ambiguity Appreciate

Ambiguity, Beauty, and Relativity

Wednesday, July 24, 2013 Kenny Muzzey

My mind adrift in a seemingly endless summer; full of puffy white clouds, the sun setting on the horizon, the sky transitioning from a warm orange to a cool blue as silvery, shimmery stars emerge, mouthwatering barbecues followed by bonfires and fireflies; freedom. Summer.



Suddenly, I am drawn back into reality by the screeching of chalk on the blackboard. That familiar sound that sends chills down the spines of many. Briefly distracted by the promise of summer, I re-acclimate to my surroundings; the classroom draped in neutral colors... low light, the smell of chalk dust in the air.

"Actions are ambiguous. It is up to the perceiver to determine their meaning." These are the final words a professor in social psychology left our class with. These lines alone are part of the reason I express things in, perhaps, too many words. I want to get my point across; to minimize the amount of miscommunications, so that my perceivers will interpret what I say exactly as I mean it.

In retrospect, his statement seems like an overly complicated way of saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” And those who know me personally can tell you, I say this quite frequently. Everyone has a different standard of beauty; from producers and film crews casting their latest movie, to that loneliest of individuals hoping for a date. To some beauty is truth… freedom… fun…. anything you can imagine.

Delightfully sweet ambiguity.

How is it that such a seemingly simple phrase could have such a profound effect on one’s mind, one’s perspective, one’s life? But that is one of the more meaningful things about life. It’s all relative. A statement some frat boy or sorority girl just let pass in one ear and out the other, while others took it to heart…

Relativity, a concept that can give you an entirely new perspective on life and different take on the world, given the circumstances are right. I used to think I had it bad. That I had a rough life, and I might not survive the drudgery of another dull, listless day. What follows is an anthology of personal interactions that really helped to put my life into perspective….

I met a man, whose name I will not mention; he attempted suicide. As I listened intently to him recall the details of his past, I could see the anguish on his face. He had taken a number of pills, 118, leaving his final words in a letter placed neatly beside him on an end table. There he sat, waiting to sleep, waiting for his pain to disappear. Things however, did not go exactly as planned. The elderly man’s wife came home to discover the note, empty pill bottle and pleaded with her husband to seek help. The man reluctantly accepted her plea and here he is today, sharing his story with me. His reason for wanting to die... was pain…. Physical pain. When he was a young man in his early twenties, he underwent a major surgery. Due to complications, he’d spent the last 40 years of his life in severe pain. The pain had ruined his life. It had taken all his hobbies; once an avid fisherman and skilled woodworker, he had been reduced to spending his days riving in pain, barely being able to stand, let alone do much else.

When asked the difficult question, what reason he had to live, he delivered a very heartfelt, almost poetic response. He looked across the room, and gazed at his wife, he replied, “My wife. My wife is my reason for wanting to live.” Through the pain and the endless visits to the doctor’s office, he pressed on for his wife; the love of his life.  My time spent talking to the man, despite his constant unbearable pain, a spark of life lit up his eyes when he spoke of her.

In a separate and unrelated sequence of events, I had the pleasure of visiting with another individual. A woman this time…. She told me stories of her children and her husband. Her husband was both physically and verbally abusive to her and her children. And one night, he struck one of the children leaving a deep bruise. When she took the little boy to the police station, the officers were more concerned with her hysteria than the issue she had come to seek help for. However, it did not help that her son was too scared to speak ill of his father. They felt she was unfit to be around and care for her own children and put them in the care of their abusive father. As she shared the details of her personal tale with me, I could see that she was very passionate about her children. She had a twinkle in her eyes, a smile on her face, and a tone in her voice that echoed positivity.

Over the next few hours she told me more of her troubled marriage, husband and her aspiration to rescue her children from an unsafe home. Not necessarily caring about her own well-being, she worried for her boys. They were her reason to carry on and keep pushing forward.

Another woman retells her story of a man she met through her place of employment. A client. They went out on a few dates, but she decided he was not for her. She tried to break it off. Keep it professional. Enraging the man, he would randomly show up at her place of business unannounced, harassing her verbally, in front of her coworkers. He followed her, harassed her so much she was forced to get a restraining order to feel some form of protection. Eventually, even that was not enough to keep her safe. He had threatened her life. With tears streaming down her face, I could hear the anguish in her voice….

A middle aged man tells me he had been living out of his car. Following a downward spiral of dramatically dark events, beginning with the loss of his job, his wife left him. He lost his home, his family. With nowhere to go and nowhere to stay, he had a vaguely generalized plan to get himself back on his feet….

If you are asking yourself why I have chosen to share the very personal stories of the people I have encountered in my lifetime, the answer is very simple. Take a moment to truly appreciate how luck you really are. Count your blessings.  Perhaps you have not reached your fullest potential and maybe you have days where the stressors amount to just too much. But, the chances are, you do not experience constant physical pain, your life is not being threatened, you do not worry for the safety of your children and you probably have a roof over your head and a bed to sleep in at night. People get so hung up the things they should have. What they feel their lives should be like. And believe me, I am no exception to this. The things we take for granted – taking a daily shower, the feeling of standing in the rain as each cool refreshing drop sprinkles on  your face – to some, is everything.

I am taken back to that moment in class, daydreaming of sublime summer days before being ripped back into reality as my professor closes his lesson on ambiguity. Recalling the troubling stories of people I have grown to appreciate in what some might consider unorthodox methods, I think back to the days when I use to feel my life was lacking. The reality is that we are all very blessed. Each morning in which we awake to take another breath of fresh air is a day we should be grateful for. 


So I leave you with one finial thought. Enjoy the summer. Enjoy your life. Spend time with friends and family having BBQ’s, pool parties, and bonfires. Play good music, snap some pictures, tell a story, make some memories, and smile! Remember to appreciate those around you and appreciate what you have. Because, it could be much worse. After all…. It’s all relative.



I encourage you to leave a comment or send in your story to Halfstack. Share your story with the team and with the other readers. When have you felt sincere appreciation? Anything goes, no matter how big or small.

~Kenny Muzzey~

Every year thousands of men and women, in the United States, commit suicide. If you are, or know, someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts or tendencies please seek professional assistance as soon as possible. Because a life is a terrible thing to waste.

If it is a life threatening emergency dial 911.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255.
Or contact your local general practitioner for referal to a mental health professional.

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