I want to begin with a confession. What is likely to be the most controversial thing I ever say on this page, I do not at all care for John Lennon. (I can practically hear one of my friends losing it as she reads this right now. Sorry yo.) I have my reasons but that’s not what this post is about. Those lyrics just fit and coming up with titles is hard.
I vividly remember the moment. My first and maybe only ever true epiphany. It was my sophomore year of high school, circa 2000. Sitting in my bathroom sink one morning getting ready for school. Caking on foundation that didn’t match my skin tone and drawing on eyeliner thicker than my eyebrows. It was a different time. No you are not getting a photo. Suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks that there were other kids all over the county getting ready for school just like I was. Kids that I didn’t know, who didn’t know me. Getting ready, going to school, going about their lives. Entirely independent of me and what I was doing.
Yes this makes me sound stupid. To be fair though I believe there are a terrifying number of adults out there who have never actually realized that everything does not revolve around them. What that moment did do for me was create a tiny puncture in the bubble in which I had, to that point, lived my whole life. Not everything changed overnight. I was still an insufferable twit for many more years. But all at once I had gained the gift of perspective.
In the years since, that perspective has grown and evolved and torn a huge hole in how I think and the way I view the world.
In every corner of the earth, we all do the same basic things every day. We sleep and eat, work and love, laugh and cry. What distinguishes us from one another are the many different ways in which we each got to the places we are today. Childhoods, circumstances, experiences and choices. The things we’ve seen and been through. How can I hope to understand what the stranger across the street, or across the world, feels when I have no idea what they saw yesterday or ten years ago? How could I claim a person’s opinion on a subject is wrong when I can’t know what they were taught growing up or the experiences that led them to that position? In brutal fashion, I have become aware that “my way” isn’t the only way or even necessarily the right way. As us Disney kids learned from Mrs. Potts,
“Bittersweet and strange,
finding you can change,
learning you were wrong.”
Not understanding where someone is coming from is very normal. Writing them off because it’s uncomfortable making the effort to understand is inexcusable. The ability to set aside your own biases and preconceived notions is a skill that requires conscious effort and practice. It’s said that travel is the death of close-mindedness. If you have the privilege to see the world and experience different cultures, I encourage you to do so. But reading is another form of travel and a beautiful way to peer through someone else’s eyes for a few minutes.
It’s natural to feel strongly about your beliefs and opinions. And it’s ok to disagree, even with the people you love. The goal is to make sure you are thinking critically about the world around you, asking hard questions, and always taking the opportunity to learn from others. Even the stupid people. Sometimes you learn the most from them.
I am not at all sure if I’ve made any kind of point. I’m no longer even sure what point I was going for. I will probably touch on this subject many times again, likely after I’ve had to explain my position on John Lennon. But I want to leave you today with a quote from a former atheist turned born again Christian, a decorated and well respected scientist, director of the National Institute of Health and Dr. Fauci’s boss, Dr. Francis Collins.
“One must dig deeply into opposing points of view in order to know whether your own position remains defensible. Iron sharpens iron.”