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Paridigms Are Not Values

Excerpt from the upcoming title Journey Well, You Are More Than Enough, (RE) Discover Your Power & Purpose as a Caring, Compassionate Man, arriving Fall 2022. Chapter 4 Values & Paradigms.
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Paradigms are not values, but they’re very important to us when it comes to defining who we are as caring, compassionate men. Paradigms are the autopilots of our lives, our subconscious minds driving the boat when some outside stimulus tweaks us to react. And as CCMs, our paradigms are quite different from most men’s. For example, we don’t react the same way they do when the hyped-up guy blinded by road rage flips us off on the highway. We may look on bemused and a bit saddened that the individual is so saturated with anger. But we certainly don’t engage him, or provoke him further hoping he makes a misstep and humiliates himself, or injures someone.

We may beat a retreat in order to avoid a deadly confrontation. We may fall back, ignore him, allow him to pull ahead and disappear, the obvious prudent approach. But that’s the point. We look for the prudent action, instead of the one we know will escalate the scenario until something easily predicted happens. Too many men, it seems, are driven by the paradigm that demands action, and payback. Too many of the other fear and emotion-driven men react without thinking, which is where the paradigms take over, and before they know it they’ve reached a point of no return. We’ve seen the damage that kind of behavior causes, and we know just how easy it is to create that scenario. But being different in this regard, our paradigms are triggered more by caution than confrontation, we also know more about de-escalation.

Is our understanding of this potential conflict honed so well because we’ve seen it too many times? Or is our understanding of it innate, part of a paradigm that differs from many men?

I suggest we’re different. That we do indeed have a kind of response ability (responsibility?), and though we do indeed have the fight or flight segment of human DNA, we just use it differently, or allow it to use us differently. Our paradigm is set to brush off any insult to our manhood, any aggression into our space. We have a kind of ability to project outcomes better, and to realize just how insignificant certain tense situations really are and toss them aside as unworthy of our time and consideration.

This is not to say our paradigm automatically elicits a weak or timid response. We likely have as much aggression and reactivity as other men, it’s just not lurking beneath the surface ready to erupt at the slightest provocation. I suppose it could be related to maturity, or cultural immersion, or the mannerisms we were taught by male role models. But our response to what society might consider personal affront is more subdued and reasoned.

Years ago, during one of my National Guard two-week summer camps, I found myself holding an AR-15, the Army’s primary small-arms automatic weapon. The rifle I had in my possession was loaded with blanks, since we were engaged with ‘bad guys’ from our own barracks. At one point I was confronted with a firefight situation during which one of the men in my platoon was pinned down, unable to move. Surveying the situation, I leapt in front of him, blasting away, laying down protective fire so the man could scramble to safety. Later, during the debrief, several of the men remarked at how out of character it seemed for me to react as I had. It was a bit startling to me as well just how quickly I changed from a mild-mannered, peace-loving civilian to a calculating killer in order to protect that beleaguered trooper.

It gave me an insight that I carried for a long time. I knew that if someone I was charged with protecting became imperiled, I wouldn’t hesitate to do violence for them. I remembered jumping to that man’s defense, putting myself in danger (albeit holding a weapon loaded with blanks) until the man was safe and free. But I didn’t recall thinking about blanks in the gun; the way I conducted myself that afternoon was as if those rounds were real, and that weapon meant deadly business. I do recall the calculations made prior to my reaction. They were not mindless. They were purposeful, and intentional. I saw duty calling, and I stepped in to do it.

The episode proved to me that, given sufficient provocation, just like my aggressive and testosterone-laced colleagues would, I’d do whatever was called for to rectify the situation. In other words, though I consider myself a caring, compassionate man, I have a threshold beyond which I will not go as well, a limit to my meek and mild demeanor. My contention is that my anti-violence barrier, if you will, is somewhat sturdier, a bit better built than many men’s. Its bricks are better fitted, and its mortar more solid and secure.

To what do I ascribe this? I have theories. Perhaps it derives from my male role model growing up since my father was much the same. Perhaps because I’ve seen firsthand the violent and senseless ravages of human conflict. For a year in Vietnam, I witnessed the vicissitudes of war, the depredations that occur when human beings fail to reason together. As I said in the previous paragraph, I’m not blind to the human proclivity for violence. Given the examples of it I’ve seen firsthand, it would be disingenuous at best for me to say otherwise.

Humans are violent animals. We don’t hesitate to kill other living things, including each other, when time and circumstance present that possibility.

You might say it’s our paradigm to eliminate other humans, particularly those who threaten or interfere with our primary pursuits of food, shelter, sex, safety, and sustenance. This is yet another reason to examine our paradigms, and to be prepared to alter them to match the age, and the higher goals of reason.

At some point in our history, we humans realized that not only do we deserve better, we must actively seek that better, whatever it happens to be. And to pursue that better thing demands cooperation with others. We’re a work in progress. But at least, with a few exceptions, we seem to have a collective understanding of the value of changing this particular human paradigm.

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Byron Edgington
Byron Edgingtonhttps://www.byronedgington.com/
Byron Edgington was a commercial & military helicopter pilot for 50 years. An award-winning writer, he is the author of several books including The Sky Behind Me: a Memoir of Flying and Life, A Vietnam Anthem: What the War Gave Me, Waiting for Willie Pete, a Novel of Vietnam, PostFlight: An Old Pilot’s Logbook, and recently released Journey Well, You Are More Than Enough. Edgington served in the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot, including a yearlong tour in Vietnam. As a commercial pilot, he flew all over the world, including 20 years of air medical flying in Iowa, news & traffic in several U.S. cities, a stint as a corporate pilot, and three years flying tours on the island of Kauai. After retiring from aviation in 2005, he returned to college and received his Bachelor's Degree in English and creative writing from The Ohio State University at age 63. In 2012 Edgington won the prestigious Bailey Prize in non-fiction from the Swedenborg Foundation Press for his essay titled ‘Lift Off.’ Byron Edgington is married to his best friend, Mariah. He has three daughters, and six grandchildren. Recently returned to the U.S. after living in Medellin Colombia, he now lives and writes in Iowa City Iowa.

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