When you realize you're going the wrong way, what do you do? Reverse course. Make a U-turn. I do it all the time, especially now that my wife and I both have some difficulty reading street signs.
(Typical scenario: "We're looking for Acacia Boulevard. Let me know when you spot it." drive…drive…drive "There it is!" "Where?" "Back a few blocks. I couldn't make out the sign until you were past it." grumble…U-turn …drive…drive…drive.)
Bruce Grierson wrote about "The Age of U-turns" in a recent issue of TIME magazine. It was a nice counterpoint to the oft-heard assumption that flip-flopping is a bad thing.
Sure, I could keep on driving straight down the road. But then I'd never get to my destination. Which is better: to remain true to my original course, or make an abrupt change of direction?
Grierson has written a book called "U-Turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life?" Nice title. (Excerpt can be read here.) That's happened to me several times. It happens to just about everybody.
In the secular epiphany category, I'd been happily working in the health planning/policy field for more than a dozen years. Improving the health care system (or more accurately, non-system) was a big part of my life. It meant a lot to me.
Until, all of a sudden, it didn't. I didn't plan or intend the U-turn. It simply happened. From that moment, I knew I couldn't do what I'd been doing any longer. Now I look back at some remnants of my health policy life that show up on an Amazon search and think, "That sure was a different Brian Hines back then."
I've also flip-flopped philosophically. Beliefs that I thought would forever be the foundation of my way of looking at the world (and cosmos) aren't anymore.
Again, this isn't something that I intended. As with my professional U-turn, the spiritual epiphany of "I no longer am a believer" arrived unbidden.
From the East. My experience dovetails with Grierson's conclusion:
I realized this was what almost all the U-turns had in common: people had swung around to face East. They had stopped thinking in a line and started thinking in a circle. Morality was looking less like a set of rules and more like a story, one in which they were part of an ensemble cast, no longer the star.
By "East," he means an Eastern way of looking at the world.
To Western thinking, the world is linear; you can chop it up and analyze it, and we can all work on our little part of the project independently until it's solved. The classically Eastern mind, according to Nisbett, sees things differently: the world isn't a length of rope but a vast, closed chain, incomprehensibly complex and ever changing.
The past two Tango classes, we've been working on our promenade pivots. When done correctly (and we're a ways from this), a couple can turn 180 degrees in a single flowing motion, each person facing the opposite direction from where he or she started.
A U-turn! Link a couple of them together and you move quite a ways down the floor in an enjoyable fashion. Dance imitating life.