I watched an eight minute video of a man being crushed to death and I realised I know nothing. The content of my little world—white, middle class, male—was placed in sudden stark relief against the backdrop of all human experience and I felt small and useless.
Coming up short for pragmatic solutions, I fell back on what I do know, summed up in a quote from Stephen Covey, “We see the world not as it is, but as we are.”
Yes. A good starting point. Examine the lens through which I am filtering the world. We can never have too much of this, because the sobering fact is, none of what we think we know is true. It’s a set of beliefs, gathered over time, like our wardrobe. The years pass, we wear roughly the same clothing each day and we fail to notice how entrenched we’ve become.
The illuminative equivalent of trying on a new style of clothes, is to listen. Given that we’re all experiencing individual, thought-created realities, it’s the only way to understand another’s world. So I stepped out of my echo chamber to read things I wouldn’t normally read, listen to new podcasts, challenge the biases I’m not even aware are running the show for me. In doing so, I’ve flipped and I’ve flopped – more and more I have found myself nodding in agreement to both sides of an argument.
In one webinar I heard Brandon telling his story: born of a black father and white mother, he sat uneasily with the concept of identity by colour. A criminal youth saw him spending 15 years in prison, where, having been introduced to the understanding that his world—like yours—is created in thought, he had a profound change of heart. He now works for the city, hand in hand with the police; has grown to like them, is further confused by the very notion of identity. Where does he stand, now?
Hearing this, my own questions arose: If our thoughts about who we are, are not constant, then what is? If we can turn inwards and look beyond all of our opinions and beliefs, to their source, then what becomes visible? At what point do we reach common ground?
Step back far enough from all ideas of ‘other’, and eventually you arrive at our shared humanity. You can call it what you like—the human spirit, true nature, a common sense—but love’s as good a word as any. When we shelve all preconceptions and we listen without prejudice, love is what we have in common.
More than baseless platitude, this is a great place to operate from, when feeling small and useless. For in each given moment, all we have, is to do what makes sense. Instinctively we know that decisions born out of confusion, hate or fear will lead to no good.
So, get comfortable with not knowing and arm yourself in all your endeavours with this simple question; a guideline that will never get you into trouble: What would love do?
For in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”
Dr Giles P Croft
Healing • Coaching • Speaking