Coming to Grips with Gripes

It is extremely difficult to resist the urge to gripe now and again. It seems like there is just so much to gripe about these days. However, might griping have its own positive aspects?

Some people gripe about the weather. It seems that most weather though, and mostly weather's wonderful variations, are more often worthy of exclamations than gripes. Like a cloudy Sunday afternoon when just the lightest hint of drizzle begins to fall, enough to damped sunglasses, but without any dampening of one's spirits. Or the early morning marine layer, whose foggy mist is really just a harbinger of sunshine by noon and an afternoon requiring multiple sunscreen applications. But griping about the weather, for some apparently long forgotten reason, seems to have been for generations a primary means of simply initiating casual conversation, of filling the otherwise empty voids between verbalizations that give many people cause for minor anxiety. Maybe discussions of weather aren’t as often griping about it, but are simply speculations on that which cannot be controlled.

Could it be though, that much of griping might actually be a precursor activity, a first step toward positive problem solving? Might griping be a negative that by its very nature transforms itself into a positive, by its ability to instigate change?

These days though, probably much like the average days of the past few generations, the landscape of potential griping topics seems huge, immense, sometimes potentially infinite. For example, as a symphonic composer, it would be so easy to lament the fact that the average person doesn’t know or appreciate even the first thing about symphonic music. But that sort of gripe would take time away from composing the music itself and time away from trying to find people interested in playing it once it has been composed. It would also be easy to lament life’s limited nature, its finite certainty. But then, even a few more of life’s very precious moments would likely have been lost, instead of having been invested in doing something that later might have felt worthwhile.

Meanwhile, there is of course politics to gripe about. The planet would probably fall off its axis if people stopped disagreeing about anything and everything, and making everything the subject of political battles intent of controlling the lives those with whom one disagrees. But it seems like so much of life has been politicized these days, that one can only wonder if the universal politicization of life is a positive or a negative, or worthy of griping about in and of itself at all.

Then there are the endless aspects of personal life that people constantly gripe about. Might griping about personal life be a clumsy externalized way of trying to problem solve, of casting one’s problems about in search of a solution, without the courage to directly ask for help in solving them? If so, why is griping quite often considered a sign of social irascibility?

But the gripe, be it in the form of a grousing grumble or even a formal grievance, maybe isn’t quite so bad a phenomenon. Even the formal forms of gripes, for example within a courtroom, as in an objection, has the positive purpose of trying hard to right a wrong in the name of the fleeting goal of justice, whatever that might be. And then, without a protest now and then, as in political protest, of marching through the streets by the thousands, of people calling for change, would so many of western society's improvements of the past many decades ever have become reality? Even in the gripe's most miniscule form as well, the nonverbal moan, maybe gripes are just inevitable, possibly tolerable, even acceptable, if viewed from a positive perspective.

Marilyn Perry

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