Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Lately, I've been noticing how much I've been influenced - for the better - by acquaintances or complete strangers. Like most people, I think, I have a sense of my own independence and individuality. It's empowering to carry the notion that I'm my own man, with a mind of my own, walking my own path toward my unique, individual destiny. But of course Life has demonstrated to me how packed full of delusion and mythology those notions are.

I can't deny that just about everything I do is substantially influenced - if not determined outright - by a multitude of factors, including my culture, the media, my genetic inheritance and the conditioning powers of advertising and a formal education. It would be absurd of me to think that I dress myself, that I reach my own conclusions about politics or on social issues, or that I had much of anything to say about the foods I like.

Even so, It's empowering to think that I take all that and arrive at something of my own, independent of all these influences. So how do I explain the many ways in which my course has been drastically shifted by the odd conversation, an offhand suggestion, or an idle comment?

Awhile ago, an acquaintance who has lost a lot of weight, attributed his new physique to the hours he spends on his bicycle. The very next day, I was on the bike that had been chained up in my yard for most of the Spring, collecting cobwebs. And a colleague recently moved me to make an effort to get back to meditating regularly, by mentioning that he'd gotten his practice back on track. And a few months ago, a health professional I was consulting on a totally unrelated matter, suggested that I get hooked up with a writing group, advice I followed up on just a couple of weeks later, to great result.

None of these nudges were odd or unique in any way. In fact, all the actions that resulted were things I was thinking about to some degree, or things I knew I should do, but just hadn't gotten around to. They were actually all pretty obvious. I simply hadn't done them. But in all cases, getting the suggestion from a person I liked and respected made all the difference. And I'm intrigued by that.

It occurs to me that the effect of these nudges was much like the effect a deadline often produces. In both instances, there's a sense of immediacy that comes into the equation, and my will is mobilized in a way it wasn't before. But the nudge has a much more personal dimension to it than the deadline.

But this is something I don't really feel a need to break down and analyze until I understand it. I know that I feel grateful for them. I feel like I've been gifted by these acts, which each seems to involve aspects of sensitivity and of sharing. And as I think back, there've been so many!

There's one more nudge I have to mention. This blog was started as a result of an idle conversation with a stranger while standing in front of a bike shop. When she learned I was a writer, she immediately began to share the benefits she'd received from blogging, and she pressed me to start one myself. And I, who'd been very idly considering looking into it, for months if not years, took the plunge a short while later. And the rewards I've gotten from blogging have been transformative. I'll do a post about them someday.

In the meantime, I'm feeling much less caught up in the mythology of my independence. I'm deeply appreciative of these nudges that come, mostly unexpected and casual. I intend to hold myself open for more.

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