One year on – #1000voices @1000voices

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A year ago the first posts about compassion under the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion banner were posted and linked across social media. Each month this year new posts have been posted and linked. There have been heart warming and heart wrenching stories, life affirming and self challenging tales.

What have I learned in that time? Or relearned maybe? The importance of being kind to ones self and understanding that forgiveness starts with forgiving yourself. Yes but mostly it’s about judging, about the danger of assumptions and how test interferes with being compassionate.

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I went for a walk this last weekend, along the Suffolk coast. It was a beautiful crisp day, the light on the rolling waves spectacular. The beach was free of human litter, a pleasant surprise but, instead, the carcasses of many trees dotted the sandy canvas.

And on the shore, where roistering spume met scrunching shingle a foam collected and frothed, like the aftermath of a leaky washing machine, occasionally born high by the whipping wind.

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The trees here are the consequence of the continual erosion of the Covehithe cliffs giving way to winter storms. Signs warn the unwary to take care approaching.

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As I stood and took in the scene my expression moved from scepticism at the cleanliness to annoyance at yet more signs of man created despoliation and pollution. Inwardly I fumed at the chemicals churning up this froth, ground my teeth as the warmed seas pummelled the shore to destruction.

And yet and yet. This coast has eroded, if you look at the Ordnance Survey maps, by some 500 metres since the last mini ice-age in the early 1830s. These trees have fallen into the sea for many years, well before the Industrial Revolution took a hold. And the froth and foam is merely the action of churning winds and tides on the salt water, not some leaky tanker.  It’s not new and it’s not full of chemicals. Indeed the fish stocks hereabouts are increasing, os so we hear.

I believe we are damaging the planet; I despair when I see pictures of the plastic granulations that create that monstrous kraken in the middle of the Pacific. Yet I should know better than to assume I knew. What I saw along the coast fed my prejudices about global warming and I was wrong to let it. This wasn’t scientific or evidence based research. It was, in this case, whim and fancy.

We started this journey towards compassion with a post about a Village, the need to remember we, the human race, are one ‘Village’ and should give and be given respect and treated with compassion wherever we come from and wherever we are going to. But the Village analogy holds good in another way. We have something called ‘Dunbar’s number’:

a theoretical limit to the number of people with whom any individual is able to sustain a stable or meaningful social relationship (usually considered to be roughly 150).
“even in the age of Facebook, the number of friends with whom you keep in touch is likely to be less than Dunbar’s number”

You see this in many ways that work against what we set out to try and achieve. You see it the way people can be excluded – at work, in school, in society generally – because of differences, of not fitting in. Of falling inside or outside accepted assumptions. You see it meted out when one section of society looks or acts or speaks differently to another. It’s an easy mindset, a self-limiting social narcotic that we need to fight.

Example: I’m driving my car and someone comes up behind me, horn blaring. I think ‘stupid boy racer’. I assume it is a young man with no patience and less sense. It might be. But the driver could be any age and any sex. It could be impatience but it could be someone desperate to get to hospital, or someone who has seen my coat hanging out of the car door and worries I might suffer a nasty accident if it was caught.

It boils down to this. We cannot only work on detailed  facts if we want to conduct normal lives. We have to use experience to interpret those facts in order to understand, and function within, the world around us. But what we need to do is to infer more and assume less.

Inference: An inference is a step of the mind, an intellectual act by which one concludes that something is true in light of something else’s being true, or seeming to be true. If you come at me with a knife in your hand, I probably would infer that you mean to do me harm. Inferences can be accurate or inaccurate, logical or illogical, justified or unjustified.

Assumption: An assumption is something we take for granted or presuppose. Usually it is something we previously learned and do not question. It is part of our system of beliefs. We assume our beliefs to be true and use them to interpret the world about us. If we believe that it is dangerous to walk late at night in big cities and we are staying in London, we will infer that it is dangerous to go for a walk late at night. We take for granted our belief that it is dangerous to walk late at night in big cities. If our belief is a sound one, our assumption is sound. If our belief is not sound, our assumption is not sound. 

The point is, if we use our set beliefs as I did – we are damaging the planet through climate change, the coastline is being damaged, therefore the coastline is being damaged through climate change – we can end up with a bald proposition that fails any test of credibility. But if I had looked at what was happening, checked to see how often it had been happening – if I had found out what was true and used the facts to infer what was going on – coastal erosion here has been happening for 180 years – I might have come to a different and better conclusion.

We need to do this more in our lives: inside and outside family, at school, at work, in the street wherever we are. We all judge – it is nigh on impossible not to – but we need to do it with a more open mind and greater compassion.

Had I done so, I might have enjoyed my walk that little bit more….

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…much as Dog clearly did…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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35 Responses to One year on – #1000voices @1000voices

  1. lucciagray says:

    Intense post, Geoff. Lots of things to consider. One of the hardest things to do is not to jump to conclusions and judge people’s behaviour. We’re not in their shoes. We only know our own story and sometimes even that’s fuzzy, too. The planet is not ours and I have no doubt it will have the last word and outlive us, whatever we do, of course that doesn’t mean we should ignore what’s happening… couldn’t see the video but sounds like a lovely beach. I don’t think I’ve ever been there….yet😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yvonne says:

    Well, I love this post Geoff. These 1000 Voices anniversary posts are getting me quite emotional – it’s wonderful to see the impact taking part is having on people.

    I love what you’ve written about forgiveness starting with yourself and about judgements. I agree with everything you’ve written about them, and for me learning to question assumptions has been, can continues to be, such an amazing part of life. It leads, as you say in your last sentence, to more enjoyment of life.

    I also think it makes it easier, not harder, to make the changes that might be required to deal with issues like climate change and pollution. When we judge and assume humans don’t care, it doesn’t encourage us to try to create change – we expect to meet resistance. When we think of others as caring, then we’re more likely to get the changes we’d like to see. In this way, I think the more we change internally, the more outer change we’ll see.

    Thanks so much for this thought-provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Thank you Yvonne. You and Lizzie have made me express what was in there somewhere. Bringing ideas and approaches to the surface if you like. You’ve started something great!

      Like

  3. Profound thoughts; excellent photos, especially the one of Dog

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lots to think about on a Saturday morning, Geoff. Great take on assume vs. infer. And, not sure who Dunbar is/was, but I have to agree on his number. I cut down my Facebook friend list long ago, just could not keep up with so many folks. I wonder sometimes about the followers here on WP, there is only so much effective interaction that can happen to keep it manageable. I need to go get that 2nd cup of coffee now. ☺ Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. merrildsmith says:

    This is a wonderful post–thoughtful and profound.
    I also love the photos of the beach and dog, who seems to be the embodiment of enjoying life in the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rogershipp says:

    It is always good to do one’s own research about the things people say. Kleenex Tissues are always going to the softest tissue in EVERY KLEENEX commercial! Can a immagine a film shoot… But us, we’re second best!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Powerful image, that tree (also the carefree puppy). ❤️ Yes, this is natural but you are right that we need to treat this planet better. And there is a subtle difference between inferring and assuming. Such a fine line… But it’s a brilliant idea and I will think about that next time I assume something.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Autism Mom says:

    A wonderful post, Geoff, on point and poignant – I will use the “infer vs assume” lesson with my son, with appropriate attribution! I am glad you are in my Dunbar’s number. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a great post to start my Sunday morning with Geoff – a real pleasure to read! You know I believe that it is our work while we are here to make better people of ourselves and leave our planet a better place than we found it. It is nobody’s job but our own to change things. Changing our minds and thereby changing our thinking patterns is the only place to start. I KNOW the world is full of good people doing good things, reaching out, helping out, clearing up and reviewing their own processes at the end of each day. I love when I find others taking responsibility for the way they behave and think and feel – and I love just as much when I’ve remembered to do it too. 🙂

    The number thing is interesting. I decided a long while back not to ‘follow’ someone just because they ‘followed’ me, but to wait and see if they and their blog spoke to me. I love my little community on my blog, it keeps me busy and I’m not looking for more – but I did, at last, because you inspired me so much, make that journey over to Yvonne’s place and sign up for 1000Voices……………… 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Thank you for such a thoughtful response. I’m certain you will enjoy Yvonne’s posts. She is one of the most articulate and thoughtful of bloggers I have come across. Somehow I suspect you and she might be kindred spirits. And I know what you mean about this urge to connect but then failing to have any meaning to it. Like you I am reluctant to follow back just because… and, dare I admit it, I’m quite ruthless in going through my reader list and moving some blogs to the list where I receive no notifications. That way I have, maybe 60 to 70 blogs I see over a week and of that maybe 20 change pretty regularly. It seems to work for me, for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. You covered quite a bit, Geoff, but the bottom line is that we need to always question our own assumptions & biases – and realize that it’s actually a good thing when new information leads us to change our opinions.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thought-provoking indeed. I’ve been worried, but this also makes sense. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is a vivid, thought provoking post, Geoff. I especially liked what you had to say about kindness and compassion, even if you didn’t mean that to be the focus of your post. I find myself in a culture that goes to extremes in NOT valuing those things, when kindness is one of the most important things of all. What kind of place is it when a former boss can say of my new boss, “He sees your kindness in helping people and he thinks you are stupid.”
    What sort of culture praises and promotes people who think that way? This one.
    Sorry… stepping down from my Julia Sugarbaker soapbox now. 😀
    Thanks for this post. Hugs!

    Like

  13. Sacha Black says:

    Ha, this is right up next weeks writespiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. roweeee says:

    Hi Geoff,
    Monday afternoon here and After dropping the kids of this morning, I’m back in my PJs, they’re cool and comfy and I even have Mr daydream on the t-shirt, which is quite appropriate for me. Towards the end of my anniversary 1000 speak post, I mentioned the beauty of being able to catch up with all my friends around the world in my PJs and how good that was.
    Your beach could well be my beach. The ongoing erosion is upsetting and seeing trees uprooted and lying on the beach in rows. It’s sad. Apparently, the sand comes and goes but we’ve lived here 15 years and it hasn’t been like this and it apparently goes back to the 70s.
    I have particularly enjoyed getting to know you and have appreciated your views through 1000speak. It’s not only good to know you’re not the only one fighting for these values but with us coming together, it’s creating strength. Images come to mind of strands of a rope coming together or all those small grains of sand cementing together to build sandstone…a rock. We are making a difference xx Rowena

    Like

  15. Being kind to yourself and forgiving yourself – it all dow boil down to that, doesn’t it? So glad to have me you through this and looking forward to continued connection!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Roshni says:

    Giving ourselves and others the benefit of the doubt would definitely make us much calmer and ready to be more open to others!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. herheadache says:

    We can pretty safely assume a giant patch of garbage out in the middle of the ocean is not a good sign, but other signs might not be so simple. Good for you for looking into it just a little farther than what was on the surface, your initial reaction. Hope you still enjoyed your walk along that coast, a little bit.

    Like

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