2013 Grateful 42

It’s been a tumultuous week. Applause at the GOTG final, my first TV interview, and seeing myself in a short film at a public screening and not having apoplexy at the sight, all made it rather strange indeed. Perhaps I’m getting older or just more accepting or just plain mellowing – or maybe it’s a new attitude that came with the new glasses!

My mates LN and VS are in town and we’ve been having the craic. They were here last year so have met a lot of people already and know as much about my life here in Budapest as most. What’s interesting though, is their take on the people they meet. Perhaps a little coloured by things I’ve mentioned in passing – but that’s to be expected.  But we’re women who know who we like/don’t like and it’s been interesting to see their reactions to people, places, and events – and then to calibrate their opinions with my own. On a superficial first-meet level, I see them react to things I’d never have noticed. What’s more interesting though, is that when we don’t agree – it doesn’t matter. Each of us has strong opinions – and these opinions are very much a product of personal experience. That we can still sit around the table and have a decent conversation despite our differences is what makes us friends.

Years ago  at a conference at MIT, I remember meeting a young economist who was thinking of breaking up with her boyfriend because he worked for an organisation she didn’t approve of. She loved him, but not what he did. I wondered then about unconditional love and am still wondering. People are regularly dismissed because of their politics, their religion, their age. I’m guilty of this myself. And yet, how much does it all matter? If, deep down, someone is innately good, does it matter how they vote or what religion they are? Who am I to judge?  I’m constantly in a state of revision – and when I revise a first impression, I feel the need to explain it to the subject of my new-found wisdom. (‘You know, I used to think you were a plonker, but you’re actually alright!) Perhaps I should stop being so quick off the mark in the first place.

I received this poem in my inbox earlier this week. While it’s done the rounds, it’s a nice reminder of how easy it is to misjudge… and how much better life would be if we looked for that hidden inner value rather than preoccupy ourselves with what’s visible on the outside.

violin‘It was battered and scarred and the auctioneer thought it hardly worth his while to waste much time on the old violin, so he held it up with a smile. “What am I bid for this old violin? Who’ll start the bidding for me? A pound, a pound, who’ll make it two? Two pounds, and who’ll make it three? Three pounds once, three pounds twice, going for three,” but no; from the back of the room a grey- haired man came forward and picked up the bow. Then sweeping the dust from the old violin, and tightening up all the strings, he played a melody pure and sweet, as sweet as the angels sing. The music ceased and the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low, said, “What am I bid for the old violin?” and he held it up with the bow. “A thousand pounds, and who’ll make it two? Two thousand, and who’ll make it three? Three thousand once, three thousand twice, going, and gone,” said he. The people cheered, but some of them said, “We do not quite understand. What changed its worth?” Then came the reply, “The touch of the Master’s hand.” And many a man with his life out of tune, battered and scarred with sin, is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin. A mess of pottage, a glass of wine, a game, and he shuffles along: going once, going twice, he’s going and almost gone. But the Master comes, and the thoughtless crowd never can quite understand, the worth of the soul, and the change that’s wrought, by the touch of the Master’s hand.’

At the end of a rather hectic week, I’m grateful to those in my life who help calibrate me… thank you.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52

First impressions

Last night, someone (I can’t tell you who), asked me to go somewhere (I can’t tell you where), to do something (I can’t tell you what), and I immediately said YES!

And then I got to thinking – what is it about some people that makes us like them on sight? Why do we click straight away with total strangers and reveal our innermost selves to them within the first five minutes of meeting? What is it about them that makes us feel like we have known them forever and would trust them with our very lives?  And conversely, why do we take an immediate and irrational dislike to others at first sight? And for little or no apparent reason.

I used to put it down to handshakes. If a handshake is cold and clammy then it triggers some sort of aversion in me that registers on my ‘not like’ scale. But then I realised that I was just being pretentious – it registers briefly and then it disappears. Big deal. Don’t make more of it than it is, Mary. So it’s not that. Then I got into past life regression and would pull out my pendulum and my charts and spent hours figuring out in which previous life I’d met that person and what was I trying to compensate for or protect myself from in this life’s meeting. But it’s not everyone who can handle this oddness. It can be quite disconcerting for someone to hear on second or third meeting that I knew them in a past life – as Irish convicts sent to Australia, or while being burned at the stake for heresy in the seventh century, or even worse, that I was their mother sixty years ago!

So I stopped doing that, too, in all but the  most fascinating of circumstances – and mostly when I take an instant dislike to someone. I find it helps to understand the reason why before I decide whether or not to waste my energy on ‘not liking’.

Back to last night’s invitation though: suffice to say that I took an instant liking to this person when I first met them and should it all come off, you can expect to hear more about it in June. Watch this space. Cue music….