Thursday, 2 October 2014

...seeing both sides

... seeing both sides.
Last week I was chatting with the girl I usually see at the supermarket checkout and found we both have birthdays in October - yay.  Also, we both enjoy reading and watching movies, both have strong opinions on a variety of things and we both have a talent for seeing more than one view of a situation. This constant balancing act can be tiring but, we agreed, it does not make us indecisive.

I don't mind 'seeing both sides of the coin,' I wouldn't feel normal if I was different - but what is this condition called?  Do I have a syndrome or a disorder?

"It's a bilateral view," someone  said. But then, "No... I think that means having a mammogram of both sides."

"You are your own discussion group," said someone else. 

Google finds some interesting comments.
"Seeing both sides of an issue only gets you halfway to your goal.   In many big companies, the unintended dysfunctional consequence of doing so is passivity and fence sitting.
But I think that comes from having too many people involved.  And, fence sitting is ambivalence, conflicting reactions or mixed feelings.  That is different.

"The best decisions come when you hold two opposing ideas in your mind at once."
But, I object to the word opposing, you can see more than one side, or more than two sides and they are not necessarily in opposition.

"The point of seeing both sides isn’t to avoid decision making.  The point is to make better decisions."  Well, yes but not always.

 And my hubby finds it annoying.   His conversations might begin with,
"Don' t interrupt me ...." or "I know you won't agree  ...."  or the big one -

"You never take my side."

"I do take your side."
"No, you  always take the other side."
"That's because you've already presented your side and when I see other sides I just offer them as alternative views.... to help."
"It doesn't help when I want to return a defective watering system, with a piece of my mind, and you say it's not their fault because the system came from China. You're always against me."
"For goodness sake, there is no for or against - just different ways of looking at it."
"Like when someone in a truck so old it's about to fall apart can't speed up, won't pull over and makes sure I can't overtake and you feel sorry for them."
"You shouted at him."
"You said maybe he was old, or sick or sad to be driving his truck for the last time but NO, it was because he had a dog in the manger attitude."
"I don't really understand what that is."  (but I planned to look it up)
"The dog is sitting on the straw in the manger so the cow can't eat it."
"Maybe the dog doesn't know that the cow wants the hay or maybe he was really tired...."

"See - now you're taking the dogs side!!!"

So, the dog in the manger is a metaphor or an idiom (a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words).  I didn't know this but apparently there are at least twenty five thousand idioms in the English language.  I wonder if there is a book.

The Dog in the Manger story comes from a Greek fable, possibly one of Aesop's, written around 600BC.  It's become a metaphor for those who prevent others from having something they themselves have no use for.  
A dog was sleeping on the hay in a manger when an ox came and tried to eat the hay. The dog barked and snapped at him and wouldn't let the ox get at his food, food that was useless to the dog. Finally the ox gave up and went away muttering, "Ah, people often grudge others what they cannot enjoy themselves.

in 1390 we find this version -
Though it be not the hound's habit to eat chaff, 
yet will he warn off an ox 
that commeth to the barn
thereof to take up any food.

in 1564 it looks like this - 
Like vnto cruell Doges liyng in a Maunger, neither eatyng the Haye theim seluse ne sufferyng the Horse to feed thereof hymself.

and a 1680 Spanish play, called The Gardener's Dog told the story this way -  A gardener sets his dog to guard his cabbages.  After the gardener's death the dog continues to forbid people access to the garden beds.  
And so we get a simile 'He's like the gardener's dog that eats no cabbage and won't let others eat either'  or  'playing the gardener's dog.'

I could retell the story as  - A market gardener loses money because his neighbours steal his cabbages before he can harvest them. One day the gardener saves a puppy that has been cruelly treated.  The gardener trains the dog to guard the cabbages and a strong bond grows between the pair. The dog is pleased he can help the gardener who saved him and the gardener is glad of the help to safeguard his meagre income.  Years pass and one day the gardener has a heart attack and dies.  The dog is grief stricken.  He fears he will be abandoned again so continues to guard the precious cabbages.  When neighbours come into the garden the dog drives them off.  Finally all the cabbages are dead and the field is empty, so the dog curls up, job well done, and goes to join his master. 
And the simile - 'As loyal as a gardeners dog. '
The metaphor - 'He's a loyal gardeners dog.' 

Or I could retell it as - A wealthy gardener , known for his mean and wicked ways, owns a large brutish dog.  The gardener grows far more produce than he can eat or sell while his neighbours starve. He trains the dog to viciously attack anyone coming into the field and the dog is so protective that when the gardener has a heart attack no one can come near to help him and he dies.  The neighbours are forced to poison the field, killing off all the produce and finally the dog. 
There must be lots of similes, metaphors and folksy advice in that.

So, next time I am sleeping on straw in a manger and a rude oxen, who arrives without notice, wants to eat my bed, I will refer him to the idiom - 'Let sleeping dogs lie' -

because the dog deserves a comfortable bed.



Thank you for your interest in my blog.