In the past two weeks, I’ve had two remarkably outstanding moments of clarity.
Each arrived softly, without fanfare, revealing character elements which, in the moment of their revelation, made a lot of other experiences and questionable things fall into place.
And, in those moments, I knew.
One involves someone I’ll never work with again.
The other made our healthy and reliable friendship stronger.
It doesn’t get better or more apparent than that moment of clarity, that moment of knowing, and never questioning again.
The first, someone I’ve worked with several times over a long period of time, someone whose effort and sincerity always left me feeling doubts – nothing blatant. Just unsettling. The second situation was simply kindness above and beyond the usual, not requested, but offered without expectations or qualification. Proof positive when none was asked for or required – a good deed offered without required reciprocity.
Clarity of thought is tricky cogitation – to know a thing, to be clear about a feeling, to ‘know’ about a person – galvanizing a thousand perplexities into one definite feeling, exact phrase, or finite experience. Not a theory you can think through logically, not a process, no known equation …
Try it – sit down. The task is finding clarity. A hundred other things will distract our mind – things that need doing, something we should get up to do, errands to run, lists to make, none of which have anything to do with clarity.
Sit back down. Try again. And again.
Focusing, in my experience, doesn’t work – instead, leaving me feeling further confused and farther from clarity. It seems, the more I need to have it, the more it eludes me.
Finding clarity, for me, is not a task so much as it has become a somewhat never-ending story – searching through the fogginess of intelligence and data like I’m wading across a muddy creek-bed in my rubber boots searching for something elusive, like a braille reading blind man crawling on a pebble beach.
Yet I know, when I least expect it, clarity will show up.
Rarely gift wrapped, luxuriant, or appeasing. Its job isn’t to make me feel better. It need only be clear and valid.
Clarity, in my view, is not about facing facts, facing hard truths, or absorbing criticism. We do those things every day, they yield angst and raise our heart rate, but they are only obstacles in our day-path, facts, foibles, and people we must deal with.
Not so much.
Many great discoveries and business developments were born by accident, by someone saying, “Hmm, that’s interesting.”
But interesting isn’t always clarity, and clarity isn’t always interesting.
It isn’t an issue of fun v. not-fun. In my experience clarity’s distinguishing factor – that moment of knowing – is one of joy mingled with relief. The pleasure of knowing clarity has been found, and that feeling of relief which comes from knowing that search is over.
Clarity can be found in a moment, or it can elude us for decades.
I’ve wondered, in my own case, if the reason clarity is so hard to find is that I do not really want clarity. On some things, I’m a self-confessed procrastinator. On some things, I’m in denial. On some things, I’m but one player in a complex construct involving others – which makes clarity tougher to define, let alone find. And that begs the question, whether all the parties need to achieve clarity, or is it just me who needs it so badly?
Back to clarity – that moment, appearing like a lightning bolt which illuminates everything for a brief moment, that moment of knowing that moment.
One of my favorite quotes, from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Those lines were borrowed by John Fowles, spoken by Nicholas Urfe (played by Michael Caine) – a movie I saw in 1968, its impact just as vivid for me now, 52 years later – that’s clarity.
Clarity, then as it is now, realizing how life never takes us in a straight line, often bringing us back to the simple reality.
We are all real and straightforward. Most of our complications are self-created and self-inflicted.
We save ourselves and damage ourselves by ourselves.
We will not cease the search for clarity until we terminate, or maybe it takes longer.
Clarity is, I’m convinced, not theoretical.
It is real, often visceral.
Only a moment; that’s all it takes, all we need, and from that moment on, it is a certainty for us. We always know and always remember and never have to struggle with that issue or person again.
Clarity arrives when we expect it least and need it most. Emotions flow from such moments – sometimes a mild rage, sometimes jubilation, sometimes just a satisfied smile and feeling a little lighter on my feet with the result of that defining moment of clarity’s arrival.
Two moments of clarity; one taught me to never trust someone again, while the other validated someone’s integrity beyond reproach. I’ll never spend another moment wondering about either of them. I learned a lot about myself in these situations – another reminder to trust misgivings because they will be illuminated by a bolt of lightning one day.
Or by a short text.
Sometimes a few words or a few moments tell us all we need to know.
And it helps if we are paying attention at the time …
Buen dia Mark desde el soleado Cancún:) Thank you for today’s Musings, it is interesting how 5 de Mayo is celebrated as Much, AG, Cancun, Mex.
Hi Mark, Interesting read, Cinco de Mayo, learned something new! Thank you! Today May 5th, also marks the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of the Netherlands in 1945, ending WWII. I and all Dutch people are immensely grateful to the thousands of Canadians and all other Allies, that liberated my native country! Sadly, all the ceremonies and festivities planned to commemorate this historical day, have been cancelled, due to Covid-19. Veterans were invited to the Netherlands to be honoured and be part of the celebration, but it all had to be cancelled. That does not however, diminish the joy and gratitude in my heart and I salute all the brave Liberators with a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU! Take care Mark, MV, Kingston, ON
Hola Mark! I so enjoyed your article about Mexico! I too have been travelling to Mexico for a warm and relaxing break since I was a teenager. I know many people have a lot of negative feelings about Mexico. But I for one have always had a great experience. I find the Mexican people to be warm, friendly and eager to try and converse. I hope everyone in Mexico has a great day of celebration today. Socially distanced. Enjoy our sunshine today!, DS, Calgary, AB
Hi Mark. I've not responded to your musings before, but this one struck a chord. I'm not sure I've ever associated the phrase 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger' with physical health or strength. To me, it's all about the emotional/mental response. If you overcome something you thought could or would defeat you, it builds emotional resilience, which in turn allows you to face other challenges with more confidence. Stay safe and healthy, DC, Calgary, AB
You pose an interesting question. What doesn't kill us may not make us stronger. We are all changed by this virus--some physically and most of us emotionally. While we have learned many lessons about how we should treat others and how we are killing our planet, the isolation has taken a toll on most of us. Thank you for your daily exploration into our new world. Here's my two cents worth: jmaydaze.com/2020/05/04/lucky-day-compared-to-what/ , JM, Seattle, WA