The Happiness of Admiring
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
In our world we repeatedly experience the pulse of competition, whether with others or to achieve our personal bests: Run further and faster, climb the corporate ladder skipping a few steps, get ahead of the next company’s patent on new technology, have the biggest party, make the most money, travel to more countries, bag the most peaks, garner the biggest audience for. . .whatever. Ambition has jazziness and energizes, and makes us work hard. All good. But that driver, when unbalanced by other ways of living, will keep us too focused on THE PRIZE. And prizes, when received in the moment, can certainly make the heart sing. But the song, sadly, echoes for only a short time before it enters the door of silence. After the handshake, or the medal, or the check. . .well, even after the champagne and mushroom pate, comes another day in which we inch our way toward old news.
Meg Kearney, of the Solstice writing program at Pine Manor College in Boston, Massachusetts, shared some sage advice upon our entry into the MFA program. Following in the Frost tradition she said something like: “When given a choice between being intelligent or being kind, choose being kind.” No amount of critical insight held enough value to slash a fellow student’s work. The staff at Pine Manor not only fostered a supportive relationship among writing students, but went well beyond. The second directive: “Fall in love with another student’s writing. Study everything they write, and learn more about writing, including your own writing that way,” had an even more profound effect upon the climate while studying. Every single writer, by flexing their mind into the writing of another person, gained perspective, nuance, and invaluable editorial experiences.
But the big plus? Falling in love! Falling in love with a person, with a piece of writing, with a garden, with anything. . .that offers up a big slice of happiness.
Admiring someone else takes us joyfully out of ourselves. Momentarily relieved from our pinched self-absorbedness we can spread our wings and take in the beauty someone else’s being offers.
As a therapist, I enjoy the privilege of sitting across from someone, my eyes open, my ears open, my heart open to them. I do not need to advance myself as a friend or as a colleague. The only requirement involves utilizing expertise, experience and willingness for the benefit of another, as that person describes it. Seeing someone’s beauty, admiring their strengths, happens naturally and effortlessly as conversation unfolds.
By getting to know someone and the circumstances in which they try to live the best they can makes it easier to admire that person. Vulnerability and openness bring people closer, and the close-up view promises much to admire.
Whom do you actively admire? What beauty do you see in this person? What has it taught you about yourself? About anything?