Everyone’s Got an Ax to Grind

Do you remember the last time you disagreed with someone who made stronger points than you? Have you ever left a discussion like that, only to have the perfect response occur to you too late? How many of us catalog those winning retorts in the dark corners of our minds for “the next time”?

Do you remember the last time you left someone to burn after an argument? Have you ever wondered what their pithy rebuttal might have been, had they been able to find it? Do you think everyone enjoys keeping the memory of such experiences in their mental rolodexes?

Why do we love to grind our axes so much? How does schlepping that heavy load of medieval weaponry around affect those we encounter in our daily routines? What if it makes us more likely to provoke others?

What is so appealing about grinding our axes anyway? Why is it so difficult to stop? How would we interact with people differently if we didn’t do it?

What other tools might we cultivate if most of us were willing to lay down our axes, even just for a little while? How much more energy might we have if we weren’t so encumbered?

What would you do with that energy?

What is grinding the ax all about? What if it was never anything more than the illusion of an intellect-sharpening exercise for the mentally obese? What if it doesn’t hone our minds at all, but instead serves to mire us in the sludgy pits of our own tired beliefs? What if, instead of focusing our energies on recycling our proud convictions, we continued to challenge them? What if we were genuinely less interested in espousing our own cherished ideas and more interested in learning why others cling to theirs?

How many of us have wondered if grinding our axes robs us of the precious silence of reflection, the one that’s supposed to happen when we are presented with a challenge? What if true acumen is only found in that space where the rusty gears of our minds actually turn? Do you ever wonder if wisdom is hiding in that dusty space also?

How many of us wonder if the reason that clinching, debate-winning point was elusive was because we hadn’t truly mastered the subject? And what if the reason people start grinding their axes, and filing away those sharp points they’re sure are “true,” or “righteous,” or “just the way the world works,” is because the real answer they were searching for is hidden behind the veil of wisdom? What if all this labored ax grinding is just a way to go on autopilot because we’ve lost our collective path to the same sense of curious wonder we carried as children?

Have you ever imagined what we might make of the world if a majority of us stopped grinding our axes, just for a little while?