Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Danger In Shielding Oneself

In a story I recently read, Pandora's Star, the human race becomes concerned about a shield -- an apparent force field -- that envelopes another solar system. Why would anyone need to be shielded unless they were a threat? If the shield is a defense, then -- so the reasoning goes -- they're likely to go on the offense.

Although it's only a story, this sort of reasoning is applied to people like me on a fairly regular basis. I've tried to understand it over the years. If I spend too much time alone, or if I don't spill my guts to everyone who wants them spilt, it tends to make people uncomfortable. Liking my privacy has never been an acceptable answer. I think the reasoning goes like this:

I can be private as long as I'm not noticed. If I choose to be in the company of others, or to make myself noticed, then I'm asking to be questioned. If I choose to remain quiet in company, or to remain apart, shielding myself from others, so to speak, then I must be hiding something. And if I'm hiding something, then there must be something troubling me; anything troubling me is likely to become dangerous for others later on.

Or, at least, that's how I imagine the onset of fear progresses.

Not everyone minds having a quiet person around. But it's a rare find. It's a kind and accepting nature that allow others to just be -- to join when we want, to talk when we have something to say, to stick around even when we're not entirely involved.

A shield isn't necessarily a danger. Sometimes it's just a way of life.


Monday, July 1, 2013

In Order To Evolve, Like Bread

Making bread is an athletic event. Not only does it require dashing around to several stations of the bakery as you check rising loaves or mix ingredients or haul the mixing bowl out of its cradle -- but it also takes muscle power to activate the gluten in the dough. Even people who wouldn't be able to tell a poolish from a biga know that to make bread, you have to knead it. Push and roll, push and fold, a rhythmic workout on your floured countertop. Do it right, and you'll release a protein called gluten -- strands that let uneven pockets of carbon dioxide form in the loaves. After seven or eight minutes -- long enough for your mind to have made a to-do list of chores around the house, or for you to replay the last conversation you had with your significant other and what he really meant -- the consistency of the dough will transform. Smooth, supple, cohesive.

That's the point where you have to leave the dough alone. It's silly to anthropomorphize bread, but I love the fact that it needs to sit quietly, to retreat from touch and noise and drama, in order to evolve.

I have to admit, I often feel that way myself.

Excerpt from The Storyteller
by Jodi Picoult