Monday, December 19, 2005

Gravity, Cacti, Pottery and Responsibility

Gravity is perfect! It’s consistent. It’s dependable. It always holds us accountable.

Did you know that babies aren’t afraid of falling until about a week after they learn to walk. Nature knows when to turn on a fear of falling. Once a respect for gravity is acquired, it remains throughout childhood. There are no recorded instances of a child falling to his or her death in the Grand Canyon. (There was an instance where parents failed to set a parking brake and two children in car seats died after the car rolled over the edge.) There are many cases of adults falling. One author suggests a sign that reads “Children, watch your parents!”. Somehow, adults learn to be irresponsible.

With gravity, we are responsible for our actions. If we try to cheat or take a short cut or expect gravity to be forgiving we learn a painful lesson. Gravity holds us accountable. It’s unfortunate that we have created a world where we are not accountable. I think life would be radically different if all of our experiences held us responsible.

We replaced our cell phone recently. Some of the young people working in the Cingular store failed to provide good customer service. Why? I suspect that it didn’t matter. It appears their income didn’t depend on our purchasing a phone. They seemed to be insulated from the consequences of their actions. They don’t own the business. Perhaps that’s one of the great institutionalized evils of corporations. They remove a sense of responsibility and insulate employees from accountability.

Years ago I worked at a Ford stamping plant with 6,000 other workers. I’ve worked at places where I was paid during lunch breaks so I asked if we were paid for lunch time since we didn't punch out when we ate. The person replied, “No, we don’t get paid but we f*** them in other ways.” It was in that moment that I realized the orporate/union war zone was going to be worse than I anticipated. We worked in an environment of irresponsibilty. (Wow, do I have stories from that job.)

Julie and I bought potted cacti from Lee Jones who owns and operates Cactus Flats Gift Shop in Apache Junction, AZ. Lee seemed to be a fine person. He took extra care to wrap and package our purchases. He was friendly. As we talked I learned that he doesn’t take credit cards but will take checks. “Don’t have your checkbook? No problem. Take the plants and mail a check to me.” What? Yes, he lets people leave with over $100 in plants with the promise of a check. He said he’s never been cheated. As we prepared to leave, he made a special point of reaching across the counter to shake hands.

On Saturday in Sedona, we stopped by Red Hot Pottery which is owned and operated by artist Christine Tenenholtz. She creates pottery and her husband is a musician. We watched her working on a new creation and chatted. She said they are not getting wealthy but they are enjoying life and teaching their children that it’s possible to be happy, content and successful on a more modest income. We paid for some gifts and she give us some pleasant memories free of charge.

The thing these two people have in common is that they’ve learned they can’t cheat gravity and they can’t be irresponsible in their businesses. Their happiness and livelihoods depend on their choices and how they treat customers and people in general.

I need gravity-like accountability in other areas of my life. I need to hold myself responsible. The government doesn’t owe me a free ride. A union isn’t always a good thing. Corporations seem to be inherently flawed and merit my suspicion. I like taking care of myself. If I fall, don’t help me up. Instead, point out the foolishness of my actions that led to the fall. Be kind to me and hold me accountable. Gravity holds me accountable and I've learned to live peacefully with gravity. I can learn to be reponsbile in other ways. Give me the chance.


Blogger Angela said...

Great post, I really enjoyed.

12/19/2005 08:35:00 AM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

Well said.

12/19/2005 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Bonita said...

This post also speaks of being 'generous-spirited', like the garden shop owner. His spirit was a give away, and I know you'll be going back.

12/19/2005 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Thom said...

I would help you up the first time that you fell and assume that you had learned your lesson.

12/19/2005 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger Still Searching... said...

A truly fabulous post. Very much enjoyed it. It is so true, I see it around me everyday and it can be so frustrating.

12/19/2005 10:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post. I've often found that if you treat people as if they have already choosen the high road, they do.

12/19/2005 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger Lucindyl said...

It's good to hear someone appreciating accountability and drawing the picture of the peace and mental stability that that kind of discipline brings. I wish more people understood the connection.

12/19/2005 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger grannyfiddler said...

my granny would call it 'being a good neighbor'... you don't dump your garbage in someone else's back yard, and you treat everyone with respect, in every way you can. because you and your children have to live for a very long time with the relationship you build with those neighbors.

i believe this is true on a global level as well, but it's too easy to let distance be an excuse for not obeying the law of gravity.

12/19/2005 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Interesting post. In Britain the Welfare State has probably undermined people's capacity to be responsible to a significant degree.

12/19/2005 04:26:00 PM  
Blogger kathy said...

falling down happens! i never thought of it as being irresponsible.

12/20/2005 01:43:00 AM  
Blogger Gaye said...

Be kind to me... that's a nice concept. Gravity keeps me grounded, but I wanna fly i_wonder; just once...

12/20/2005 06:04:00 PM  

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