This week: How do you measure the intangible?Edited by: Thankful Sonali WDC POWER!
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It was sparked off by an audio book I was listening to about a guy who forgot his first wedding anniversary, and the consequences of this. Got me thinking about various times in my life that a conflict had arisen, not because of good intention v/s bad, but because of yardsticks by which something was measured.
Hallo there, reader!
What ho, what ho!
Well, yes, I was listening to a PG Wodehouse story. A rather rummy sort of story, you know, about a chap's forgetful friend. Now this friend forgot everything -- where he lived, whether he had eaten lunch or not, what he was supposed to do ... everything. So when he married, and then one day sometime later invited the friend to dinner -- on what turned out to be his first anniversary, the day he had promised to take his wife to the show (he had the tickets in his pocket the whole time, apparently) -- the reader sort of felt that his wife's anger wasn't quite justified. I mean, she knew the chap. All she had to do was remind him. All she had to say was "The fellow can dine at our house, but we're going to the show, it's our anniversary" or something of the kind, and everyone would have understood.
But no, she didn't choose to do that.
She chose to link his love to his memory.
No memory, no love, according to her.
Which wasn't very wise of her. His friends didn't link his friendship to his memory. If they'd invited him to the club, they'd call and remind him to show up there. She should've done something like that.
He loved her. He loved her a dashed lot, he confessed this to everyone. He was faithful, he brought her stuff, he never complained about anything she did or didn't do -- in every other way, he was a rather good catch. He had even bought the tickets to that show, it's just that, at the time, he forgot. The intention was to take her there, he wasn't stingy about the price or the tickets or fussy about the type of show or anything like that.
But her war cry was "If you loved me, you'd remember our anniversary."
Which brings me to the other "IF" "THEN" statements we use. A few that I've come across in my life.
My cousin was getting married, and I was flying to her city for the wedding. Her house is close to the airport. It so happened that one of the pre-wedding get-togethers was on the day I arrived. It was, in fact, in progress as I got into the city. It was the 'henna' ceremony, when girls' hands are painted with designs to celebrate. Invitees are those who are getting the decorations put on their hands. So I went straight from the airport to her house and joined the festivities. While there, I got a phone call. It was my grandma, who lived in that city, much farther away. She didn't want to have her hands decorated, and so, wasn't attending the function. "If you loved me, you'd have come to my house first thing, not gone for the party," she screeched on the phone. This came as a shock to me. I'd told her of my plans the day before, and she had been pleased that I was going to be seeing her after I'd had my hands decorated. She didn't listen when I tried to explain, tried to remind her -- and I concluded the conversation by simply disconnecting. (I can see some of you tutting -- either on granny's side or mine!)
She had linked my love to dropping my cousin's party and going straight to her house from the airport. My cousin is her grand-daughter, too. Didn't she think about how she'd feel, if she knew I'd done that? The airport was the closest thing to the party. I couldn't have driven all the way to granny's and got back in time. It was either go to the party first or skip the party altogether. Knowing the whole thing, being in in the plan in advance, granny was miffed about what I did. Apparently, I didn't love her because I had chosen to do what was practical, be at my cousin's place, meet others in the family, before I met her.
Well, if that's her measure of my love, then so be it. I guess I have to admit that I didn't love her, by that yardstick. Never mind that I wrote her letters every week, stayed in the hospital every night with her when she was unwell -- being on vacation myself at the time, accompanied her on her jaunts to her sister's house ... never mind all that. I guess I didn't love her by the yardstick she applied.
Now about me.
I often resent my parents for the upbringing I had -- with a Nanny waiting on me hand and foot. I thought 'If they had really loved me, they'd have made sure I knew how to look after myself, instead of being dependent on a Nanny."
But maybe their way of showing love was to provide a Nanny for me ...
The examples given above are to do with IF - THEN statements connected with love. But we use if - then statements all the time. Here are a few more I've come across.
I was librarian in a school, some years ago. The library being a 'hobby' area, the thought of an assistant for me was laughable.The students who visited the library ranged in age from eight to 15 years. Sometimes, I had several classes back-to-back, one lot of thirty-six kids left as the other lot were already lined up to come in. Each session lasted forty minutes. At the end of the day, the school bus left on time, no waiting around for stragglers. There being no other transport in that remote area, if you missed the school bus, you were in for a tough time.
Well, this meant that I couldn't always tidy up to my satisfaction at the end of the day. If I had a last-period class, I barely had enough time to lock the cupboards and run for the bus.
The Principal admonished me, in the staff room, with the other teachers present. If I were a good librarian, according to her, the shelves would all be neat and the place would be pretty. The previous librarian, who now worked in the school office, was very good.
I asked the previous librarian what I had to do.
"You OPEN those cupboards? Oh no, I never did that. It doesn't do, to let the kids take the books out." she said.
"But this is a library, the kids are supposed to take books ..." I faltered under her steely gaze.
"You are supposed to keep the library neat. You take out thirty-six age-appropriate books in advance, and hand one to each kid as they walk in. Five minutes before the bell, you collect them back and have the next lot ready. You can't let the kids choose what they want to read themselves." She was horrified at the thought.
I was in that job for fifteen months, then I quit. You see, my measure of whether I was a good librarian or not was whether the kids enjoyed reading, came in the break to look up stuff, discussed books with me and accepted my challenges to read difficult or unusual books. But I could not keep a tidy library, especially not if I had a last-period class -- and so, of course, I wasn't a good librarian by their standards.
One more example.
There was this poem, about a kid inviting elephants to stay at home. I asked the fourth-graders to illustrate it and bring me the illustrations the next day.
I got thirty-five illustrations, very neatly drawn and coloured within the lines, of square houses with big elephants standing nearby.
The thirty-sixth illustration was handed to me with a cheeky grin. I glanced at it. It was roughly scribbled, in pencil. The interior of a living room. Not an elephant in sight. The grinning artist gave it to me, nodded, and darted back to his seat.
It was only during lunch break that I had the time to look closely at the picture.
The interior of a living room, roughly drawn in pencil. Not an elephant in sight.
But ... wait.
What was that, curled around the TV antennae? I laughed aloud. An elephant's trunk!
The game of hunt-the-elephant took me all lunch break. At the end, I had counted twelve elephants hiding in that living room. A toenail behind the curtain, a tail under the carpet, an eye peeping from between the books on the bookshelf ...
That picture didn't get selected to go on the display board. If it had been a good picture, the assistant principal said, it would have shown a house and an elephant, and been neatly coloured within the lines. She balked at the idea of putting 'that pencil scribble' up for all to see.
So, the If - Then conflict. If you loved me, then you would ... If you were a good librarian, then you would ... If he were a good artist, then he would .... with only one criterion being applied to finish the statement, and a pretty narrow one at that.
Maybe we'd have a bit less (unnecessary) drama in the world if we broadened those criteria, or turned those If - Then statements on ourselves, with regard to our acceptance of the situation as it is, and our appreciation of what is positive! Measuring the intangible is difficult. Let's do ourselves a favour and not be judgmental about it.
Thanks for listening!
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