“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be crazy, by those who could not hear the music.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
Growing up in a town with three lakes, I thought every town had lakes and every person knew how to ski. What a surprise to discover that I was in a minority. Some of you grew up hunting and are happiest when a hunting season opens, donning your camouflage gear and guns, but my family didn’t hunt, and seasons have a different meaning to me than they do to you hunters. It’s apparent that we are each a product of what was familiar to us when we were growing up, and that is our paradigm for viewing the world until we choose to expose ourselves to other things. I loved Nietzsche’s quote because it immediately made me think of people who are wearing headphones, dancing to their music, when I only hear silence. I recognize that they are responding to something I cannot hear. As people approach life with different understandings, it seems that we expect others to dance to our music without recognizing that their headphones and ours aren’t plugged into the same sound system.
There was a time, many years ago, when I sat in a waiting room at a health department. Sitting by myself, I managed to strike up a conversation with a young girl who was sitting near me. I asked why she was there and she pointed to the woman and older girl who had come in with her. “That’s my sister (pointing to the older girl). She’s gonna have a baby. Momma said that next year, when I’m ten, I can have a baby, too.” I was shocked by the family’s plan, yet many people who read this will not find it uncommon at all, and that is the lesson we can choose to embrace as we find ourselves judging people who approach life so differently than we. Our pardigm (what has been modeled for us) is where it all begins.
What is normal in your life? Do you recognize that your normal is not the same as someone else’s? Maybe you grew up in a very clean home and aren’t aware that a clean house doesn’t matter to some folks, or you grew up having dinner at the table together, while someone else’s family has never eaten dinner together. Your background impacts your perceptions and definition of normal.
For a person who was raised by educated people with goals of going to college and finding a successful career, it is hard to imagine growing up in a home where the only goal is to be able to pay the rent and put gas in the car. How can you expect someone to think outside of the box in which they have spent their life when they’ve had little or no exposure to your way of thinking and living? Yet, we do when we make comments such as “Common sense would tell a person to ___”complete that sentence with any number of obvious items you believe a person should just know.
One of the problems in our society is that most of us rarely stop to consider why people think or ‘choose’ to live differently than we do. We simply think that they are wrong, we are right, and they should see the error of their ways. What if you could stop that thinking and really appreciate another person’s vantage point? What if you could even put yourself into someone else’s shoes to understand their perspective on life?
Our view of everything in life is developed early in life. It can change, but we have to know there are options first, and many people just have no idea, so don’t judge them for what they don’t know.
What makes this a wonderful world is that we aren’t all the same, yet it’s the need many people have, wanting everyone to think as they do, work as they do, live as they do that makes the world not so wonderful and, in fact, makes life downright painful and unpleasant for lots of people.
I think about that sweet little girl who thought ‘getting’ to have a baby at 10 was the best thing in the world and know that her entire view of life was much different from what I considered normal. I wonder what her life and those of her family have been like in the last 30 years.
Just for a day, or maybe for a few minutes, choose someone whose life is much different from yours (richer, poorer, manual laborer, white collar worker) and try to imagine what has led to their living and thinking as they do. See where their headphones are plugged in, and allow them that freedom to be who they are, dancing to their music, instead of expecting them to see things from your point of view and dance to music they’ve never heard.