For about a month I have been AFK, as my gaming son would say, away from the keyboard. With good reason: I had hip surgery nearly four weeks ago and am only now beginning to turn my energies toward things other than physical recuperation. Naturally, this means I have watched a lot of TV, sitting with my leg propped up before me, comfy and cozy, while Rome burns.
There! I did it again! Let my filters down. Allowed the slightest trace of opinion to escape onto the printed page.
Believe me, it won’t happen again.
Losing My Filters
My surgery went well, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who needs it. But the road to recovery has been interesting.
I had to take some very strong medications. Strong medications with side effects. A very welcome side effect—in fact the primary, intended effect—was release from the intense pain I would otherwise have felt. Another side effect was less expected, less welcome. Like turning off a switch.
Suddenly, I had no filters.
I am generally a very private person. I don’t blurt out every thought that comes into my head. I don’t need the podium, as some people seem to. I’d much rather lurk in the background, listening. Only when my comment reaches a certain level of relevance and timeliness and has not been expressed by anyone else effectively, only then do I usually add my two cents. Even then, I usually regret having said anything at all.
You can imagine how it pains me, with this blog, to press the button “Send.”
Well, this trait disappeared immediately upon taking that initial dose of the medicine. No sooner did I think a thought than I spoke it. I did not gauge my audience to see if they cared, or would be offended, or consider my remark “too much information,” considering our degree of social distance or familiarity. None of these filters stood in my way.
I spoke my mind. And my husband thought I was out of it.
I will not bore you with the details I shared, despite my better judgment. My better judgment seems to have gone into suspended animation while I was under the influence. I’m sure many of you have had a similar experience, due to alcohol or excessive weariness, perhaps. Don’t worry, the world was safe from me during this episode. I was forbidden to drive as well.
But it was strange to enter this other person’s body: the person who was frank, even cruel, in his unfiltered thought and word. The person whose self-absorption knew no bounds. The person who said whatever came to mind. Who felt no remorse, even when contradicting a remark he had made only a moment before.
What No Filters Feels Like
Perhaps now I understand better, how someone could act that way, having experienced it myself.
My general powers of observation were definitely impaired. I could not hold things in my memory for any significant length of time. If I tried to speak a sentence that was too long, I would often peter out or forget what I was talking about before reaching the end of it. There is no self-regulation or self-censorship under these conditions. There is only the moment.
At the same time, my experience was heightened. I kept saying, “This is the best–fill in the blank–I have ever eaten!” I was excited about everything. The future looked promising, unlimited. I felt twenty again. I felt great again!
I also felt brilliant—not in the British congratulatory sense of extraordinarily good, but in the Einstein way. I felt like I was firing on all cylinders and had to share it with the world. Luckily, I stayed far away from the keyboard, or in this spot there might have been a very interesting, possibly manic, blog entry.
It seemed to me that I was far more popular, in the high school sense, than I have ever been. Talking to friends on social media, I felt as if I were surrounded by a huge, loving community, “my tribe.” And indeed, I am so grateful to all those who helped me through this trying time. But it brought me to tears, the love I felt was present all around me. I felt like a hero, surrounded by his admirers. In short, I was a bit deluded.
Lucky for me, people forgive this kind of behavior, as long as it is short-lived, and not characteristic of a person.
Why Do We Have Filters, Anyway?
My mother always told me, when you go to someone’s house to visit or spend the night, you should leave no trace. You should make the bed, hang the towels, mop up any spills or splashes you make, bring up your dishes, wash them and put them away if they will let you. The house should show no sign that you were ever there. Nothing should remain except a happy memory.
There is something about our egotistic selves that is sloppy, careless and a bit of a stain on others, when we fail to harness it with filters. We leave a mark when we carelessly insult or criticize others. We bruise and batter when we brag or insinuate that others are not at our level.
The fact is that society, the world, reality, is not about us. It has all gone on for a long time without us, before our births, and will continue to do so after our deaths.
By using filters–pretty, kindly, sometimes overly formal, gestures of politeness and respect and forbearance–we acknowledge our status in the world.
Our relative insignificance.
Our need for the help of others, without whom we cannot hope to survive.
But what about people in power? Should they care if their words harm, or insult, or humiliate others?
Probably even more than ordinary people.
A person in power, unchecked, can make much more of a mess than the rest of us, and so, can be the most unwelcome guest of all.
We are but temporary visitors to this world, so wouldn’t it be best to leave it at least as nice as it was when we arrived? If we stay above the fray and communicate gently, with goodwill and helpfulness, and an awareness of our impact on others, who knows?
Perhaps we will even be invited to stay.