Life has multiple lessons for us, daily, if we’re open to learning.
I confess, I’m often not; often distracted or too busy or too caught up in my own agenda. Sometimes I just don’t want to learn, preferring the childish (but effective) approach of sticking my fingers in my ears, screwing my eyes shut, and shouting “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”.
People have lessons for us, too, and sometimes it feels as though there’s so much wisdom, inspiration, and good sense being spread across social media in memes and quotes, that I think if only we all were able to take the goodness on board and act accordingly, surely the world would be saved in a matter of weeks. We would all begin to act kindly, compassionately, with each others’ best interests at heart. It would be magical, and we’d all be so busy being FOR one another, we wouldn’t even have time to notice how the obstacles in our own lives had melted away in the face of an onslaught of helpfulness – we would all just float in a glorious haze of loveliness.
Sometimes the lessons life has to teach us are hard, awful, soul-crushing ones. Sometimes the lessons people have to offer us are the ‘how not to’s and the ‘OMG NEVER DO THAT, EVER!’ ones. Sometimes, no, often, people end up as victims of circumstance or other people’s atrocious behaviour. Such situations give us pause, remind us to ‘do better than…’, and we look in from outside, shaking our heads, wondering how it could have gone differently, and why people/the world must be so AWFUL sometimes. Unless we’re the ones in the middle of the Bad, in which case we’re just left broken, trying to regroup, fend off the well-intentioned (but vastly irritating) input that ‘there’s something to be learned here’, and carry on. If we can.
I’m a poor teacher. I fancy myself a good communicator, which means I can talk at you from the front, and take questions (PLEASE – so I’m not just standing there like a lemon once my PowerPoint presentation is done), and I can perform with the…okay, not the best of them, but certainly the fair-to-middling of them. But I can’t teach. I’m too impatient. I expect too much too soon and I get irritated when the learning takes place more slowly than I anticipated. I get cross. I get bored. I give up and wander off, hoping someone more capable will step in and take over.
I also disappear off on tangents, utterly extraneous to the point I was trying to make, and I use words which are sometimes offputtingly complex, usually because I’m trying to prove I’m clever. That said, that happens in other situations, too. Like when I first meet someone. Or when I try to join in a group. Or when I go on a date.
Which is something I haven’t done for years and years…but I’ve been preparing. Sort of. Just in case, someday, I might feel it was time well spent to think about these things. I found a thing on a website which I really liked, and thought was a good idea, and I even tried it out with a few friends (in utterly non-dateish scenarios) to good effect.
What it is, is ‘Questions to know you better’. There are loads of them out there, and you can find them all over the place in all kinds of guises, but the essence is that, in asking, you generate easy conversation (people usually like talking about themselves (I offer myself as a case in point – I of the egocentric blog niche)), you learn something about the other person’s outlook, and what matters to them. Helps in the winnowing process, or something, but – here’s the kicker – it makes them far more relatable. Helps you bond, even if their answers confuse or don’t please you, because you can understand something of their underlying feelings, and you can connect at a basic human level.
It’s something which aids in making people Real to us.
Imagine if we could learn the answers to those questions, not only from the people we’re trying to build relationships with, but…everyone. It would be fascinating. It would be time-consuming. It would be exhausting. But I think we would all treat one another far better if we knew each person’s favourite meal, or the place they felt safest, or the thing they most cherished about their best friend.
We, in a larger sense, would find it a lot harder to remain complacent (and nigh on impossible to ignore atrocities) if we knew the things which mattered to the people at the centre of the shitstorms. How differently we might act if we knew the first memories of Syrian refugees, or the most recent dreams of the people who were at Pulse, or the highest priorities of the people still rebuilding their homes after the earthquake in Nepal.
We who seek compassion, connection, and bridge-building, would likely find ourselves doing the things we CAN do (but often don’t) for others, to embetter their worlds, because they all-of-a-sudden mattered to us.
And they who seek division, destruction, and advancement at the expense of others…perhaps they might stop and think about the impact of their actions before they acted, if they knew the songs their intended victims love to sing, or their childhood ambitions, or the legacy they’d like to leave.
I think it would be a HUGE hit against prejudice and dehumanisation (two things vicious, bullying people rely on in order to perpetrate such awfulness against their fellow human beings) if we all had other people – the easily-dismissable ‘They’ – made Real to us. I also think it would lessen the gap between Us and Them – for LoveWins, always – and I think *I* would find it easier to consider that the Westborough Baptists, or members of IS, or certain politicians, were somehow redeemable (if they changed their ways) if I knew that their favourite colour was green, or their favourite smell was fresh bread, or their guilty pleasure was watching cookery shows.
We’re all people, along for the ride together in this here world. We all love and laugh and have things which make us angry or fearful. We all have hopes and dreams or reasons we feel we can’t have them any more. We all have a favourite something and a worst something, something which freaks us out, and a time when something touched our hearts. We’re all SO much more alike than different, and I just think the whole world would be better off if we all really, for Real, knew it.
If I could teach the world one thing, it would be the answers to a handful of those questions, in the moments when it’s absolutely crucial to deep-down acknowledge the humanity, individuality, and similarity of the people we’re faced with on a day-to-day basis.
If I could teach the world one thing…it would be that we’re all real, and we all matter.
What would you like to teach the world? What’s your favourite smell? What qualities do you find admirable in a person? What are you passionate about? What’s the last thing that surprised you?
Join in with this week’s Finish the Sentence Friday prompt by linking in at Finding Ninee (a.k.a. blog belonging to Kristi, who always makes me think bigger thoughts than I woulda thunk possible)