What will you do with your one wild and precious life? - Mary Oliver

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Walking Through Plastic Flowers

a garden of plastic flowers
While visiting a friend, I noted that there was nothing in her apartment that was hand made. No quilts, no artwork, no jewelry pieces, nothing. Perhaps there was something out of sight that was not made by a machine, but I did not detect anything. This person is a very kind and courteous person ... they just do not care for superfluous clutter, even if that means throwing away family heirlooms and photographs. "Too many things to dust," she remarked.

On one hand, I admire her resolve to simplify her life. One the other hand, the apartment lacked a certain warmth. I felt as if I was in a hospital room. What is it about us and our basic materialistic selves that we all view different things as being important, pretty, meaningful? 

Could be that my friend spends so much of her time volunteering and serving others that she has no time to devote to thinking about her nest. Could be she is very happy to have an austere nest, and is content without all the "stuff" most of us think we need. She has no real plants or flowers, only plastic ivy and silk begonias decorating her living room. No watering worries. No dying plants. 

While I was uncomfortable in what I saw as a sterile environment, she was very at home in her "clean" environment. We all see things differently. People are fascinating creatures. 

And there, my friends, is where story material comes in. Create a character in a make-believe world that is very different from your own. Get inside that character's mind. Become that character for an hour. Or fifteen minutes if you can stand it. Refrain from judgement and try viewing things from the perspective of this fictional person. As this character, what is important to you? What gives you peace? What causes stress and discomfort?

When we try to understand another's perspective, we begin to understand what tolerance means. We expect others to tolerate us and our beliefs and idiosyncratic views; why can't we tolerate theirs?