Our Petrifying Ideas

Sometimes, we just can’t help ourselves. We read trash. We watch junk. We indulge in embarrassing behaviors which make us cringe, but…we do it anyway. This ridiculous form of conduct applies to me all too often. How about you? Is there some mindless drivel you indulge in? Now come on, ‘fess up: your secret’s safe with me.

 

Hedonist that I am, I probably pamper myself in this manner far more than most, realizing that doing so does nothing to enhance my lifespan or productivity, but sometimes there’s nothing for it. The heart wants what it wants. For reasons I can’t fully explain, I recklessly insist on doing or watching or reading whatever it is, recognizing that these hours are forever lost. (The same would be true about the eons of time spent entering data into useless spreadsheets at work.) Putting aside such snark, I will point out that there are occasions when, buried deep within the bowels of these absurdities, a truth swims up through the dreck. This happened to me recently and got me thinking…

 

One dreary winter night, not so long ago, I found myself idly flipping through the channels, stopping to watch a mind-numbing teenage blockbuster, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2. In this particular paean to romance and life wisdom one of the minor vampires murmurs, “We sat still for a very long time; we didn’t notice we were beginning to petrify.” This line so caught my attention that I actually heaved myself up off the sofa and wrote it down so I should not forget to share this bit of wisdom with you, dear reader. The ossification of ideas, attitudes, and approaches can creep up on us, unawares. Have you ever noticed elderly people whose taste in wardrobe, hair styles, and home decor have remained fixed for the past forty years? They selected one moment in their lives and have clung to whatever they did then, despite the fact that their children have grown and moved away, their bodies have changed, and the world today is unrecognizable compared to those days of yore. Interacting with such types is like stepping back in time. Talk about petrified wood.

 

Now, as someone who cherishes much about the past and appreciates the hard work and sacrifices our forbearers made, I am sympathetic to revering what has gone on before, but I am puzzled by their refusal to make accommodations for what is versus what was. What is this stubbornness all about? Life is not a hard and fast process; rather, it is fluid, dynamic, and continually swirling over and around us.

 

In this blog, I often write about the difficulties that accompany change—feelings of loss, fear, and inadequacy are typical when we are forced to confront new terrain. I recognize, too, that change gets even harder the older we become, but the hardening of ideas and attitudes that I have seen, well, much of it is fear based—these people fervently believe that things were better “before.” Steadier, safer, happier. For them, the parameters of the past are understood—the present, not so much. In other words, when people become petrified about the unknown, they take the ideas and ways that are familiar and embalm them. Their lives assume a passive, dull quality. Do you know anyone like this? When I see people living their lives in such a fixed manner, I often wonder, “Will they bend…or break?

 

Now, turn this line of thinking around and apply it to yourself: which ideas, attitudes, or assumptions have you embalmed? What is your sticking point? How petrified are you?

Petrified Forest

 

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