Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Protect and project

You may have noticed an underlying theme to the blog lately.  It has to do with the issue of judgments -- the ways in which we judge ourselves and others -- and stems largely from the fact that this year's book for my weekly study group is Byron Brown's Soul Without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within.

My relentless coughing is keeping me from attending class this morning, but the subject is nonetheless on my mind, particularly after reading these lines today:  "All judgments are based on and fueled by personal feelings.  Focus on communicating the feelings and you will bypass the need for judgment."

So it's probably not surprising that this image leaped out at me today; it's from a collection of photos I took of graffiti in  Portland last weekend, and for some reason it speaks to me about the natural human tendency to place blame.

What I see here is a certain amount of chaos, over which this little bandit/artist has laid his own distinctive scrawl.  But at the same time he's drawn a halo over himself, as if to say the chaos is not his fault.  For some reason this immediately pulls me back into childhood, and the way chaos can erupt in a classroom when the teacher has to step out of the room.  Each child, seeing the wildness, contributes her own streak, and yet each child proclaims innocence when the teacher returns and seeks a culprit.

We are, from an early age, somehow conditioned to place blame elsewhere and portray ourselves as blameless -- particularly when there are siblings involved -- so how on earth can we expect to outgrow that habit as adults?  And what possible incentives are there for setting aside that tendency to protect and project?

It seems to me that if we are to seriously work for change in the world, in our political system, in our communities and in our families, this may be where we have to begin: to unlearn this innate impulse to portray ourselves as angels and "other" -- however we define that -- as villain.

But first, of course, we have to become conscious of our tendency to do that... and it seems to me that's a life's work all by itself.                                                                                    

1 comment:

Maureen said...

I saw an interesting film last year about graffiti artists; they have a code under which no one is to place their "sign" on top of someone else's, as a matter of respect. I thought that was fascinating, because, of course, graffiti -ists are judged to be disrespectful, as denigrating property. The film profiled one prominent graffiti artist here in our area. His life was incredibly sad.