A Bit of Human Kindness

My experience with online dating over the years has been just awful.  This e-mail (posted as received) from one potential connection is an exception among those experiences:

[from her to me]  hey, i just have to say your photos are really impressive…i have found on this site that most guys (probably women too), post older photos of themselves where they look younger and more attractive. for some reason i came across your profile and your pics are amazing 🙂 you seem to just get better looking and in better shape as you age, and i am impressed that you included all the older photos as well., you seem like a real genuine guy..wow, seriously not sure what you’ve been doing, but keep it up….i hope in 5 years i can look that much better than i do today. i don’t really see us as a match, but just wanted to reach out to you and tell you i thought it was really cool and i hope one day you meet a great lady

[from me to her]  Hi _______, thank you for your kind and generous remarks.

I had something of an epiphany a few years back … overweight, out of shape, no love life – not a pretty picture.  I decided to do something about it, dropped some weight, joined a few clubs (books, art, writing) …  I posted the older photos because I wanted to show folks that I’m still a “work in progress.”  I’m still working on losing weight, stretching resistance bands to build a little muscle and tone up.

You’re a terrific looking, awesome woman yourself – I have no doubt that you’re living a healthy lifestyle and you’ll look at least as good as you do right now (heck, better – I honestly believe there’s some truth to the claim that we don’t get older, we get better) with every passing year.

My only regret is that you don’t see us as a match.  Such kind and generous support is a rare thing in this world – you’ve really given my ego a boost!  If you ever have a change of heart, I’d love to spend some time with you – nothing better than having a mutual admiration society!

Thank you again for reaching out – you’ve renewed my hope in human nature.  If I meet someone half as kind and thoughtful as you, I’ll consider myself a very lucky fella.  I hope you meet that terrific guy who gives you the care, affection and love you so clearly deserve.  My best to you, always …

I’ve traded online dating for more face to face group activities, enjoying the activities for their own sake.  If I meet someone during these events, terrific – and if I don’t, that’s fine too.

Reframing for Revelation

A friend wanted to know what I thought about the concept of “reframing.”  I asked her what she meant.  She replied that, in trying to come to terms with some of the more painful experiences in her life, her therapist asked her to “reframe” those experiences, to see whether anything positive might be extracted from them.  But she couldn’t shake the feeling that reimagining these experiences in this way felt inauthentic, that the meanings of those experiences were inextricably tied to their original “framework.”

Now I can see why being told to “reframe” an experience seems somewhat false, fake, maybe even dishonest.  But many people may think the opposite – for them, “going with the best truth” or “looking on the bright side” seems false, contrived, even naïve.  “Reframing” may seem false because it lacks content – it only tries to “reassemble” the event or issue.  By contrast, “looking on the bright side” may seem more authentic because it brings out content – albeit in a “predetermined” way.

The difference between “looking on the bright side” and “reframing the issue” concerns whether meaning (content, reality, truth – it goes by a bunch of different [yet similar] names) is a matter of definition (“reframing”) or of intuition (“looking on the bright side”).  If “reframing” seems false compared with “going with the best truth,” then meaning is a matter of intuition; if “reframing” seems more true than “going with the best truth,” then meaning is a matter of definition.

But this isn’t an “either/or” matter – meaning requires both intuition and definition.  A famous line from the history of philosophy captures the idea quite well: “Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.”  In other words, if all you have is definition (and no intuition), you don’t really have anything worth having (“empty”), and if all you have is an intuition (and no definition), you have content but without any direction (“blind”).

Long story short:  “reframing” is bogus if it only reshuffles the pieces of the experience puzzle.  But, if reframing reveals some new meaning or content or information ABOUT the experience not previously realized, then the concept will have some practical value.