PONDERINGS on making mistakes

Congratulations to those who spotted the error in my last posting! No, it wasn’t Scientology. It was Theosophy. Oh dear. Fancy making such a public mistake confused face.

It set me pondering though, this time on the value of making mistakes.

I recall learning to ride my bike. How ever hard I tried, I could never keep it upright long enough to turn the pedal.  Then we moved house and the boy next door invited me to try riding his father’s racer across the field. Every time I wobbled he somehow held the bike, and me, upright.  He pointed out what I was doing wrong each time and, being a ten year old boy, he simply did not believe I couldn’t do it. I think it was because he believed in me that I did too. I couldn’t reach the ground so I was in danger of falling off many times but, by the end of the day, I could ride a bike! 

Maths lessons were rather similar. I’m not sure I made the same use of my errors there, though there were many of them, since I still have trouble keeping track of numbers. Nevertheless, it is mistakes that help us learn. Mixing the wrong two varieties of red and blue and finding instead of purple, you have brownish grey is a quicker way of learning than memorising colour charts and, as often as Mum says to two year old, ‘Don’t touch, it’s hot’, trying it and feeling the hurt is what really helps him remember.

According to the Bible, we’re supposed to become perfect.  So why, you might ask, are we sent here in such a fallible condition?  Why can’t we be born knowing everything, understanding everything?  It would be so much easier.  Wouldn’t it?

Have you ever sat through a lecture on a subject you are already very familiar with and found your eyes glazing over, your mind going into day-dream mode and, before you know it, the session is over and you leave feeling the whole thing was a waste of time?  I think life without the opportunity to make mistakes would be a bit like that.

On the other hand, if during that lecture, something wakes you up.  You might hear the familiar topic being described in ways you hadn’t thought of before.  Life’s failures can be the wake up we need, the means of seeing things with a new perspective.  Through them we may learn empathy and gain a sympathetic understanding that enables us to bless the lives of others. Perhaps its not so much the error as its consequence that is the teaching moment.  

Each misstep or stumble provides the opportunity to reassess how we place our feet, to determine new directions, find a way of performing better and getting further than we have before. Few mistakes are terminal. Mostly they just show us where we need to learn a bit more or take a bit more care. So next time I cite an historic fact, I’ll check my sources before I publish winking face .  Enjoy your mistakes, miscalculations, blunders, wobbles and other aberrations this week and may you learn some truly life-changing things!

PONDERINGS ON being bird-brained!

digWe have bird-feeders suspended from brackets on the fence outside our window. They are frequently used by starlings, robins, dunnocks, sparrows, blue-tits and long-tailed tits. Last summer though, we were amazed to see a large rook from the rookery along the lane, trying to use the seed feeder. Finding he couldn’t cling to it like the little birds do, he perched on the fence above it. After a few seconds, he put one claw out gingerly to touch the feeder.  Soon he had worked out how to balance with one foot on the fence, one on the feeder, so he could get his beak into the seed opening! Are birds really ‘bird-brained’ or do they have the capacity for rational thought?  The answer is, of course they do.  How else would a robin recognise your gardening as a chance of a meal, or a seagull know that ploughing is a good time to find dinner inland? or a swallow know when it’s time to migrate?  Wikipedia tells us: ‘Intelligence is most widely studied in humans but has also been observed in both non-human animals and in plants’.  Every living thing has a little portion of intelligence, just as every human being does.  What we do with that is down to us but each time we exercise it to solve a problem or learn something new, it grows. That’s how your adorable toddler became an equally adorable 😉 teenager!

Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.  All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence. (Doctrine & Covenants 93: 29-30)

What a wonderful principle! Each of us has the opportunity to increase our capacity for rational and creative thought and the possibility of deciding for ourselves how we use it. The ability to think is the essence of our existence.

As women, we take pride in being able to multi-task and, to be frank, through most of our lives it’s a skill we could not survive without! It has its down-sides though. When you’re stirring a saucepan with the phone on your shoulder and an eye on the clock because you need to get to work, there isn’t much time for thought, rational or otherwise.  Then on TV that evening, you watch someone cooking a fabulous meal and telling you how simple it is and you think – but it isn’t rational, or creative thought –  you think, ‘Why can’t I do that? I’m rubbish.’

Gary L. Stevenson, speaking in an international Conference last October , showed a photo shared on social media.  It was a picture of a plate of cakes, or at least, half a plate was visible, apparently on a spotless table, by implication in a pristine kitchen.  Then he showed the uncropped version of the image, in which a screaming baby sat in a high chair just behind the table and there were utensils and flour everywhere!  Elder Stevenson said,

‘Comparing our own seemingly average existence with others’ well-edited, perfectly crafted lives as represented on social media may leave us with feelings of discouragement, envy, and even failure.’

How true that is. I’m sure it isn’t restricted to female experience.  Every one of us is constantly encouraged to compare ourselves to others.  Not others like us, of course, but others who seem so much more adept at everything.  Yet, you are unique.  There is no one else on earth exactly like you.  So it follows that no one else could be as good at being you as you are!  Dancer and choreographer, Martha Graham, said:

 “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any medium and be lost. The world will not have it.”

As I pondered these things, I realised what a privilege it is to have had the opportunities life has provided me. There were those chance encounters that enabled me to develop the talents I was born with but didn’t initially recognise; the opportunity to be a parent, to have been entrusted with the development of God’s precious children and watch their innate mental agility grow and mature; the many small but significant experiences that have shown me that life is more than mere mortality and I have a loving Father in Heaven who listens to and answers my prayers.

More mundanely, how very lucky we are to be able to spend even a few minutes, at an easel, thinking of nothing but painting.  I’m grateful for the space making art gives me to grow a portion of that eternal intelligence that will be a part of me forever; to ponder; to learn; to remember and create new memories; to develop a deeper appreciation for the magnificent world we inhabit during this earthly life.

So, bird-brained I might be, and I am certainly no genius, but intelligent? You bet!  May any feelings of discouragement or failure disappear this week as you realise your own unique contribution to the collective beauty of the world and immerse yourself in creative thought and creative activity! (oh, and don’t forget to feed the birds!)