BROKEN ARROW is the code word used for an unexpected event involving nuclear weapons in the accidental launching, firing, detonating, theft or loss of weapon. When I heard this term on the radio yesterday, I linked BROKEN ARROW to the accidental emotional launches that happen in my nuclear family life.
As a 51-year-old woman, married since I was 25, and raising twin 17-year-old girls, a BROKEN ARROW can easily be disarming—hopefully not devastating.
There have been thirty-two BROKEN ARROW incidents since 1950. I’ve had many more. However, maybe with more awareness I can launch less frequently. I’m quite certain my nuclear family would appreciate the diplomacy.
Last week I was in South Dakota for a funeral and a wedding. In between those emotional events I found some time to drive back roads with my husband, see the stunning late August countryside and find some much needed quiet. I’m always reminded of how much the prairie landscape resides in my cells, bones and heart.
This landscape gives me clarity, helps me understand my choices and guides me back to my personal True North when I get off course a bit.
South Dakota is my interior geography, no matter where I am in the world.
Recently, I had to draw a compass at Courage Camp in Bristol, Rhode Island. I laughed at myself because the way I still figure out directions is to imagine I’m standing on the front porch of my childhood home. It’s there that I’m most confident in knowing my directions. (photo below)
Standing on the porch I know which direction the sun sets and how to get to Nebraska. With that knowledge, I can find my way most places.
I often think of my intrepid ancestral homesteaders who ventured West, uncertain of what they would find in the Dakota Territories. However, and more importantly, perhaps they knew they could handle whatever the prairie offered them.
I understand that now, at the tender age of 50, in a way I didn’t when I was younger. I don’t know what’s next, but I know I can count on my interior geography to help guide my way.
listening to my AUTHENTIC SELF even when my SOCIAL SELF is screaming at me to act in accordance with societal expectations and not listen to my inner voice.
AUTHENTIC SELF: who I am at my core, the true substance of what makes me uniquely me, how I desire to live in my heart and soul, who I am when no one is watching
SOCIAL SELF: who I am in relation to others, more protected and very concerned about how others see me, often scanning for what’s appropriate in any given situation, ego
When my authentic self and social self are out of whack, things get pretty weird and I can feel like a fraud. I don’t want to feel like a fraud.
However, now that I’ve identified what courage is for me, I’m noticing which voice I’m listening to much more quickly. I think simply noticing is a great first step.
Tonight I asked myself what do I want to understand a little bit better about America? There’s something happening that feels very unique now. Unfamiliar. I paid attention to where my line of inquiry lead me.
First, I GOOGLED: What makes people curious?
“…’Curiosity’ is a discrete psychological trait that varies within human populations just like other personality dimensions such as extroversion/introversion and agreeableness/aggression.”
OK, some people are born curious and others aren’t. Well, that makes a lot of sense, right? Then I started wondering what’s the opposite of curious? Skepticism? No, skepticism plays in the same sandbox as curiosity. Disinterested? Unconcerned? It wasn’t very clear to me in any way.
I asked myself a question—How do I feel when I’m not being curious?
I think I might feel certain.
I make assumptions based on my gut or environmental factors/circumstances.
I don’t feel very curious. I don’t value other people’s ideas. I don’t listen.
So, next I GOOGLED: What makes people certain about things?
“,,,Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of primary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of rationality or reason. Feeling correct or certain isn’t a deliberate conclusion or conscious choice. It is a mental sensation that happens to us…” Source: “ON BEING CERTAIN: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not” by Dr. Robert A. Burton
So, certainty is actually a biological feeling, a mental sensation independent of rationality or reason? We choose certainty because it’s easier?
Damn, that’s really interesting. Now what? CERTAINTY is so polarizing in America (and in my own home with young adult children). It’s a conversation killer. It’s a deal breaker. It keeps organizations from growing. How do we find common ground in our nation now? It’s late—2:53 am—this is way too much for my very tired brain.
I had to further narrow my inquiry.
HOW DO CERTAINTY & CURIOSITY MANIFEST IN MY LIFE?
Curiosity results in greater understanding & builds trust.
Certainty tends to make me rigid & judgmental.
I don’t want to be rigid & judgmental.
I want to be curious.
Whew, that was interesting and pretty exhausting. After many hours and lost sleep, I’ve confirmed that my desire is to be a curious person and that few things in life are so certain that they don’t require some investigation. Life is really funny sometimes.
My husband, Jeff listened to a book about Jim Jones and told me about it—fascinating and horrifying. I needed to know more. Curiosity takes us on interesting journeys, huh? I’m not going to read the book (39 hours of audio). Jeff told me enough to want to know a more. I stumbled upon this information.
I don’t know where all of this information will lead me. I guess I wanted to better understand cult leaders. This made me think about “ABC After School Specials” in the 70s and 80s when kids had to be “reprogrammed”. In my memory, Jodie Foster was constantly reprogrammed after having fallen prey to a cult leader.
Good golly, I’m certain it’s time for bed. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
I think our civilization clearly depends upon finding some middle ground. I know my own family isn’t talking as much because of the polarized political climate. We may be reaching a tipping point of sorts, at least that’s what it feels like to me. I’m hopeful that we can shift course. I believe in the goodness of our shared humanity.
We are living in unprecedented times. A time of chaotic polarity in our civic lives. The lack of middle ground is causing stress to the many systems we all operate in; family, community, government and work. My husband and I are trying to hold some middle ground and manage the stress and anxiety in our home. We’re listening to our children and trying to offer counterpoints to the dizzying array of sound bites & headlines out there fighting for our attention every minute of every day.
I don’t think I’ve hidden my politics from anyone, however, my moderation might be surprising. Labels are easier for all of us than asking questions or being curious about the WHY of someone’s beliefs. We’re ALL guilty of not asking questions and making too many assumptions about others.
We can’t really be heard if we aren’t willing to listen too.
My politics were left leaning before I left conservative Sioux Falls College (now the University of Sioux Falls) in 1988. For my family it was easier to blame my democratic husband who hailed from Massachusetts than to believe I was an outlier. My first experience out of college was to move to New Zealand and work at a non-denominational Christian Radio Station (Radio Rhema) http://www.rhema.co.nz/. My friends were from all over the world and it was fascinating. I actually met the King of Tonga. I heard stories from so many unique perspectives and experiences. This time in my life greatly shaped my personal beliefs. Travel made the world seem quite small in some ways, completely accessible and ready for exploration.
I consider myself proudly American AND a global citizen. My early travel opportunites had a big affect on my choices. It eventually led me to Burlington, Vermont, where I’ve lived since New Year’s Day 1990. Our community is rich with diversity and I feel it’s been quite an education for myself and my family.
My daughters have friends from all over the world (including Muslim kids, many who spent time in refuge camps). They’ve heard interesting stories since early elementary school from their classmates. This is simply our family’s circumstance of living in Burlington, Vermont. I acknowledge that not having contact with people of various nationalities, who dress, speak, and worship differently can make people more fearful. I do understand this from growing up in rural South Dakota AND I don’t pretend to understand what other people feel about this issue. I’m only speaking from my own experience.
When I wrote and asked about the opposite of FEAR last week there were so many thoughtful responses; acceptance, curiosity, love, hope, community and Mark P. wrote; “ACTIONABLE FAITH is the opposite of fear.” I love the idea of actionable faith and that sounds a lot like curiosity to me.
Right now in American life, it’s seems convenient to align ourselves with our political teams and operate in MOB MENTALITY. Reciting talking points from the side we’ve taken without listening isn’t real dialogue and won’t ever promote deeper understanding.
The significantly more challenging and intellectually exhausting space is to take a breath, listen to your own thought and those of others and try to find some middle ground. It’s really uncomfortable to differentiate ourselves and our views when it puts us at odds with our team or the people we care about. Uncomfortable, but really necessary.
I went to bed last night wondering what is the opposite of FEAR. Nothing came to mind immediately for me, or nothing that seemed exactly right anyway.
This is hardly an original ponderable on my part, but I wanted to research and see what resonated the most for me. You won’t believe how much comes up on a google search on this topic. Here are a few others: hope, love, bravery, courage, faith, trust, fearlessness, gallantry, unconcern, audacity, calm…and many more.
Out of all of the answers I thought and read about, I landed on CURIOSITY. When I feel most fearful, the more I know the less fearful I am. When I thought about the other possibilities, curiosity kept bubbling up again and again.
Please let me know, let’s start a dialogue.