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David Teniers the Younger: Guardroom with the Deliverance of Saint Peter (ca. 1645–47)
"Why would I chose to live any other way?"

The Lord reportedly works in mysterious ways, but no more mysteriously than any of the rest of us. I, for instance, rarely sense that I might be inFLUencing anyone, though I suspect that my inFLUence extends much further than I comprehend. It might be that every action, every thought, spreads virally, or virus-like, which is to say insidiously and invisibly. My casual aside might arrive like a missing puzzle piece for some anonymous anyone barely within ear shot, utterly unbeknownst to me. I feel nothing when another receives something I've sent unawares. They feel nothing when they've inFluenced me. We play a Blind Man's Bluff without deliberately bluffing, for this seems to be the stuff of human interaction. We're each incapable of inaction, for we seem to be continually InFLUencing whatever we do, even we firmly believe that we're doing nothing at all.

Know that whenever you show up and however you appear, you're actually InFLUencing there.
You cannot know how. Others observe you, perhaps casually and no more than in passing, and something's exchanged. They need not know your name to receive the exchange. Maybe they just notice the cut of your pants, but any little cue passes some InFLUence. Perhaps a confirmation of an unconscious stereotype transpires. They see an aging hippy, probably retired. If I'm rude or courteous, I might disrupt an otherwise fluid exchange and leave a deeper impression than anyone intended. I cannot invisibly pass, however much I might imagine that I might. My passage disrupts more than the air in any room. Others sense my presence even when I don't.

InFLUencing seems insidious, but only because it is. I could easily become paranoid with my own presence should I dwell on this topic overmuch. I might not be able to know my actual inFLUence, but I might be better off when I retain some sense of its probable presence. I could remember that I'm somehow a role model, that others are always inadvertently watching. There's no such thing as unrepresentative behavior. My good days and my bad days hold no distinction for those who witness a single instance of me passing by. I might at least try to make a good first impression every time, one authentically representative of my higher aspirations. I could catch myself feeling grumpy and inject a tiny bit of humor. I might at least remember that I'm displacing something as I move through.

Our neighbor came over this week. I'd never formally met her, but we quickly learned that we knew considerable about each other, though we'd never more than distantly waved at each other down the street. She believed that I spent a lot of time puttering in the yard, or at least a lot more time puttering than she ever did, for it seems that she'd often see me out there on my knees, whether or not I'd seen her seeing me. (She couldn't know that I carried considerable guilt over shirking some of my yard tending duties.) I realized that even sequestered here, I'm still on display. Somebody's noticing me and making up stories about who I must therefore be. I have little control over how they see me, just like they have little control over how I see them, but I realized just how important my generous interpretations might prove to be for both of us. I could make up any scathing explanation I choose, but what good could another scathing interpretation do either of us? I could, instead, observe more generously, and thereby create an inFLUence that's better for ME. Why would I chose to live any other way?

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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