I have been ignoring this blog on purpose as of late. Since I have been unable to keep to most of my new year’s resolutions in February, it seemed silly to be writing about that fact here every day, day after day. So, rather than publicly wallow in my inability to keep to a list of actions I decided were worthwhile a few months ago (OMG time flies!), I think it is time I add some depth to the whole affair.
Perhaps this year I’ll learn to speak up.
I hold a number of beliefs about the world, which, as for everyone, are very important to me. I believe in kindness, open-mindedness, growth, honesty, and the willingness to do what needs to be done to make things right. I do recognise the fact that ‘right’ is a very relative term that is not only laden with cultural baggage but also with all of the collective luggage passed down any given family. In one family ‘right’ might mean severe forms of punishment to help children learn what is indeed right and wrong, while in another family the ‘right’ thing to do is to allow children to discover for themselves what works for them and what doesn’t. Who am I to say which one is right?
I have my natural tendency to prefer one over the other but am not closed to a well argued case of the opposite. For me the key here is in the way we justify things to one another and most importantly to ourselves.
Most people prefer to travel through life without figuring out how they are navigating. Decisions are based on rash emotional responses that lead us further and further away from our core, helping us layer ourselves in king’s clothes to keep us from seeing the mess we are sheltering under our invisibility cloaks. Both, to me, are make-pretend, yet the more we pretend the more we believe whatever we say – or however we justify things to ourselves – to be true.
I am no psychic, but I am a keen observer. I do not pretend to know everything and I am more than aware of the fact that my glasses are tainted with a particular set of chosen beliefs about our world, inherited cultural constructs, and imposed values from my childhood home. I have my own set of layers to go through, certain childhood familiars to expose, and endless growth to wade through.
… so I keep silent.
Most of the time my awareness of my personal short-comings are so heavy that I do not allow myself to engage others in becoming aware of theirs. I hold onto the belief that my vision of the world is but one of countless others and that I cannot possibly hold my beliefs to be the only true or worthy ones. For me such a belief would be utter madness.
What? A singular explanation of the world that only I am the keeper of? Lock me up now.
Yet this is what I hear, read, and see day in and day out. We are bombarded with people telling us their ‘truths‘ to ‘help‘ others. We are bombarded with what in my opinion is pop-psycho-babble that allows us to wallow in our sense of entitlement and belief that the world and the meaningful relationships in it should be handed to us on a platter and resemble Hollywood scripted romcoms to a T.
It makes me so (uselessly) angry to see the amount of stupidity and unwillingness to engage with critical thinking that is accepted as worthwhile news, editorials, opinion pieces, TV shows, and other media filler. Why are people so happy to lap it all up and spend their money, and worst of all time on any of it?
But I like to be careful. I’ve noticed that any pathway to critical thinking is quickly obstructed and closed off as soon as judgement is passed. It’s so much easier to feel attacked when someone questions your assumptions and to simply decide that that person is an asshole than to actually take a look in the mirror and allow yourself to move from a place of dull comfort towards uncomfortably fulfilling growth. It’s so hard to realise you’ve been wrong and that the decisions you made were done from an ugly place… it’s easier to hate the messenger than to hear the message.
And here is where it gets complicated.
I believe that exposing people to other ways of thinking is essential. Why? Because I believe in growth, honesty, and making things right. I value our human ability (or should I say potential?) to experience life from a place of awareness, to allow each other and ourselves to be the very best of who we might aspire to be. This means questioning assumptions that do not serve us in the long run – or that only serve us in masking a deep form of discomfort or feeding our spoiled egos.
The thing is that you can’t effectively question anything without speaking up. You can’t challenge the way things are without speaking up. The very act of speaking up is an act of confrontation. Confrontation implies judgement, or at least disagreement with beliefs held by the other party. So how can you possibly speak up without implying the fact that your beliefs are better than the ones you allow yourself to question?