Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Sit Down With Lemuel

The other day I specified the 3 R's of group dynamics, which "R" of course, 1 aRrange; 2 Reconnoiter; 3 Ruminate.

I like to say if you're not aRranging things, things are being aRranged for you. You must be proactive but low-key. People don't really notice. They just think you're being helpful.

As for Reconnoitering, this is another way of saying Keep your eyes open, but also to be deviously aware. It's also something that you have to be very proactive about. And out of the 3 R's -- and this doesn't just go for group dynamics but for all the human environmental sciences -- I think this is the most enjoyable. Because you're using all your senses, engaging your subjects while observing them.

Sometimes with reconnoitering, I know, the observer fears he or she might tamper with the subject too much, but it depends on what you're trying to achieve. Because some are going for knowledge for knowledge's sake, such as to chart general behavior, and, say, you wouldn't want to have a table there saying you're charting general behavior! Just like if you wanted candid photos you wouldn't say Smile and say cheese.

In a lot of my engagements with people I'm not looking for objective information, of course, because the engagements are primarily social, and I can't step back behind a one way mirror. Believe me, I'd love to! If I could live in a house or skyscraper that was full of one way mirrors, I'd move in a heartbeat. Then give me 30-40 assistants to massage data, and maybe one or two to massage me, and we'd have a great time. We'd be looking for secrets, charting secrets, doing psychological experiments till we were blue in the face. Fun stuff, too, like college students shocking unwitting victims, to prove something about original sin.

But as it is, I'm flying solo. And I don't really call my forays experiments as such. I'm doing what I do to make it to the next level. To get the understanding to give me a happier tomorrow. And, let's say it helps free the country and lessens rural paranoia, bridges some divides and opens up a free flow of trade, not to mention the sharing of ideas, etc., that'll be good too. The third R -- Ruminating -- is in this to some extent.

But let's return to Reconnoitering. I decided to do some reconnoitering of the grange complex. I know things are relaxed at certain times, like Sundays. I don't know where the rural people all go on Sunday morning, so I'm just guessing. The thought occurred to me that they bury themselves in a box of soil from their ancestral land, then close the lid and lay there to recharge. Or it could be they're in church. Either way, the morning is relaxed. There weren't any of the black hooded, black veiled guys in trees, leaving the country vulnerable to interlopers.

I drove out and parked in the same place as usual. Everything looked deserted. The grove, the field, the grange itself. Some of the farmers' daughters shorts were hung on a clothes line. I decided to saunter over and take a closer look. My verdict: Very interesting. My further verdict: Who says Reconnoitering isn't the most interesting R? It's where you get to use all your senses.

After some lengthy reverie in that vicinity, the gentle breezes helping my reverie immensely, I next decided to check out the barn. The door wasn't locked, but that didn't seem unusual, since it's just a barn. I opened the door a crack and didn't see anyone. So I went in. Soon I could hear some noises. It was the horses rustling around, eating, snorting, neighing. I thought of the old joke that horses are nothing but neighsayers, which brought a smile to my lips, playing across my features, enlightening my eyes, and perhaps flaring my nostrils with delight.

My joy was suddenly interrupted by a call from down the other end. I saw a man step from the shadows with a gun and ask me what I wanted. It was Lemuel, the horses' keeper, who, it turns out, lives in a small house behind the barn. From where he stood, with the door behind me open, and the morning sun streaming in, I must have looked like a silhouette. Bad aRranging, but I was caught unaware!

So using my best group dynamics tone (what I call the old We're all in this together tone), I said, "So there you are! I'm glad I ran into you!" That immediately disarmed him because now he knew I wasn't just sneaking around but was looking for him. Then a bit of flattery, "These horses are beautiful. You do a heck of a job with them!" Then some commisserating. I immediately sat down on a barrel, fanned myself with my hand, and said I was still a little tired from Friday night, and that I knew he must be too.

In a few seconds we were like close friends. I pulled over another barrel -- careful not to have him between me and the sun [aRranging] -- and we had a good old fashioned sit down. I was careful to keep my head at a lower level than his.

He told me his story, his love for animals at an early age, the revulsion he'd always felt at immorality, the need for people to go to church, how society is a complete waste, and so on. I nudged him a little -- verbally -- and asked why he wasn't at church. His answer astounded me, "A game toe," one of the exact same things I suffer with, and what I have to thank for my disability benefits. We had that in common, so we were totally on the same page. Same foot too, the right, and even the same toe, the big toe!

The things he said about morality and immorality, I really, really resonated with. And how society is a complete waste. It was all right on as far as I was concerned. (Meaning that's the story he got, since a lot of Reconnoitering is nothing but strategic agreeing with people.) Several times I trumped him, because people like that too; it lets them know you're really paying attention, plus, it lets them know you respect the progress they've made in life and your optimism for them to take it further. Like if he's giving an anecdote about some terrible thing -- let's say the ravages of rock music on religion's popularity -- I have a worse one.

We got on the subject of horses, which of course is his real pride. I buttered him up like a Thanksgiving turkey. Each of these horses he trained. It's his signal they go by when they kick some immoral person to death. It turns out he used to train animals for the circus but quit when a monkey bit the big toe on his right foot. So that's where he got the game toe! Interesting. But why'd he quit? Because he felt like such a failure at the time and swore he'd never again work with animals. Then he moved to this area -- back ages ago -- was tested himself like the others are, passed the test, and eventually got the job from the old guy before him who died, etc., and he's been at it ever since.

He was happy to meet me, he said, and said he was impressed how I passed a very difficult orgy test a couple weeks ago. Somehow I knew better than to dare touch my zipper. He complimented me on my great discipline -- my morality -- and said he knew I was a rare breed. My intuition told me he was sizing me up to take over his job with the horses, just like he got it from the old guy before him, but I didn't say anything about it.

We parted as close friends. Lemuel. A nice guy indeed.

Now I'm back home to Ruminate, which, in part, you've been privileged to witness.

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