as my friend kittee so wisely put it recently, what are people? sheep? i responded, yes. yes they are. that is, in my experience, a lot of people go with what will keep them comfortable without even really understanding if it's true to them or not, or even what "true to them" would mean; or maybe they like to argue in verbal, outward ways so that it might not LOOK LIKE they are just sheep (that is they APPARENTLY disagree with people freely), but they still just kind of do what the masses do--buy stupid crap that costs too much, vote for who they're told to vote for, wear ugly stuff because it's on trend. in the midst of such a cynical view as i've developed, it's refreshing to have friends that calmly and proudly have never baa-ed a day in their life, and manage to, from their non-wool composure, at exactly the same time be utterly dignified and respectful both to those with differing views from theirs, and to those that might happen to be sheep a time or two throughout their lives too.
i'm grateful to say marie of the ginger hair is a woman like that. some of my favorite memories of her over the at-least-16 years i've known her include discussions of the clothing she's gotten away with wearing to work, the surprising connections she's made with people at parties or other social events, and even the hilarious and absurd stories she's told about tenants she and her husband had to deal with in one of their rentals. (honestly, i wish i could recount any of these three things in greater detail but i feel this is too public a forum. let the point just be: marie is one of the people in my life that consistently keeps me entertained, wide-eyed, and happy, and to say that about anyone means having said a lot.)
i mentioned marie as a counter-example to the social-sheep problem up there because that's exactly who she is--a lovely counter-example to the social-sheep problem. one of the things i appreciate about her is her very well-grounded clarity about who she is, what she values, and how she lives her life coupled with a kind of balance between an ability to listen to others' views and the understanding of precisely when to stop listening. that is, marie has an openness to hearing what others care about too, but she also understands herself well enough to know when what someone else is saying has gone past the point of he or she simply recounting what he or she cares about. what the hell am i talking about here? i'm saying, i value marie's ability to care about others, and her ability to recognize precisely when a person's talking isn't really about that care anymore because it's crossed the line into whoever-they-think-they-are trying to make other people just like them. let's face it, most of us too readily fall into thinking others should be like us for us to get along with them, and we act that out by trying to tell others either what they should think or what they should do. marie carries with her a kind of centeredness that means she is neither swayed by such bad faith behavior, nor does she participate in it either. that is, she also doesn't do it herself. in all the years i've gotten to participate in conversations with marie, i've never seen her try and tell someone else what to do. the closest she's come to that has been saying what she has done in similar situations and giving reasons as to why she chose what she did--reasons that focused on what she values; and even there the tone of her account has hovered over recognizing that's what she did, and other people are simply different.
am i making my point here? we live in a polarizing world these days with media accounts, on the one hand, of how so and so celebrity politico, or just trash celebrity really screwed up and now we've gotta think badly of them, and, lots of media accounts too including economic rhetoric telling us what side we're supposed "to be on" or else. hell, insert fifteen more so-called hands here to capture all the other ways we're taught that we better only know how to get along with people that are either just like us or, swayed to our opinion. in the midst of such social dichotomies it's refreshing, relieving, and bolstering too to share a connection with someone that has their own strong-minded views of what is right, certainly, and at precisely the same time happily shares in conversation with others that might not agree, without concern over whether or not they sway to her view, and, even more generously, without demanding they speak the way she wants them to for her to keep talking to them. she knows what she cares about, and that's a lot.
way up there at the top in the title to this post i implied that marie is some kind of "pot stirrer." here's the actual truth: i don't think marie is much of a pot stirrer at all. i think she just speaks clearly from her own center of well-earned truth, and when anyone is able to do that a whole lot of people in the world suddenly find that they have much more rocky ground to stand on. it's not that their pot got stirred, it's that a lot of people have been living like sheep so long that when they try and stand like people again, on their own two legs, it turns out they've got not very strong, or well-balanced legs. when your knees are knocking like that, and you're holding a pot of stew, that stuff in there is gonna start mixing all around without anyone ever having to put a spoon in to stir it at all. (i'm mixing all kinds of metaphors here, i realize. but i think you can get my point anyway.) marie doesn't go around stirring anyone's pots, she just stands there as an example of how much brighter and stronger the rest of us can be (whether we're holding a pot of stew or not).
(incidentally: damn! i love stew. marie has a load of good recipes for that too. mmm... what a good friend to have!)