(for lack of the creative thinking skills needed to come up with a better title)
I suppose my blogging habits of late fit me in with this predictably hyperbolic description, courtesy of David Ker:
the rest of the blogosphere has rolled over on its back and feigned death
I’m supposed to be keeping my word to write a post based on a children’s book or series. But every time I start, I stall. Maybe I’m stuck in the Doldrums (my kids and I are reading The Phantom Tollbooth. What a fun book, and what a delightful description of the Doldrums.)
The reality is that every time I try to put my feelings about one of my favorite books into words, it feels either too pedantic or ends up spoiling the simplicity of the story by making too much of it with my words.
The other thing is that every time I start to write that post, I keep veering off course, and it’s always in the same direction. Today, while reading a book called The Gift of Fear, I found some words that got at the feelings my brain kept veering off to:
The great enemy of perception, and thus of accurate predictions, is judgment. People often learn just enough about something to judge it as belonging in this or that category. They observe bizarre conduct and say, “This guy is just crazy.” Judgments are the automatic pigeonholing of a person or situation simply because some characteristic is familiar to the observer (so whatever that characteristic meant before it must mean again now). Familiarity is comfortable, but such judgments drop the curtain, effectively preventing the observer from seeing the rest of the play.
What I’ve been thinking of is how hard it is for me when people I love experience other people I love (or even God, whom I love) in ways that sort of make sense to me (meaning I understand where they are coming from), but at the same time seem to miss so very much.
Sometimes I think I’d like to be a mediator and make a job of being able to say, “Yes, I see it that way. But what do you think about looking at it this other way, too?”
I read a book about autism and I think I’d like to take what makes sense about autism and people with autism and sit down with other people who just write an autistic person off as strange and say things like, “But, look, see how this makes sense? See why so and so can’t look you in the eye? It’s because he can’t filter things out too easily, and so your eye movements distract him.”
I hear someone disregard a person who is obsessive compulsive and I find myself (compulsively) wanting to explain that from a different perspective than the observer might ever have considered it from.
I hear someone knocking someone for being down and out and I want to let them know the therapeutic value of being depressed sometimes.
I hear someone understanding an outgoing, vivacious person as “shallow” and I want to say, “No, no. It’s not necessarily so. Look at it this way.”
I hear someone making sense of a quiet person as unsocial and friendly, and I want to say, “No. Quiet is not unfriendly. Lack of smile might just mean that they are concentrating hard on what you are saying.”
It’s not that I always have a certain answer for “how people are”. It’s just painful to me to watch people come to rock solid certain conclusions about things which they are only seeing (perhaps are only able to see) from one angle.
I see people highly offended by the “way so and so is” and I want to step in and say, “But look. If you really understood this, that would make sense. At least a little bit. Or maybe it’s just that your assumption would make less absolute sense.” And sometimes getting people to see that their assumptions don’t make absolute sense feels like it would be good progress in the right direction. But…sigh…I don’t think many people agree with me that it would be progress for them to move into the direction of LESS certainty.
I also find myself caught sometimes between people who I love and admire deeply but who stand out as so different, and others who write off those people as weird, or crazy, or ridiculous, or… And I, who loves not standing out, wishes there were a way to be unique or different and not stand out. Wishes, at the very least, that more things about the gloriously varied ways that people are and do made easy sense to other people and didn’t seem strange, odd, or even wrong, just because it (or they) are different.
You know what? The problem isn’t so much, I think, that people don’t understand other people. It’s more that people are quick to understand people only in the categories they already know or understand. They take what, in reality they don’t understand, and make sense of it in ways so that they think they do.
Sometimes I get weary of seeing people pigeonhole other people or situations–making sense of them because that’s easier to do than living with tension or not being able to make sense of. Sometimes I don’t mind trying to cross that gap and help people see what they might be missing by dropping the curtain early.
But, sometimes it’s just easier to live in my own world–seeing what I see, enjoying what I enjoy, loving who I love and holding on to the tensions of people and things I don’t understand. I’m not willing to default to making sense of the tensions just for the sake of my relieving the tension. But I don’t always find it easy to communicate that to other people. And so, sometimes it’s easier just to sit with the different angles I see things from, than trying to talk about how differently I see or understand people or situations that other people have pigeonholed. It’s easier than trying to explain. It’s easier than trying to put into words “another way of looking at it.”
Sigh. Does that make me an introvert?
Sometimes I don’t want to talk about God, either, for the same reason that I don’t always want my friends from different circles to get together (at least not if I’m going to have to hear about it afterwards). It’s not hard for me to see how differently (and why) people see God (or my “strange friends”) differently from how I do.
What’s hard is to try to put into words something bigger or different than the pigeonhole that people put God or some of my friends into, when I see how automatic and easy and firm the pigeonhole is. Sometimes the pigeonhole makes so much sense, in and of itself, and the way I see it–bigger than and outside of the pigeonhole–while it makes sense to me, is admittedly not nearly as satisfactory to other people as the pigeonhole is.
I’m not a debater and I’m not a defender. I know who and what I love. And I feel deeply why I do, and why I can and do still love and admire the people (including God) I do for all of their complicatedness. But sometimes it’s too hard to try to help other people see something else outside of their familiar judgments, which make so much sense to them. Does it matter? Is it even my business to try to clarify or explain or bring to light another perspective than the obvious pigeonhole? Sometimes it feels like it does and is. But I’m not always sure.
What do you think about that above definition of judgments (and is it just me, but does anyone else think “judgment” needs an “e” after the “g” to make the “g” say it’s softer sound? Or am I trying to pigeonhole English writing to make it more comfortable for me? And if so, what am I missing out on seeing here 🙂 ):
Judgments are the automatic pigeonholing of a person or situation simply because some characteristic is familiar to the observer (so whatever that characteristic meant before it must mean again now).
So what do you think when you read that? Agree? Disagree? Does it make you think of a story in your own life or experience? I love stories. Stories help me sort out my own thoughts better (and right now, you can probably tell, these thoughts aren’t too well sorted out, being pretty much on the emotional soapbox level). And stories give me hooks. And, finally, stories are the best ways I find to think about things from other perspectives (because even in this, I’m sure there is more than just the way I’m looking at it, to look at it.)
In any case, whether you have a story to share along these lines, or any other form of comment, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.