what most of life is really about is relationships. connectedness.
that’s what we need. if we have enough of good connectedness, if we are comfortable in our web, we’re ok.
a fly caught by a spider, by the way, is definitely not comfortable in the web. i just want to make that very clear.
it seems that in order to have connectedness, we devise transactional rules, or game rules and roles. in order to connect with the guy on the street, for example, i take on a role and he takes on a role.
“can you spare some change,” he says, and he uses a certain body language and a certain facial expression that gives him the label “panhandler”. i look him in the eye and we both smile as i drop some money into his hat. the game of panhandling allows us to connect.
it comes up in many other situations. in the next few days i am going to meet with someone who is doing something that i have a lot of respect for, and she is doing it in a way that really pleases me. i want to honour her for that. but i don’t know her very well, and i think we both don’t have a great need to change that. so we will get together and i will buy something from her. it’s something that i have a bit of use for but i certainly don’t need it.
this commercial transaction is a vehicle for honouring each other. she will play the role of “salesperson” and i will play the role of “customer”.
sometimes we are comfortable with these roles, and sometimes we aren’t. sometimes the roles don’t fit and slipping into different ones works much better. one of my clients used to have a boss with whom she constantly had little battles about job procedures. she resigned and a while later ran into her ex boss in a social situation. they are now very comfortable acquaintances – that role fits them much better.
sometimes we want to get rid of roles altogether, and just deal with each other as we are. sometimes? maybe it’s often. i don’t know. of course, as a therapist and from my buddhist teachers i’ve heard that ideally, we would want to always deal with people without the encumbrance of roles. but do we really want that? is that possible?
as an example, i don’t know who is reading this right now. all i know about you is that you can read english and have some rudimentary understanding of the internet. unless someone printed it out for you. unless someone read it out to you. unless someone is now translating it for you.
so – all i know about you is that you can take in information, either visually or by listening. as i’m writing, then, it’s easier for me to think of you as a “reader” or “perceiver of information” than as some nondescript someone-out-there. and so i’ve assigned you a role.
perhaps we cannot escape the fact that there are roles. but what we can do is always be open to knowing that there is much more to the “other” – the person with whom we interact – than their roles. and what we can do is reach out and be curious about the other.
who are you? what makes you happy? what’s weighing you down?
these questions help us not only explore but also explode roles. so that we and the other are well connected in the web, not caught in it. the panhandler is more than that – a brother, musician, teller of jokes … ?