Putting the Pieces Together

Missy has a unique way of playing Concentration.

To start with, her cards always stay face up. That in itself might not be unusual, given her disability. Simply locating and matching a pair of cards counts as a triumph, even without the added challenge of remembering where a certain pair is hiding.

But it’s what happens next that gets my attention.

Because Missy’s matching doesn’t stop with pairs.

Cards showing markers are stacked with cards showing crayons. Cards showing airplanes get sorted with cards showing rockets. Any card that has a picture of food on it finds its way into a common pile.

In short, she’s finding patterns.

More, she’s finding patterns that everyone would recognize.

In this day and age, that’s not just a triumph. That’s darned near a miracle.


“Still a man hears what he wants to hear/And disregards the rest.”

— Simon and Garfunkel, “The Boxer”


There’s a lot of anger in the country these days.

Anger over gun laws and gay rights. Anger over drones and bugs, over hours-long filibusters and mile-long health care plans. Anger over what exactly happened on a rainy Florida night between two strangers that left one dead and the other notorious.

I’m not discounting that anger or proclaiming myself immune. I’ve felt it. You probably have, too. And frankly, it’s good for citizens of a democracy to be uncomfortable at times, to not be complacent, to look at the world and say “This is not how it should be.”

But going there isn’t enough.

You have to decide what the next step is going to be.

For some, the urge to anger becomes the urge to destroy. Hit back. Tear down. It’s the most primal urge of all, the most tempting. The blow thrown in rage. The bomb set in Boston. The war that consumes all of Europe, then all the world.

To let the heat become fire, all-consuming.

For others, anger is a chance to build and transform, the righteous anger that cleans moneychangers from the temple or slavery from a nation. To say “This is not right” and replace it with something better.

To let the fire light the way to a different path.

For most of us? It becomes hot air. Something to vent on Facebook and Twitter, to rant about in the halls of power, to air the dissatisfaction without necessarily seeing it become action.

Now, that talk has its place. It’s better to shout than to shoot, after all.  Sometimes that debate can even lay the groundwork for those who do act, if only by helping one more neighbor to see and appreciate a view that’s not their own.

That way can lie understanding. Compromise. Even cooperation.

But … and this is a big “but” … there has to be a place where minds can meet.

And that can’t happen if everyone has their own personal reality.

The Zimmerman trial was only the most recent example. We’ve seen others. Cases where so many already know what happened, know what the truth is. And will pull out everything they can, be it fact or rumor, to support that pre-determined conclusion.

Doesn’t fit the picture? Shuffle it back into the deck.

Need that matchup to work? Go ahead. Stack the pizza cards with the crayons. Who’s to say you’re wrong?

I mean, besides any kind of objective reality.

Facts are uncomfortable things. They’re not always going to be on the side we want. It is, indeed, useful to recognize patterns and draw inferences from them – but only if we’re ready to follow where they take us.

If it mars our pretty picture, so be it. Better an honest uncertainty than a conviction built on air.

And if we can’t do that … well, then we get today’s Congress. And much of today’s social media. A lot of echo chambers, each sure of their righteousness and the other guy’s error, none ready to acknowledge the horrible possibility that they might be mistaken.

It doesn’t take much to change it. Just open eyes. An honest mind. And a willingness to put sense before pride.

Missy will be glad to demonstrate.

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