Some people might consider me a stupid person. I speak and write French and English at a professional level. I have two university degrees. I play the piano and the harp. I consider myself well-read. I have been a university faculty member and a ministry of education consultant. I facilitate professional learning, and I conduct choirs. Yet, to some people, I appear stupid.
I know this because people have told me. Case in point. I receive an email about my parking. It’s messing up the entire order of things. I am leaving too much room between cars. Can’t I park within the lines? This during winter when layers of snow and ice mask those same life-saving yellow lines in that parking lot. The email leaves no room for rationale. In fact, I want to allow my car-neighbours enough room to exit and enter their vehicles without worrying about door crashing or figuring how they will stash their stuff.
In response to that email, I initiate a conversation with its author. My parking is problematic? I ask. The individual describes my habits in vivid detail, and ends with an offer to show me how to park. “Thank you, but I don’t need parking lessons,” I comment. “My intention here is to indicate that I would have appreciated your coming to see me about the issue rather than sending an email.” I want to say, hide behind an email, but relent in the interests of diplomacy and the high road. Since then, I am paranoid about parking. The odd time, I even park badly, on purpose, out of spite, and because I can, something I never used to do.
Although I am an educated person, I often get things wrong. I once made a double batch of custard using salt instead of sugar. I washed dress pants that were to be dry-cleaned only; didn’t look at the tag. I’ve missed key turns on the road, or misinterpreted signs. Only in retrospect have I realized that I’ve also ignored interpersonal cues that seem self-evident. These missteps do not occur out of stupidity. They arise from fatigue or brain-byte overload or stress or preoccupation or lack of awareness.
I am not the only one who faces these stressors. Everyone’s actions spring from some motivation, conscious or subconscious. We may not always know what those motivations are nor understand them, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. “There are things in heaven and earth,” Shakespeare said through Horatio in Hamlet, “that are not dreamt of in your philosophy.” We need to accept that behavior we find problematic occurs for a reason, even if we can’t understand it or accept it.
|All three image are|
copied from Facebook.
Let’s not be smug, either. If the actions of others appear stupid to us, we can be sure that others attribute stupidity to things we do as well, and are busy posting Stupidity posters on social media with us in mind. My mother had it right when she censored the word stupid at home. We were severely reprimanded if it ever escaped our lips. I am so grateful. Her actions stemmed from one of her favorite aphorisms: Quand tu craches en l’air, ça te retombe sur le nez, translated literally as: Anything you spit up in the air will land on your own nose. Karma, in other words. What you offer out to the universe will come back to you.
Instead of chronicling each other’s missteps, let’s cut each other some slack. Refuse either to post or endorse any references to stupidity. Accept that sometimes people park badly, make untoward comments, misinterpret signs or statements, litter, ruin garments, send emails without sufficient reflection, add some challenge to the day. Not out of stupidity. Just because we are human.