search
top

It’s Not All About Me (OR You!)

It’s all about perspective.

Let’s face it – from where you sit, it really is all about you. Same here. That’s not narcissism or a lack of empathy – because the degree to which you’re able to feel empathy and genuinely care about other people is a big part of what makes you you. And if you’re a reasonably empathetic person, reading some anecdote here about me, my life, my experience – odds are, you can relate to some or all of it. You can extrapolate, apply your own experiences and emotions, and “get” where I’m coming from, even if our life experiences are vastly different.

If I say that a loved one has died, and you say that you’ve experienced the death of a loved one and know how I feel, I’m not going to get angry and say, “How dare you! You can’t possibly know  how I feel!” (Just don’t use the word “exactly” before “how you feel” and it’s all good.) I might roll my eyes if you compare how you feel about the death of a beloved pet to how someone feels about the death of a child, but I do know people who love their pets that much, or certainly think that they do – and as insensitive as they may sound in trying to draw such parallels, I’m pretty sure they have an inkling of how bad it feels, and they mean well. If they share their experiences, they’re not necessarily trying to focus the conversation on them, either – they’re trying to explain their frame of reference, to share why they think they “get it,” and to maybe establish a little credibility.

I tend to forget there are people out there who really can’t draw those kinds of inferences – who see the world much more narrowly and literally. Like one former classmate of mine in law school – a card-carrying member of Mensa whose very high IQ didn’t mean that she could apply the facts from today’s Case B to the facts from last year’s Case A and figure out whether and to what extent A should be controlling as precedent. It was a fascinating glimpse into the shortcomings of intellect and the importance of intuition and experience and the ability to synthesize all those things and draw conclusions. Brilliant as she was, she flunked out after her first year.

There are people who lack the intuition and imagination to really step into someone else’s shoes – virtually speaking – and to feel something akin to what the other person is probably feeling. Those people are understandably less likely to believe that anyone else could imagine what they feel or understand where they’re coming from, unless they’ve literally shared the same experiences. That doesn’t make them bad people, but I’d urge them, especially, to work on giving others benefit of the doubt.

It came as a bit of a shock to me, recently, when a couple of folks jumped down my throat for commenting on posts dealing with racism. Ultimately, my take-away had nothing to do with race. No, there are mean-spirited, cruel, quick-tempered, determinedly put-upon people of all colors, genders, sexual orientations, and income levels. I think they distract attention to real issues and problems – like women’s rights protesters wearing pink, fuzzy vagina costumes distracts and detracts from the point (they had one?) they were trying to make at the RNC. My take-away was more along the lines of: “Back away, slowly. This is like preaching ‘gun-control’ at the NRA, not having a discussion on human rights at the U.N. No one wants to further peace and understanding, here. You weren’t invited to this party. Now…RUN.” Brian Gardner wrote a similar post, “An Open Letter to Every Man Who Reads a Woman’s Blog,” and I felt bad, as a representative member of my gender, to think that men would feel unwelcome or awkward or alien in reading and commenting, and hoped they’d feel comfortable here, on this blog.

Sometimes, people work really hard to find reasons to take offense, rather than reasons to give benefit of the doubt. I’m used to seeing this in political discussions – particularly during an election year. I know to avoid the comments on mainstream media sites. Read enough of those, and it’s hard not to want to see half of humanity walk off a cliff. Whether you think President Obama is a saint or a sinner, you have to give the man props just for getting up to face the day – to go to work, focus on the job, and smile, every damned day, even at his harshest critics – given the level of vitriol and threats directed at him and his family 24/7. I don’t think I could do it.

I have a pretty good sense of what’s a legitimate, debatable point and what’s just narrow-minded and bitchy. And some days, when I’ve seen and heard too much narrow-minded and bitchy from the folks I feel I will never persuade with kindness and rhetoric – when I’ve seen people try to make the case for telling me what I can and cannot do with my own body; or when I watch, dumbfounded, as they proclaim to the world that a woman’s body is capable of “shutting that whole thing down” so that no woman gets pregnant after being “legitimately raped” – I get pretty bitchy and inclined to find excuses to be hostile towards the world, too. I find irony in the fact that these are usually the same folks advocating for less gun control. Are they really that clueless?

So even though there’s no denying I’m a privileged white woman (and make no mistake – I’m thankful for that happy accident of birth, but it doesn’t make me better than anyone, just luckier), I’m not ignorant, stupid, mean-spirited, or speaking in some kind of condescending white woman code if I use a particular word, like “articulate,” in a particular sense (giving a compliment to a fellow writer) simply because I like to use all the varied shades of meaning in the unabridged dictionary. Nor would you be ignorant for misunderstanding, if that’s how you took it – if in your experience the word “articulate” was seen as some sort of subtle put-down. Your experience isn’t mine. It would be a kindness if you’d take a moment to clarify, though, before firing a bullet between my eyes. You have to admit, “condescending insult” is not one of the dictionary definitions of the word “articulate.”

After stewing over this (yes, I stew – until I’m pretty sure that it’s really not all my fault) – I realized something. I actually can relate to the offended person in the above scenario. I’m guessing this doesn’t matter to her, and I feel too unwelcome, now, even to go back and set the record straight, but I do “get it.” You see, my friend Abhi Balani would not be my friend, today, if I’d not given him benefit of the doubt when he called me “Dear.” It’s a cultural thing, I learned – after getting a little (Abhi, please tell me it was just a little) snitty over what I heard as condescending and inappropriate, coming from a man who barely knew me, who was young enough to be my son. And we wouldn’t have stayed friends if he took offense every time I asked him a question in Facebook IM without first saying “Hello, how are you?” and inquiring about the health and happiness of his mother, father, and sister. It was never my intention to be rude or abrupt; I didn’t want to waste his time. Fortunately, instead of angrily dismissing me as a rude old American woman who habitually forgets to wish him a happy birthday, he kindly reminds me that little pleasantries are still appreciated, and I try to slow down and join him for a cup of tea, wishing I could one day meet the rest of his family, because they have so clearly raised a nice young man. One who will now know, if he visits the US, that older women of short acquaintance probably prefer not to be addressed as “Dear.” I hope, one day, I can bake him a big, chocolate birthday cake.

We all have baggage. How I heard “Dear” wasn’t Abhi’s fault – not in the least little bit. Nor was it my fault that in my experience, “articulate” is a good thing – a positive thing. Not some “code” word for being surprised someone can string words together coherently. My husband said, for him, it would be a question of context: If he wrote an article for the New York Times and was called “articulate,” he’d see it as a compliment; if it was for People Magazine, he’d think they meant “wordy.” So clearly, we all project our personal baggage and experience onto whatever the dictionary definition of a word is, and it’s not always helpful in conversation, since none of us are mind readers. He laughed at my exasperation. “Now you know what it feels like to be a man!”

This is why people don’t want to talk to each other, sometimes. It’s not race or religion, gender or politics, culture or nationality that divides us nearly so much as our assumptions and our unwillingness to give each other benefit of the doubt. I don’t have a dictionary of all the words that might have double meaning in someone else’s personal experience; frankly, the world is both too big and too small to rewrite the dictionary every time someone abuses a word and turns it into “code” for this or that. I have not made a life study of race relations, gender politics, and such. I can only assure you that I do not know this mythical white person code; if it exists, and it may, it has not been shared with me, either. I’m too direct to bother with someone’s “code,” anyway. We have got to give people benefit of the doubt, where there’s even a shred of doubt. If what I said might be taken two ways, assume I meant the kinder one. Otherwise we can’t have a conversation – it’s too much work, for too little return. It’s a dangerous thing, though, when human interaction becomes a battle field strewn with land mines.

 

 

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.

Latest posts by HollyJahangiri (see all)

32 Responses to “It’s Not All About Me (OR You!)”

  1. Debbie
    Twitter:
    says:

    It’s true that some people are extremely touchy and would get offended by just about any comment, especially in this era of over-the-top political correctness. (Think Joe Pesce in “Goodfellas” or Robert DeNiro in “Taxi Driver”.) “Articulate” is a good thing to be and I can’t imagine why anyone would consider it a put down. Certainly better than being called “inarticulate. :)

    It’s true that we all have our “hot button” words though. For example, in my previous corporate life, when anyone referred to me as “girl” there was hell to pay! Who calls a department head “girl”? Bloody disrespectful male chauvinist pigs, that’s who! Hearing that annoys me still, although at my age – pushing 60 – perhaps I shouldn’t complain? ;)

    The story about your friend calling you “Dear” made me laugh, because I also know a young man from that part of the world who addresses me the same way. It’s sweet coming from him, but anybody else……!

    Misunderstandings over words written are probably even more prevalent than words spoken, since readers add their own inflections.

    You’re right; it’s a mine field out there!
    Debbie recently posted…#8Sunday WEEKEND WRITING WARRIORS, JAN. 26/14My Profile

    • “Bloody disrespectful male chauvinist pigs, that’s who! Hearing that annoys me still, although at my age – pushing 60 – perhaps I shouldn’t complain?” – another matter of PERSPECTIVE, eh? When you’re young and striving to be taken seriously, in a position of authority, and someone seems dismissive (and you’re already inclined to assume that “men in the workplace” might BE dismissive), “girl” is a charged word. Sure. When you’re our age, it’s either flattering or facetious, so perhaps “that beautiful woman” would be a better, wiser, SAFER choice! :)

      You remind me of the time a clerk carded me before letting me buy cigarettes – I was in my late 30s or early 40s, and I just rolled my eyes and said, “Seriously?” She was dead serious. I handed her my driver’s license and she looked genuinely shocked. Best compliment I had that whole year, I think – not getting carded, but the look of frank surprise when she saw WHY I was being a little testy about the whole thing. She apologized, but I assured her that there was NO apology needed!!
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Torshi-e MakhlutMy Profile

      • Debbie
        Twitter:
        says:

        Oh yes, definitely a matter of perspective and you pegged it exactly right, Holly! It was the 80s and I was the lone female manager in a male-dominated environment. Had to work twice as hard to get half as far as the men and still had a smaller pay cheque. Sadly, I have a feeling that hasn’t changed as much as it should have, by now. Great story about getting carded. Would have made my day too! :)
        Debbie recently posted…#WordlessWednesday: THE HOMECOMINGMy Profile

      • I think I just let a lot of potential offensiveness roll right past me. Not worth my notice, most days. I’ve had a good, long career – starting in the early 80s. Most of my managers – men and women – have been good people. The handful of coworkers who’ve been sexist jerks were more laughable than anything; I never felt a need to haul anyone to HR for disciplinary action. I told my manager and a project manager, once, about one of their peers who was being an misogynistic, obstructionist jerk – I was nicer about it than that, but apologized and said, “If you want to get any work out of him in a timely manner, you may need to run interference – when I asked about the progress on my work request from a week ago, he first said he never got it, then found it at the bottom of a three foot stack – AFTER making me cool my heels in his office for 20 minutes while he talked to someone on the phone about volunteer work at church.” These two guys went to have a talk with him and came back seething, telling me I should NEVER have to work with someone who was that much of a sexist a**hole. They were even more irritated than I’d been. I’ve been fortunate, over the years, to find more allies than enemies.
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…Kids Are to Remind Us that It MatttersMy Profile

  2. I do try to move through life assuming people aren’t trying to insult me. Which does mean the occasional person succeeds at insulting me. But most often, if there is something making my dog bark, I ask for clarification. Not in the “What’s that supposed to mean?” way, but in the “I’ve said many things that can be misconstrued” way. Every human has been a verbal klutz more times than he/she can count, so try to be as kind to others as your victims have been to you.
    Cairn Rodrigues recently posted…Book Excerpt – The Last ProspectorMy Profile

    • It’s just too exhausting to move through life assuming the opposite, don’t you think? I haven’t got the emotional energy to deal with it. There are plenty of people who are out to offend you deliberately – or through blatant, proud cluelessness (like, seriously – does ANY woman think a guy’s hilarious when he tells a rape joke – even if she’s 100% sure he knows rape is wrong and would NEVER commit it?)

      I wasn’t even the one who used the word “articulate.” I was just inquiring as to why it was offensive – and was basically told to STFU if it wasn’t worth learning all the subtle nuances of ordinary, everyday language that might have obscure double-entendre offensive connotations. Seriously, life’s too short. I genuinely care about other people – not in some “let’s all walk on eggshells and be excruciatingly polite whether we mean it or not” kind of way.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Torshi-e MakhlutMy Profile

  3. Rose says:

    I agree that it’s all about perspective. The thing is that not everyone is nice – and some people just like to get their sh**s and giggles from causing a ruckus on line. Somehow, the anonymity of being behind the computer screen makes them think their comments are less hurtful, less racist, or less something… unfortunately, they forget that the people on the other side is human.
    This is true in internet business correspondence as well as personal and social media communications. Sometimes we all just have to re-read what we write and ask ourselves if how we wrote something is how it will be taken.

    • That’s absolutely true, Rose.

      I can usually tell the trolls from the curmudgeons – but I forget how hard that is for someone who has less Internet experience. I can usually tell the clueless from the mistaken from the deliberately hurtful, but some people don’t recognize sarcasm and some aren’t inclined to be kind and charitable in putting the nicest possible spin on a message when they read or hear it. It’s always going to be a give and take, but I think the effort to understand and be understood should be shared, always. We definitely need to listen better and try to interpret the message as if – as Cairn said – people aren’t trying to insult or hurt us at every turn. And then, if there’s anything to cause offense, honestly communicate that, but without anger – at least on the FIRST try.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Torshi-e MakhlutMy Profile

    • Another thing – I’ve never hidden behind anonymity.

      I have been targeted by people who did, but it’s funny – they forget there is no real anonymity. Not to your ISP. Not to law enforcement.

      In one case, though, all I had to do was write back and say, “You sound like someone who’s had a rough day. I hope that belittling a complete stranger in email has kept you from kicking the dog, and I hope tomorrow is a better day.” I got a non-anonymous apology and made a friend, and as you say, they’d just forgotten that there were real human beings with real feelings on the other side of the screen.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Never Tease a WeaselMy Profile

  4. Sharyn says:

    Wow, that was quite the rant…not that I disagree and not that I don’t sometimes use my blog for rants either, just noticing. May your day only improve!

    • Oh, my day’s been fine – all this was earlier in the week. I felt a little shocked and hurt, at first, but if you think this is a rant, you ought to see me when I’m really on a tear. ;) Just kidding.

      I didn’t want to write about it until I’d given it more thought. That realization – that I’d been touchy about the word “Dear” and been someone else’s conversational land mine, once or twice, didn’t hit me till lunch time. ;) I knew it’d come to me eventually, though, and wanted time to be fair and objective.

      So while it was a bit of a rant on an all too human tendency to jump to conclusions and not give each other benefit of the doubt, it’s really not directed AT anyone. (I didn’t name names or sites, for that very reason.)

      Thanks for dropping by, Sharyn – welcome. I hope you’ll come back and make yourself at home.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Torshi-e MakhlutMy Profile

      • Sharyn says:

        I am totally impressed by your thoughtful responses to everyone…kudos to you!

      • Good morning, Sharyn! What fun is blogging without a little conversation to go with it? Really, the comments are what make it worth doing, for me.

        Thank you for the compliment. I guess it is kind of unusual (or at least unusual to reply with more than “thanks for your nice comment”). Still, when I first read your note late last night, it struck me the same way as when one of my son’s daycare teachers expressed her astonishment at how much I talked to my son. And then I was immediately sad when she informed me that most parents didn’t. (He was still an infant – he couldn’t really talk BACK, at that point, but I figured he could hear my voice, and how on earth else would he learn to talk?)

        It makes me sad how often I think social media is more like “antisocial media.” I try to reply to replies on other blogs, too, but now that comment notifications often aren’t the default…ugh. I have to remember to click the little boxes so I’ll get an email if anyone bothers to reply to ME! :) It’s true, here, too – I don’t want anyone getting mad at me because the comments were “opt out,” rather than “opt in.” So I don’t get upset when people don’t come back and continue the conversation, but I am DELIGHTED when they do! Thank you.
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…Torshi-e MakhlutMy Profile

  5. Veronica Spriggs says:

    I have been on the internet for a decade now and have fortunately been able to steer clear of most negativity. It can be really spirit draining I was once the victim of cyber bullying via forum comments and know what it can do a reputation.

    My motto. if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all. and if someone says something negative, ignore them.

    • Hi, Veronica! Thanks for dropping by. Your motto’s a good one (though some days, it leaves me chewing off my tongue in silence). I am truly thankful for my Facebook friends, and occasionally realize, when I do venture out to other sites, just how fortunate I am to be surrounded by kind, positive people. I mean, we disagree and debate anything and everything under the sun – don’t get me wrong – but we don’t immediately jump to conclusions about each other’s character and motives every time there’s an awkward blip in communications. The only “rule” on my wall – no attacking each other. Attack ideas, not people. (And yes, the rumors are true – I really do have my very own Facebook Guantanamo wherein friends who cannot be unfriended or blocked go, and are shown nothing but rabid, mangy cats coughing up hairballs. Maybe the occasional chupacabra. I once left one of my children there for nearly 10 months. I don’t think they noticed. ;))

      Of course, the bad thing about hanging out on your own Facebook wall is getting shocked when you venture out and run into mean people. Because you could forget they’re there. And then you go running back, which doesn’t exactly lead to a meeting of any minds. :/

      I should clarify – at this point, there’s been no actual cyberbullying. Yep, that’s happened to me, too. I don’t play – there’s law enforcement for that nonsense. This was nothing like THAT. More of a huge gap in perspectives and the somewhat sad realization that there was never going to be anything like a “dialogue” or a “conversation” or any possibility of having a positive outcome, like making new friends. So, here I am, back on my own happy little blog. Welcome! Hope you’ll stick around.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Torshi-e MakhlutMy Profile

  6. Prof. B.T. Mienoré says:

    I try so hard to stay neutral in order to avoid negativity, but sometimes it is almost impossible. It is still surprising to me when people start slamming others on blogs and/or social media. What’s the takeaway? How does it make anything better?

    • Hi, Prof. B.T. Mienoré!

      That’s probably a great topic for a whole blog post. It might require the aid of a consulting psychologist and a black hat SEO guru. And I’m not sure there’s one simple answer.

      For some, belittling others makes them feel better about themselves – somehow “superior” to others. I’m convinced that most bullies are made, not born, and by the time they’re in full swing, there’s very little sympathy left for them and the resulting hostility just confirms their negative world view.

      For others, it’s an idle pastime – an amusement similar to taunting a cat with a feather on a string. They don’t believe they’re really causing any harm; after all, people simply shouldn’t “feed the trolls,” and if they insist on “rising to the bait,” they deserve what they get.

      A few see themselves as some twisted sort of hero – helping others to “toughen up.” Teaching them to be warier, more careful (and really, bottom line, more paranoid and less open to their fellow human beings).

      That said, when it comes to most bloggers – as opposed to comment trolls – I think that “slamming others on blogs” has a long and seedy history. Simply put, controversy is good for generating traffic. But we can find plenty of controversy in debatable ideas – not in attacking PEOPLE. Unfortunately, when people are attacked, they often lash out and hit back – and frankly, I don’t blame them. There’s a lot of toxic ugliness out there, and it’s frustrating to bear the brunt of it. The Internet community is big on taking sides and “piling on.” They can be collectively spun up at the drop of a hat, and they have a very skewed memory. It’s really too bad that the Internet doesn’t, by default, tag every bit of data with a date. I’ve seen the torches and pitchforks brought out over crimes that were adjudicated and sentenced years ago. The Internet is forever, and it isn’t big on forgiveness.

      But on a more positive note, the Internet brings the world together and leads to conversations we would never have had the opportunity for, years ago. And it’s an opportunity for ordinary people on one side of the world to get to know ordinary people on the other side of the world. To find out that we share a LOT of the same basic values – because we’re HUMAN. MAYBE, eventually, we’ll learn to tune out nonsense and propaganda and JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER.
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Opinions Are Like…My Profile

  7. Reyjr says:

    It’s a good thing that you are able to take a look at the situation from different perspectives, even inluding that of your opposition. (Or apparent opposition)

    Often when you are blatantly opposed or even attacked the reaction is to become defensive. I admire you for keeping a cool head!

    And for the record, I would take being called articulate as a compliment.

    • Thanks, Reyjr! Hey, you know me – I try. It literally took me a week to process some of the reactions to comments I’d made, and that conversation – from a few YEARS ago – with Abhi just popped into my head halfway through writing this, while I was downstairs making lunch. As if he’d tapped me on the shoulder to gently remind me that I had, in fact, worn the other shoe a time or two. ;)

      Ultimately, though, the key difference is that I didn’t bite his head off and wish him and his countrymen would shut up or disappear (well, I didn’t bite it off and tell him not to bother speaking to me again!) and I explained exactly why I’d reacted to being called “Dear” and gave him a chance to explain how he’d meant it – and now it’s just a big joke between us. He can call me “Dear” and I’ll call him “Whippersnapper.” (To tattle on him a bit, since he hasn’t commented yet – I asked if he’d read this post, and his reply: “I just skimmed the post. I will read it DEAR”)

      :)

      And thanks for giving me your perspective on “articulate.”

      I tried to figure out what on earth could be wrong with calling an article or a speech “articulate,” and started with the dictionary definition:

      ar·tic·u·late (är-tĭk′yə-lĭt)
      adj.
      1. Endowed with the power of speech.
      2. Composed of distinct, meaningful syllables or words, as human speech.
      3. Expressing oneself easily in clear and effective language: an articulate speaker.
      4. Characterized by the use of clear, expressive language: an articulate essay.
      5. Anatomy Consisting of sections united by joints; jointed.

      OK. Normally, the first or second sense of a word is its most common usage; however, I have never used the adjective in either the first or second senses given her. So if I were to call someone articulate, I would be using it in the third or fourth sense (reserving the fifth for visits to the orthopedic specialist). There’s a fairly big difference between “endowed with the power of human speech and able to make distinct syllables” and “employing all the POWER of human speech to communicate clearly and effectively.”

      My approach to life would generally be to consider all the possible interpretations before attacking someone, and to ask if they MEANT to be offensive. Usually. Yes – it was when I got to that point in writing this post that virtual Abhi (the real one, no doubt, sound asleep and half a world away) tapped me on the shoulder in the kitchen and whispered, “Really – DEAR?” LOL
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Torshi-e MakhlutMy Profile

      • Reyjr says:

        I’ve been called Dear and Sweetheart before, usually by people I didn’t even know. I always just assumed it was their way of making me feel at ease. Like if she was a nurse giving me a shot with a huge needle, maybe it’ll work. Haha.

        I also use “Dear” in my work emails when addressing people certain people. (i.e. Dear Holly, ) Hopefully I’ve not been giving false messages of endearment to my colleagues hahaha.

        I do understand it is a bit different when a man talks that way to a woman. In the western culture, I guess, it becomes a bit inappropriate. But then you’ll have to consider that English might not be that person’s first language, and that a translation and usage of that word in their language if perfectly platonic. I do believe we’d all appreciate the world more if we were open minded and accepting or, at the very least tolerant, of our differences.

      • “Dear [so-and-so],” as a formulaic opener to correspondence, is different. Weird, if you think about it – but it’s so conventional that it gets a pass and never gets my hackles up. You’d probably write “Dear [so-and-so],” to open a letter to anyone of either sex, right? And it means nothing at all, other than “I come in peace…now please read my letter…” :)

        You mention “Western culture.” Do you think that a gentleman, addressing a lady who is not his mother, wife, paramour, or child as “Dear” or “Sweetheart” is not – in fact – being a little condescending or presumptuous? This really is NOT a loaded question, Reyjr – I’m honestly curious about the cultural differences and perceptions. I’m not asking whether the woman would be accepting of it, or tolerant of it as a cultural norm – I’m asking if it would truly not have some paternalistic or condescending intent. Perhaps a perfectly protective, benign, kindly one – but would it say something about their relative “status” in the speaker’s mind? Put another way, would a woman ever address a man this way – for example, in the workplace? What if she was his manager?

        See, it’s not the “non-platonic” characteristic of “dear” or “sweetheart” that first comes to mind as potentially offensive or off-putting, at least in my mind. I particularly despise it when it comes from another WOMAN. Funny how complicated simple language can be, isn’t it?

        Mind you, I’m old enough to remember when “gay” meant “cheerful.”
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…Opinions Are Like…My Profile

  8. melanie jean juneau says:

    Well said- often rants are the most compelling, slicing through the fluff of language to the quick of the truth.We are born egocentric, as if the entire universe revoles around us, we view nature, God and others as they whirl around us. yet it is possible to step out of the centre by plcing God, or our higher power in the centre as we stand with the rest of humanity around Him..but it takes decades.. at least we can be aware of all the pitfalls which you descibe so well

    • Don’t we still see God from our perspective, even if we’re outside the inner circle and not seeing God as revolving around US? :) People have a tendency to try to shove God into a manageable, comprehensible little box (or book). I think God’s just bigger than that.

      I really didn’t mean for this to come across as a “rant.” I am never much into “fluffy language.” I like to hope there’s a happy place between “politically correct” and “rude” where honest communication happens and it’s okay to be a little vulnerable.

      Fortunately, we have a lifetime to work at becoming more aware and more mindful of others. Some get there faster than others, and personally – well, I don’t know if such a thing as “reincarnation” exists, but it makes sense that this life is just one journey of exploration and a chance to deepen our understanding of all that is. Maybe not the last stop on the journey before we arrive at…whatever else awaits. (I’m still struggling with the notion that I’m could come back as a giant redwood tree, in order to learn patience and how to let go of control. I’m not looking forward to 300 years of being rooted to one spot, ravaged by the forces of nature, while tiny woodland creatures burrow into me. I’m trying to get better at these things today, in the hopes that I won’t have to learn these lessons a harder way!)
      HollyJahangiri recently posted…Torshi-e MakhlutMy Profile

      • melanie jean juneau says:

        exactly- God is so big that we will all be surprised when we die- a lot more merciful, forgining and loving than we can comprehend
        laughing.. I really don’t think you have to worry about being punished by coming back as a knarled tree with creatures burrowing into you..you are on the right path, growing, changing, learning in humility

      • Thank you, Melanie! The path is a winding one, with plenty of missteps, but I believe as you do – that God is more merciful than we imagine. (After all, we were endowed at our creation with brains and free will; if God hadn’t liked a LITTLE troublemaking, He’d have surely stopped after creating sheep.)
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…Never Tease a WeaselMy Profile

  9. This is such an excellent topic…I don’t know where to begin.

    Okay, let’s start at ego centrism.

    There are times I have thought myself as a narcissist (and I liked it! Why not? I am living the life, right? I am going to die anyways, so why shouldn’t I think that the world rotates around me?).

    But, nowadays I tend to think the opposite.

    I tend to think that I am nothing……in the grand scheme of things (if there is a grand scheme), we are all nothing.

    Should I try to be something?

    Should I try to make a difference in this world?

    I want to. I really do.

    But, why?

    Why should I learn? Get a degree? a job?

    Why does it even matter?

    If I die today night, would it matter? Would my life be meaningless?

    We claim that we are compassionate, and yet so many people suffer in this world.

    Why?

    Why should I care about others? About myself? Perhaps I should just let it all go…go back to nature and wait for death.

    I really don’t have an answer for any of these questions..sometimes, I think my purpose is to find those answers.

    Or perhaps not.

    Let me ask you: If you could reset everything (By reset, I mean make humanity forget about our differences – about our petty fights based on our differences), would you?

    I like our rich tradition and history, but sometimes I think it’s all useless. Our world is like this because of this history, we fight among ourselves (based on petty differences) because of our ancestors.

    So, should we follow it? Should we just forget it and move on?

    (I don’t think history teachers are doing their job…we seem to be repeating many of the mistakes our ancestors made).

    There are so many things to be said, but I don’t know whether I should continue.

    What’s the point anyway?

    Now, I just follow the tide.

    I don’t know why I do things…but I still do them. Perhaps it is because I was taught to do them..perhaps it is because of the expectations of my parents (I really don’t care about what others think…..but, my parents. I do have to care about what they think).

    Thank you for the wonderful post, Holly :) Thank you for making me think!
    Jeevan Jacob John recently posted…Social Media Strategy, Tips/Quotes and Socializing!My Profile

  10. The kind of “ego-centrism” I’m talking about, here, isn’t an exaggerated sense of self importance, but rather a question of perspective. You can only LITERALLY see the world from your own. The extent to which you can relate to the rest of the world has to do with things like life experience, education, imagination, empathy, intuition, and compassion – things most of us have in varying degrees.

    Pretty to think we can transcend all these things and be “one with everything and everyone” but I think that the closest we can come to that, in this life, is the ability to imagine such a state.

    That doesn’t mean it’s okay to be a selfish jerk. ;) Or to think that the world revolves around us in that “it’s all just here to do our bidding” sense of the concept.

    We humans are constantly experimenting and testing limits. That’s what history’s about, really – a series of personal and social experiments, some of which have worked brilliantly, and some of which have failed spectacularly and in the most horrible of ways.

    I wouldn’t lay all the blame on the history teachers, when we repeat mistakes of the past. A teacher can only do so much with an unwilling learner; eventually, they get tired and some go on autopilot or check out, just like so many of their students. The best ones are too often unappreciated, underpaid, and pay too high a personal cost for what they do. But the BEST ones keep at it, anyway, knowing that if they can just reach one or two students, it may all have been worth it. The BEST ones get excited when their students’ abilities exceed their own, because they know they had an essential role in that. But it takes a willing, eager learner and a spark of inspiration…

    Jeevan, sometimes I think you are one of the youngest, brightest OLD people I know. ;) So jaded, so young. And yet – maybe not. I know you’re still thinking and searching for answers, still learning. Never stop.

    The world isn’t useless. It’s all we’ve got. I’m not sure there’s some “grand purpose” to us, either – I tend to see this life as a sort of “soul training ground.” Where we learn practical and philosophical lessons and figure out how to make all this work. It’s a puzzle, but not necessarily one that can or should be “solved.” Just when you think you’ve solved it, it changes – or you die. :)

    To think of the world as futile, to go through it just “going through the motions,” is to rob yourself, I think. What your parents think matters to you – why? Is it because, through them, you know what love is, and understand a bit about what “respect” is? Or is it habitual – you care what they think, because the consequences of not caring are painful? Not everyone cares what their parents think; not everyone should. Some day, you may care what your spouse thinks, or your children, should you have them. You may care what your boss thinks – or the person in charge of hiring you for your dream job. But what matters most, always, is what YOU think. Can you go to bed at night, knowing you’ve done your best, reasonably sure that you’ve not callously or carelessly hurt or damaged someone else, and confident that the planet not going to be uninhabitable in the next 100 years due to your short-sightedness? If so, I think you should sleep well at night. Get up in the morning, refreshed, and face the challenges of a new day. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Don’t give up because you can’t solve world hunger. You didn’t cause it. But try, each day, to make the world a little better for someone besides yourself. Donate the price of your breakfast towards a cause that eases someone else’s hunger. It seems a small, insignificant thing – but what if we all did that, every day? Volunteer two Saturdays a month at a local food bank or homeless shelter. Sort clothing at a charity resale shop. No, it’s not much when you think of a million displaced refugees overseas, or see children and human traficking. But you can’t solve the big problems by yourself. You CAN do your part to not contribute to them, and to chip away at the ones you can chip away at. And vote. Vote with your vote; vote with your wallet. It does make a difference. Speak up and speak out when you see injustice, whether you, personally, can stop it or not. Sometimes, that does feel futile – but it’s not.
    HollyJahangiri recently posted…Contemplating ContentMy Profile

    • Ah, okay :D Thank you for clarifying that!

      Yes, indeed. I have imaged my own after life. Would I be in this world? If so, can I scare people? (at least on Halloween – there is no rule against spiritual beings, souls or whatever it is in having fun, right? :D).

      Of course, I have also had instances in which I thought I was living in a virtual world designed to imprison me (apparently, I am a member of an alien species fighting against the ‘regime’? Or something like that. Ah, imaginations!).

      Yeah, perhaps I should have thought of that (I don’t know why I missed that, especially since my mom is a teacher).

      Thank you :) A lot of people have told me that (I am not sure whether I should take it as a complement…perhaps it is better to be innocent, to not know anything, to be like a baby? Who knows?).

      Of course, not :D Learning is one thing I know and love (for sure). Everything else…everything else could be ‘wrong’.

      Perhaps…that’s a great way of looking at it :D Or maybe death is the solution. Perhaps, death occurs when we finally realize the truths of this world.

      Part me of wants to say love…but I am not sure. I have wondered whether it is just obligation, because they have taken care of me? (But, I don’t like that answer because it devalues the relationship I have with my parents).

      I don’t plan to plan to do it…but, that might happen. I might change…looking back, I am amazed by how much I have changed.

      Of course :)

      No..that is a problem I am having. I haven’t done much to hurt the world, but I have done anything to help it, either.

      I consider that as my purpose – to help this world. Perhaps I could solve a problem? A problem we have been facing for decades. I know I can, I just need to try (harder and smarter) :D

      Yeah, I realize that…small actions do make a difference. But, part of my mind keeps on telling me that it isn’t enough. People still suffer, and the problem still persists. Issues like these need more action, more planning and more work.

      Perhaps I can’t solve world hunger. Or maybe I can. But, I will try. It may end up being an utter failure, but at least I will be happy – happy that I tried by best :D
      Jeevan Jacob John recently posted…Psst, what’s in your first newsletter email?My Profile

      • I do like it when you’re trying to see the glass half full, Jeevan. ;)

        Yes, happy that you tried your best really is enough – assuming you really do try your best. (Most of us don’t. But there’s still time to get it right – or at least a little more right than yesterday.)

        I think that the love you feel for the family you’re born with is different from the love you feel that has some element of choice. To not love your family is a form of disrespect, mainly because it’s a rejection. To not love a random stranger is simply not to choose to love them – it’s not exactly a rejection, provided you extend them some respect, dignity, and kindness. But I struggled with this one, as a kid, too. Love that’s nothing more than familial obligation or duty isn’t quite “love” the way we think about it. But then again, is it an obligation you would cheerfully repay? Or grudgingly? If grudgingly, it isn’t love. If cheerfully, I think it is.
        HollyJahangiri recently posted…Fantasy FoodMy Profile

  11. Sandra Bornstein says:

    It\’s a sad reflection of life in 2014 if \”human interaction becomes a battle field strewn with land mines.\” Frequently, people respond too quickly to a person\’s words without fully understanding the initial intention. Listening and trying to understand individual and cultural differences will make interactions less threatening. Far too often, a person\’s biased perspective will prevent them from seeing another point of view. If they only took a few moments to be open minded, the interaction would not resemble a war.

Comments from Readers ALWAYS Welcome. Comments from Spammers and Bots, Not So Much. Read http://jahangiri.us/2013/holly-jahangiri/comment-faq/

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge

top