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Thoughts about life [Jun. 24th, 2009|10:06 am]
John
There are a lot of situations in life where you're dealing with sensitive issues... sometimes without even realizing it.

And I was trying to think about how to talk about that, how to try to express that, and I realized that there's an interesting metaphor that can be used.

Dealing with people, you have to be aware of the Asshole Trap Door.


See, when you're dealing with people, and a sensitive issue comes up, the Asshole Trap Door opens. And if you're standing on it when it opens, then splat! You land in a deep pile of... mud. Yeah, mud. Let's not be too gross.

And the thing is, it's a trap door. It's not surprising if you don't know where it is. Oh, if you're good, if you're aware, you'll get better and better at spotting them, and learn to stand somewhere else. But you're unlikely to avoid triggering them once in a while.

And the wonderful thing about people is, in most cases, if you say "Oh. I seem to have just been an asshole. I'm sorry," then they'll help you out of the pit and let you clean yourself up with dignity, and forget that it's ever happened, so long as you don't come stomping on that trap door again.

But not always. And that's one of the hard things to live with, but hey, you just spattered mud everywhere, and you're tracking mud where you walk. And if that mud's been sitting there a while, with some rotting vegetation mixed in, it probably stinks. So, at that point, your best bet is to walk away, tracking as little mud as possible, and realize that, even if it was an accident, it's normal if folks are a bit upset. And they'll either get over it, or they won't. (And if they don't get over it, and it was an accident, well, no, it's not fair... but whoever said life was fair?)

I like this metaphor because it lets you think about certain situations without necessarily placing blame.

I once heard someone (Dan Savage, maybe) say that if you ask a woman on a date, if she says yes, it's okay, but if she says no, you're an asshole for pestering her. A bit harsh, but a good way to remind people that you're not exactly *entitled* to a kindly rejection. You'll probably get one, if you make a polite request, but you also might not.

Well, you can modify that to "when asking a person out on a date, there are Asshole Trap Doors that could open. If one of them does, and you're standing on it, realize what just happened."

And that illustrates another point. While you want to be aware of the possibility, while you want to check for any suspicious indentations or lines that could, just maybe, be the circumference of a trap door, you can't go through life afraid of them. Ask for a date, while terrified that you'll be seen as an asshole, and you'll probably be acting strangely, with bad body language an intonation, which might set off warning bells.

It's like when you're driving. Look where you want to go; if you stare at that truck you're trying to avoid, you might - without realizing it - steer towards that truck. If you spend all your time looking for possible trap doors, you might just step on one because you're so obsessed with them. Or, you might miss one because you're staring at another.

One of the hallmarks of maturity is one's ability to recognize when one of those trap doors has opened, and to recover as gracefully as possible. Stomping around insisting that, no, you haven't been an asshole, splattering your loose mud onto other folks with each stomp, is not very graceful.

And one of the best bits of black humor in this world is that, sometimes, the only way to get things done is to deliberately get muddy, and let the world decide - was that mud under the Asshole Trap Door, or was that mud flung at you by someone manufacturing a grievance?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: hobbitbabe
2009-06-24 06:45 pm (UTC)

Ooh, neat analogy.
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[User Picture]From: barbarakitten_t
2009-06-24 07:16 pm (UTC)
oh, hell, john....you just want to see girls wrestle in mud...

*just kidding* [i've been looking at alt.c history and suddenly have a vision of naked coed night slug skiing...why yes, my brain is melting. why do you ask?]
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[User Picture]From: jhetley
2009-06-24 07:32 pm (UTC)
Sounds good to me.

Including that bit about the "offense kleptomaniacs" . . .
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[User Picture]From: hopeevey
2009-06-24 11:55 pm (UTC)
That is a remarkably useful metaphor - thank you :)
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[User Picture]From: anansi133
2009-06-25 02:48 am (UTC)
Brilliant. I constantly forget how much human drama is generated by the need to affix blame. Set that need aside for a bit, and all kind of new landscapes emerge.

It's the unpredictability of the door that gives me the willies. computers are so much more predictable than people! Just as well they're not more rewarding, else I'd just live with robots all the time.
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