Sunday, December 19, 2010

Unseen Influence

Seeker's Journey will most likely resume its course at some point, but I want to share with you some of the big pieces that are falling into place in this time of transition (more on that in a moment).

Having never been to Fort Worth, I was delighted to find that people there were very connecting and warm.  In a conversation with someone on the Texas Christian University campus, I remarked on this and related my experience in a grocery store that morning.  I had popped in on that Tuesday morning to grab some juice, and half a dozen other shoppers greeted me over the course of that visit, some with a purposeful nod and smile and others with a verbal Hello or Good morning.  One person even complimented my tie.  This sort of thing has never happened to me in Houston, and I took it to mean something about me and something about the people of Fort Worth.

The person with whom I was speaking remarked, "The purple in your tie may have had something to do with it."

I glanced down and glibly commented, "Well, I do have some ties that tend to make me stand out in a crowd."

With a patient smile, the individual explained, "Well, purple is the school color.  You see a lot of it around TCU.  It's kind of a sacred color around here."

Of course, I laughed a bit at my own assumptions.  I don't doubt that Fort Worth residents are warm and friendly, and expect to find that they are so even when I am not clad in a sacred color.  But there was something at work of which I was not aware during my little grocery store stroll.  Although I knew purple was associated with TCU, I hadn't intentionally picked that tie because of its color.  Somewhere in the back of my subconscious I may have thought it was a splendid idea, but I certainly wasn't thinking of that connection even when someone directly complimented my tie. 

That experience has me thinking about other unseen influences.  Not fairies or guardian angels or ghosts, but the conscious and unconscious systems at work within ourselves or within other people (or groups of people) to which we are blind.  We operate on a great deal of assumption most of the time.  If we always assume the best about people, someone may take advantage of us at some point.  But if we assume the worst about people, we will likely see adversaries where there are none. 

Certainly other consequences abound from those extremes as well, but at the end of the day we must operate on some amount of assumption.  We can never actually know every single factor that will impact a result.  The secret as far as I am concerned is to maintain a willingness to evaluate and shift course when new information arises.  Which leads me to why I am suddenly moving to Fort Worth when I wasn't even considering doing so a month ago.

My wife, Joy, has accepted a job with Fort Worth Opera, doing something that she does well, connected to an art form she loves.  The whole process happened rather quickly, and I am proud of her for paying more attention to her hopes than her fears at the end of the day.  What it means for me is relocation to a place where I have no clear and definite plan, but there is some exciting freedom in that.  It will mean a rethinking of our finances, a retooling of how I spend my time and energy, and a chance to keep focusing on the things that matter most to me.  From what I can see right now, it appears that there will be immediate opportunities for me to be involved in the musical goings-on in Fort Worth, which can lead to new collaborations as a pianist and composer.  In a way, I've been preparing for this move for the past year.

Neither of us would have predicted a year ago (or even six weeks ago) that we would be relocating for Joy to take a position working once more in the opera field.  We had our perceptions of where various paths were leading, but we couldn't see everything influencing the direction of those paths.  The paths I have gone down over the past year have all taught me something valuable, even when I didn't stay on a path for very long.  I learned things I would never have truly learned otherwise, and some of those lessons have helped to define me.  Or, at least, they have helped me see the value in being honest about who I truly am.  I'll say more on this aspect of the journey next week.

What I want to clearly acknowledge right now is the importance of accepting that I do not see everything that goes on in other people's minds, and that I cannot know beyond a shadow of a doubt where a particular path will lead.  At a certain point, I have to decide whether or not to step forward on a path, with only partial knowledge of what may lie ahead.  But I can keep making that decision at every point along the way, taking in new information to guide my expectations and recognizing what I can do to contribute to the outcome I want.  If I want people to be friendly to me in a Forth Worth grocery store, I know now that wearing a purple tie will go a long way toward getting that outcome.  It might also work for me to walk into a place with a friendly greeting ready for the people I find there. 

Since we can never forecast every unseen influence, I think life becomes a bit of a game in which we win by doing our very best as consistently as we can.

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