THROUGH the LENS of OUR OWN EXPERIENCE
Within the last few decades, we’ve all witnessed the divisive efforts of those who wish to hold fast the status quo. Snake oil salespeople selling distorted views as clarity. People that don’t seem to possess enough self-awareness to realize where those distorted views come from.
Opinions seem to be very reactionary, these days. As opposed to simply listening and observing and carefully considering BEFORE formulating a position, on whatever it is.
In the event someone says to me, “Something has to be done about the gays” or, “something has to be done about these (enter nationality here)”, my reaction is generally pretty subtle yet firm and exact. One of my eyebrows loses its connection to gravity and ends up somewhere along my hairline.
When someone says something like, “Oh, he’s gay” or “Oh, she’s a Muslim”, or any other such statement, I’m aware of the bottom-line point of condescension they are trying to make. I’m also aware that any argumentative response I could make will never erase the years of negative conditioning that brought that person to their present mindset. It’s a waste of time and energy.
If these people are ever to experience the kind of epiphany necessary to jolt them from their comfortable slumber of judgment, that will have to come from the universe itself. Not a job for one person.
So, when I do feel the urge to submit a verbal response, it’s usually along the lines of…”And the sky is blue, and the sun rises and sets every day” followed by a shoulder shrug. This response is absolutely genuine, I assure you. No snark, no sarcasm. It is simply spoken from a position of understanding reality as it is. No spin.
While I’m aware that I, as one person, can not change the perception of however many there are out there of this mindset, I can do my bit by setting a consistent example. Who we find ourselves gravitating to and mating with, how much pigment we end up with in the top 3 layers of our dermis (skin), how tall we end up as adults, how much acne we get as teenagers, these are all genetic. It’s how we were born. That means we had no choice in the matter. Full stop.
Yet, there are those who choose, by whatever motivation, to use these completely random, genetic variations, in us all, as weapons.
As small children, we learn to navigate this new world we’ve found ourselves in by observing those who’ve been at it for a while. Namely, the adults in the room. Judging with impunity is one of those behaviors we all observe growing up, in one form or another and to varying degrees. Unfortunately, it’s just a human thing. I get this. So, when I find myself in conversations of the above nature and I offer the aforementioned response, that is the place within myself from which it derives.
As I’ve come to expect, the counter-reaction I receive is basically one of “What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you see things my way?”. Different people express themselves in different ways using different words but that’s generally the gist of it. This reaction is precisely what demonstrates a lack of self-awareness.
“Why would I see things your way? I don’t wear your misshapen lenses. My glasses actually help me see clearer. They give me a healthy perspective on life. That’s what they’re for.” My mind begins to deliberate again.
Of course, I haven’t arrived at this particular place of perspective overnight or by chance. Like many, I had a very confusing childhood. Not in that I didn’t understand what was happening, I did. I just didn’t understand WHY it was happening the way it was.
Raised among men who held a constant position of elitism, in chronic judgement of others, even against those who seemed to me very similar to them. Being a big fan of questioning things as a child, I would often pose the irritating question of ‘Why?” in response to their efforts toward indoctrination. The answer I got was always the same. “You don’t understand, Jenny. That’s just the way it is.” Not quite the answer I was looking for. For them, brushing me off as an ignorant seven-year-old girl was convenient. Telling me I was failing at something was easier than admitting they were. It seemed though, that in the shadows, I had an ally. My grandmother. “You are your own person, Jenny. You have your own thoughts and ideas. Hang onto them.” It was a path I had already begun to travel but how lovely it was to have someone I valued and respected recognize that and offer me that extra bit of permission.
As I got older and more sophisticated in my questioning, the responses came back in kind, now including pointed insults and judgments. I had joined the ranks of the face-less, value-less targets of their ire. The lesson of people often using these actions as tools of deflection from their own shortcomings was hard-learned but learned none-the-less. They will even turn on their own. A fog of defensiveness began to condense around me. In an effort to dissipate that fog, my grandmother would provide invaluable back-stories to assist in my understanding of things.
As lessons of this nature continued to present themselves, life went on. Commonly, it got worse before it got better. Decades passed until I arrived at a place of surprising clarity. The adage ‘with age comes wisdom’ sounds like a hollow cliché until you experience it yourself. But, it’s an acceptable trade-off, I think, to give one’s youth and vitality in exchange for the clarity of experience and hindsight.
From that clarity comes a subtle confidence in and a reserved appreciation for the true state of things. Despite the complexity of human nature and the vast number of facets to it. Despite how people will attempt to impose certain distorted views onto reality, however great and heavy the effects, as a means toward simple self-preservation and protection.
They try to change the world instead of changing themselves. It’s just too painful a thought. Ironically, too heavy a burden to carry. Another facet of the same human nature we all possess. Thus, we can all relate in some way.
Negative conditioning is brought about by observing the behavioral examples set by others. In this season of my existence, I find that I have the option to flip that coin over and set a more positive example. Not by going big and brash in this late-bloom, but simply seeing the world as I do, for what it is, and doing my best to have this reflect in everything I do.
In adopting this new practice, I’ve begun to notice it elsewhere. In the actions and words of many a generation, many a culture, many a language. It gives me hope that this collective example will grow and expand across time until at once our species begins to see our existence and our relation to each other through clearer lenses.
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