May 8, 2015

We All Have a Story

*Disclaimer: As the story below tells itself, this is only based on what I have seen in the world and is a sweeping generalization, not true for each specific instance.

To start off I must lay way to a quote from Waking Life that says what I want to say much better than I can:

“Creation seems to come out of imperfection. It seems to come out of a striving and a frustration and this is where I think language came from. I mean, it came from our desire to transcend our isolation and have some sort of connection with one another. And it had to be easy when it was just simple survival. Like you know, “water.” We came up with a sound for that. Or saber tooth tiger right behind you. We came up with a sound for that. But when it gets really interesting I think is when we use that same system of symbols to communicate all the abstract and intangible things that we’re experiencing. What is like… frustration? Or what is anger or love? When I say love, the sound comes out of my mouth and it hits the other person’s ear, travels through this byzantine conduit in their brain through their memories of love or lack of love, and they register what I’m saying and they say yes, they understand. But how do I know they understand? Because words are inert. They’re just symbols. They’re dead, you know? And so much of our experience is intangible. So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed. It’s unspeakable. And yet you know, when we communicate with one another and we feel that we have connected and we think that we’re understood I think we have a feeling of almost spiritual communion. And that feeling might be transient, but I think it’s what we live for. “

What I want to turn your attention to in this quote is how individual each of our experiences are. None of us have lived the same life, and therefore will have different ideas of what different words mean. These differing experiences also lead us to come to different conclusions about the world around us and therefore manifest themselves in our political and personal beliefs.

It is this singular life that makes accepting and entertaining other viewpoints as difficult as it is. Based on what we have lived through and learned our outlook on the world is the correct one and anyone to question it seems foolish. This soon leads to attacks, anger and a shutdown of conversation. With this it becomes very hard to share your ideas and perspectives and allow someone else to understand where you are coming from, and conversely the same for you to understand them.

With that in mind, I want to take this time to ask you to do one small task, if you agree? Write out a list of your most personally held values and beliefs. Now think back through your life to what events and/or people had the largest effect on you holding those beliefs. For instance, if you are strongly a Canucks fan, then did you have a significant person in your life as a Canucks fan? Now as you look through the past as to why you hold those beliefs, take a look the other way. Extrapolate those beliefs to the future and see what you would like accomplished with those beliefs. For instance, if you believe in a living wage, what do you want it to accomplish? Do you want it to relieve people of suffering and allow them to pursue their hobbies or is there another reason? Now not only will you have a better understanding of your own beliefs, but you will be able to explain to others why you hold them and argue for them better.

Now if you are really feeling up to it, try the same exercise while in a discussion with another individual. Have them line up their beliefs in terms of past (what made them believe that), present (what their beliefs are), and future (what they want their beliefs to accomplish). Maybe you will realize that you are working towards the same goals, but due to a different past, you interpret things differently and because of that have a different belief/value system.

This brings me back to the title of this blog piece. We all have a story. None of ours are the same and we all have something to contribute to one another’s. Instead of throwing other stories away, welcome them, have them add something to yours while you leave something for them, and last of all respect the diversity of experiences revealed in our stories. For if that is passed a long, then we have a chance to make this world more and more beautiful!

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