breeze. Continue reading

Life on the Road

When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.

When I decided to read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, I had no idea I was going to be exploring the landscape of my own soul.

Before I continue, rest assured I’m not going to spoil the book for you. I don’t do that. The quotes I use are from the first few pages. Also, be warned that there’s a movie coming soon, so if you’re like me and prefer to get to a book before the movie comes along and plants all the images in your head, you should read this soon if you’re so inclined.

The novel tells the story of a man and his son, wandering an ashen post-apocalyptic America, scratching to survive. It is not an adventure story, not in the sense that an adventure story is meant to excite the reader, to offer escape. It is not Mad Max.

What it is, is a harrowing vision of living even when there seems to be no reason to live. Living in a world that no longer gives sustenance, a world without sunlight, a world that breaks the body and the heart and the soul every minute of every hour of every day.

The man takes his son onward through this barren, wasted world, mostly alone. Their moments of victory are petty and rare, a dusty sackful of mummified apples, a cup of fresh water, a warm blanket. They live lives without hope or comfort. They yearn for death. But they keep going.

Why?

Then he just sat there holding the binoculars and watching the ashen daylight congeal over the land. He knew only that the child was his warrant. He said: If he is not the word of God God never spoke.

The boy. The man stays alive for his son. His son stays alive because his father stays alive for him. They’re in Hell. They have no hope. They have each other. It’s stark and real and painful, in no way sentimental. It’s true.

He watched the boy and he looked out through the trees toward the road. This was not a safe place. They could be seen from the road now it was day. The boy turned in the blankets. Then he opened his eyes. Hi, Papa, he said.

I’m right here.

I know.

This is my life.