In my head and in anticipation of the publication of my first column in the Bedford Gazette, it was 3 a.m., when most people develop their best creations, right? I was in that half-awake, half- asleep dreamlike state known officially as a hypnopompic state. It seems that I am at my most creative during this state, and in the wee-hours of the morning.
This time, I went on the offensive about my recently public written work. I’d been writing for decades but wiser men & women than me agree with the writer of Ecclesiastes, “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun” (paraphrased).
A couple of years ago when deeply embroiled in the layout phase of my photo-essay book, I started to prepare myself for its inevitable criticism. In fact, so much had I thought about this upcoming criticism, I put a little anticipatory reminder on my desk-computer monitor, “everything you write will offend someone, somewhere, sometime” – and I could have added, and they will lash out. It’s just that kind of world.
I’m not only an introvert but I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP, in psychology jargon), so I have to prepare for such things as criticism. Peopling takes preparation. I’m not shy; I’m even gregarious at times. I like people. But, I’m most at ease with space, silence, ideas, nature, and being alone. I have to “get ready to get ready to ‘do people.’” “Getting ready to get ready” is my husband’s thing and as far as I know, he coined the phrase; no diagnosis, just observation.
Criticism is not easily brushed off by my tribe. Thick skin is not something we’re born with. We have to consciously fight to not overthink, analyze-to-death, and deconstruct every experience, outside stimulus, and word/gesture/feeling we get from people, just being in proximity to them.
God bless my husband; can you say Amen? Don’t go too far in pitying him, he’s got stuff too. News flash, everybody’s got stuff.
I’ll never forget reading about a female scientist from one of the inhumanly frigid Pole’s, who had to be “life-flighted” back to the States for emergency cancer treatments. She said to the press, in essence, “everybody’s got something, mine happens to be cancer.” How powerfully resonant is that, in a count your blessings, stop feeling sorry for yourself kinda way?
This brings me to my aforementioned offensive, or preemptive strike. If you like the Bible as your basis for moral and lifestyle guidelines, here’s one of my favorites. “He who is without sin (wrong-doing) cast the first stone.” This is Jesus’ words (always expect a paraphrase from me) in John 8:7. What could be clearer in the vein of “judge not, lest ye be judged;” (Matthew 7:1 – I first heard and learned this scripture from the King James Version, thus, the ye); “who are we to judge?” Or, “who do you think you are?”
For my purposes in this particular musing, I’m mixing my metaphors between the actual, barbaric and hateful act of stoning a human being as capital punishment (often for adultery, as in the case of the woman Jesus defended). It is/was intended to kill someone for their offense. But in the context of this essay, I’m referring to sticks, stones, words, names, and aspersions. In this sense, the act of casting stones, no different than in literal stoning, is all about tearing down rather than building up, a human being.
To stone someone requires a purposeful gathering up of collected ammunition – a pile of stones not aimed at building something, a structure for example, but stacked for the purpose of ripping apart a life, killing, if you will their reputation, self-confidence, peace, happiness, goals, dreams, etc. To stone someone requires intentionally taking time from living your own life to assault the life of another, whom you as an individual or as a participant in “group-think,” have deemed having done wrong.
Lest you think the childhood defense against hurt feelings – “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” is anything close to authentic or that “real” stoning does not include name-calling, fabrication, set-ups to suit your beliefs, politicizing, or defensive mechanisms, have I got a film for you!
My husband and I like the occasional foreign film. You get used to subtitles. Years ago, we watched the 2008 film, “The Stoning of Soraya M.” Not before, nor since, has my soul been so impacted by a movie. It’s not for sissies. You will come away, I challenge you, devastated by the injustices of the world and I hope aspire to, with the best of your consciousness, never again endeavor to be the first to cast first stones.