THE INFORMATION IS NEUTRAL
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Viktor E. Frankl
I walk my dogs every morning but, because I live in Johannesburg, I drive to a park and walk them there. One morning, driving back from the park, I stopped at a stop street—as one does. Cars were coming in both directions, and a pedestrian was waiting to cross.
I have a thing for pedestrians—I tend to notice them. To most people in the world, that would sound odd. But South Africans—and Jo’burgers in particular—seem mostly to ignore them. As the traffic flow eased up on both sides of the road, I motioned to the pedestrian to cross. She, unaccustomed to being noticed, hesitated before crossing. As she started walking across the street, the driver of the car behind me hooted. Of course, this all happened in a matter of seconds. And it was early. And it was winter. And—Lord forgive me—as the person hooted, I raised my left hand and showed them a finger. ‘Bloody rude South African! Can’t you see that I’m waiting for the pedestrian to cross?” I muttered under my breath as I pulled a zap sign—becoming that very rude South African in the process. The pedestrian crossed, and I drove the final three hundred metres to my house. As I pulled up to my gate, my phone beeped. It was a text from my friend, Simone. “Nice, Trev,” it read. It turns out that Simone had been the person behind me at that stop street—she was taking her children to school, which was in the same area. And she hadn’t been hooting at me to drive—she was saying hello! Thankfully, Simone is a good friend and she forgave me for my rudeness.
The hoot was just a hoot—it had no intrinsic meaning. To Simone, the hoot was a “hello”, whereas to me, the hoot was a “Move!”. I gave the hoot its meaning, and, having decided what it meant, I reacted. Had I taken one second to breathe, and another to look in my rear-view mirror, I would have interpreted the hoot differently.
Life is full of ‘hoots’—bosses, children, spouses, and total strangers are ‘hooting’ at us all the time. We are bombarded by sensory information everywhere we go. We see, hear, taste, touch and smell. The sensory information has no absolute meaning—the truth is that the information is neutral. Human beings are meaning-making machines—we are designed that way. But we forget that it is our beliefs that give rise to our reactions to this sensory information, rather than the information itself.
When you understand this, you begin to listen to your self-talk. Being aware of what you say to yourself is the beginning of freedom because as soon as you consciously tune into how you are interpreting what is happening to you, you stop reacting to it. Instead, you begin to respond. A reaction is not a response. We react when we believe the sensory information. We respond when we choose our interpretation of what is happening to us. It is such a powerful thing to do, and it slows life down in the most beautiful way. We open ourselves up—we are unafraid of what may come our way. We breathe, we consider what is happening, and then, from a place of choice, we decide how we will respond. We begin to become ‘response-able’.
Let life come at you. You have—between your ears—the ability to give meaning to the things that happen to you. What a precious gift! Don’t waste it in reactivity—cherish it in choice.
Let life come at you.
Don’t waste it in reactivity—cherish it in choice.
THE INFORMATION IS NEUTRAL – CORONA TIME
We live in the Information Age. We are being bombarded by information in a way that no previous generation has ever experienced. Imagine a daily tweet by Anne Frank about her conditions in the attic. The absurdity of that picture should give you some indication of how we are living and, hence, the craziness of it all. We cannot afford to be in a reactive mode right now. I understand that there is nothing ‘neutral’ about the actual Corona virus. It is invisible and it kills. But we still have, within us, the power of interpretation and, therefore, of response. In the BC (Before Corona) years, I believed that I did not have time to write. Now, I do. That is response-ability. I can spend an hour a day watching CNN, freaking out at Trump, or I can spend it in quiet contemplation and writing. I can react to every tweet, newsflash and horror story. Or I can just be an observer of it – responding only to that which is affecting me personally right now. I am grateful that I have the privilege of choice. My current personal circumstances allow me to give Corona its meaning.
Yesterday, two beautiful things happened to confirm my beliefs.
A friend in Israel shared a metaphysical healer’s interpretation of Corona. It is Life forcing us to go inside. Literally and figuratively. How will I choose to be when I am inside? What will I choose to do when I am inside? Those are the questions I will allow myself to reflect on today.
Another friend sent me this text: “I have never felt a greater sense of freedom in my life. It’s bizarre. For the first time in my life, I have just surrendered to what is because there is NOTHING I can do. I’m facing my biggest fears and I’m OK. Still fighting the fight where I can but, on another level, just being at peace with what is. It’s an incredible feeling.”
That is her interpretation of, and response to, Corona. Neither I nor my friends are in denial. There are many people suffering. My empathy levels have never been higher. At the same time, I can only live my reality. And my reality is as much a function of how I choose to respond, as it is about what is actually ‘out there’. Tune out the noise. Go inside. Have a blessed day.
Written by: Trevor Waller – View on Facebook
Contact Trevor: firstname.lastname@example.org