On being unreasonable

*My oldest daughter is three now, and perhaps slightly less unreasonable, but she still wakes up fairly frequently at night, not crying or whining, as perhaps other kids would do, but, instead, insistently yelling for her father. It’s funnier now than it is at 3AM, but, even then, it’s slightly amusing to see the world through her eyes, with a sense that she is somehow entitled to demand access to her Daddy at any hour, and that calling out this need should summon him. It’s unreasonable, alright, and, yet, I can’t help thinking that if we all had a bit more of that childhood audacity, that sense that our greatest desires should be within reach, maybe we’d stretch further in pursuit of that vision of the world as it should be.

I don’t know how I missed this quote up to now, but it is my new mantra. (It came from, where else, but Half the Sky–have you read it yet? Go get it!)

“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. Progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people.”–George Bernard Shaw (p. 47 Half the Sky)

I’ve never been one of those “bloom where you’re planted”/Serenity Prayer types of people. Now that I am a mother, I am even more aware, through my kids, of my traits of impatience and volatility and indignation. My daughter has them, too. As an eight-month-old (very young to display this kind of fierce determination), she would point clearly at what she wanted and then literally throw herself on the ground in despair if she didn’t get it. Most vexing, yet humorous, is when she flings herself on her MUCH larger older brother, trying to wrest away whatever she has. He can pretty much shrug her off like a fly, but she clings and wheedles and then watches until he moves on and she moves in.

She’s unreasonable. And, I would argue, we all need to be a bit more like her. More like our champions of social justice throughout history, who have been downright pesky in their insistence that things go their way. Who have refused to wait in line, wait their turn, wait until things get better. Who have railed against seemingly unstoppable forces and found that they can, in fact, stop some of them, at least some of the time. Who are willing not to get along, so that others have a chance to get by.

Who are willing to be unreasonable, because they know that everything depends on it.

What are you unreasonable about? What are you committed to doing in your unreasonableness? Whose unreasonableness do you most admire? Social workers, how can you recognize your clients’ unreasonableness as a survival strategy, a strength, a gift?

6 responses to “On being unreasonable

  1. Pingback: Policy Reform to Make Every Day a Happy Mothers’ Day « Classroom to Capitol

  2. I agree completely. We just finished reading Half the Sky as our books for discussion with our incoming MSW students. It is filled with examples that illustrate Shaw’s quote beautifully!

    • How did the students respond to Half the Sky? Does the entire incoming class read the same thing? That sounds like a great way to start the semester! Thanks so much for your comment.

  3. love the post mate 🙂 It is important to find in our clients those ways of framing behaviour in int’s non-pathologising form. Understanding that though some habits might have become extreme they are from healthy roots and can still be channeled usefully and healthily for them and for all of us.

    Indeed many champions of social justice have come from backgrounds where they have experienced much injustice and have refused to give up on themselves and us..

  4. Pingback: Weekly Social Work Links 29 « Fighting Monsters

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