Occasionally, someone tells a story that changes your life.
I can’t quit thinking about this book, not only because of the harrowing adventures it took to discover the lost Mayan Civilization and the brave and brilliant Stevens and Catherwood that made it their calling, but because the vastness of a “universe,” I had been only remotely aware of, has expanded my own. Jungle of Stone.
Confronted by these two noble, gifted, driven, and humble explorers, I am inspired and humbled by my lack of knowledge, scope, tenacity, and awareness. Thanks, William Carlsen, for excavating the story for me and forcing me out of my own “backyard.”
Even if you have no interest in ancient history or archeology, the life-stories of John Lloyd Stevens and Frederick Catherwood will enlarge your existence.
None of us like a know-it-all who won’t listen to reason.
In a management class recently, one of the participants continuously spouted off condemnations against his boss, his company, the unmotivated younger generation, you name it. Anytime a solution was offered for one of his complaints, he shut it down with a standard reply; “It won’t work. Tried that. You can’t fix stupid, etc.”
He reminded me of me; of the times when I refused to listen to anyone who challenged me to change.
Sometimes the know-it-all is us.
To keep myself from throwing cold water on others’ suggestions, I am learning to say:
- Tell me more about that.
- What am I missing?
- What else?
By disabling the shut-down switch, I listen, learn, and grow up.
Education expert, Sir Ken Robinson speaks about our natural state where learning occurs automatically. While listening to his funny and entertaining TED Talk, I was reminded to make creative, curious, and unique the barometer that measures the “rightness” and effectiveness of my state…but not just while learning.
It is true that if I have to shut off these things when I learn, I do not learn.
It is also true that if I have to shut off these things to work, I may be doing the wrong work, or, if I have to shut off these things in a relationship, it may be an unhealthy relationship.
The you inside is worth so much more than a perfunctory conformity to norms.
Awareness requires a rupture with the world we take for granted; then old categories of experience are called into question and revised. – Shoshana Zuboff (American Educator)
I like the word “rupture” that Zuboff uses here because it accurately reflects the violence of awareness. When I first made a commitment to a higher level of awareness, my foundations crumbled around me; the world was not as tidy and easily defined as I had formerly imagined and I was no longer separate from anyone else. Everyone mattered.
Then, because I cared more, I had to fight off despair over the depth of pain and suffering in the world.
The balance I found was to, first, approach the world with joy. There I received the energy needed to sustain compassion.
I used to be a lot more picky about who I listened to or learned from. Thanks to the influence of some insightful friends who challenged me, I now am open to learn from everyone.
I may not buy-in to everything they say, but something they have learned will also be useful to me.
I came about this selective listening honestly. I was afraid of being led astray, down the slippery slope, off the narrow path, etc…so I only read books or listened to audios from people who were in my philosophical camp. Boy, was I missing out!
Those people who were too liberal, too conservative, too intellectual, too simplistic, too old-fashioned, too modern, too whatever…have some dang good things to say!
Fear strangles truth.
Although Andrew Carnegie’s own education was not extraordinary, he believed (as Ben Franklin said) that leaders are readers; he built countless libraries, read voraciously and sought out many, many mentors throughout his life. He was driven by a thirst for peace. He studied all religions and traveled extensively in an effort to EMBRACE AND NOT JUDGE other cultures.
Today, his spirit inspires me toward peace. When I hear a thought that condemns people I do not know, I will seek out knowledge about that people. I will walk in their shoes, their homeland and their challenges. I will delight and not judge.
As the plaque over the Carnegie Library says, I will say to myself, “Let there be light”…so darkness will not be my guide.