FIRST. Today is a momentous day in history. Today same sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. Yes for equality, and yes for LGBTQ voice and movement as they've won a battle fought for many decades. Love truly does conquer all (cheesy I know, but it's true).
Now…in the spirit of voices and being heard:
A primary human condition is to relate or at least try to; unless you truly don’t care then…I’ve got nothing for you. This is how we form friendships, release stress and ultimately create more fulfilling lives. We fail to realize sometimes that when we relate, we often equate our experiences to that of the person we’re talking with. Sometimes this also means we treat their moments with (unintentionally at times) equivocation. I am just as guilty as the next person.
And what I hate most about this is that I’ve taken something from these people and their words. I’ve taken their voice. But it’s truly not so bad right? I mean I’m only trying to have a conversation with them or make them see that their plight isn’t the only one out there. What my equivocation does though is suck away that “heard” feeling, the release as you feel your words aren’t only falling on brick walls or concrete floors, but flowing into actual ears connected to a body and a brain, but most importantly, a heart.
There is nothing worse than looking someone in the eye and telling them in more or less a round about way, that their feelings and thoughts are disproportionate to others. My tag line is that oh so crappy phrase “It could be worse…we could be living in a country without the healthcare system that we have here in Canada, without the top-notch cancer research hospital that we have here in Toronto.”
The lessons we learn the hard way. To remember those words, is equivalent to pinching daggers through my memory. Maybe I’m too harsh on myself. But maybe I should be this harsh. Where understanding was needed; I was a stone wall.
Ernest Hemingway once said that he learnt a lot from listening and that most people never think to stop and listen. C.S. Lewis pointed out that those who complete simple actions such as listening with humility, it is greater than those who sit and read Plato or listen to Johannes Sebastian Bach, their chests puffed out in pride.
My point here is simple, I shouldn’t pretend to know the scars and pain of another but at least I can shut my trap long enough to grasp a small ounce of it. Human nature is to think in a narcissistic manner, meaning that we need to produce an answer to the problem or contrast your story with my own. But it isn’t the answer and it never has been. We are all trying to navigate an idea of our presence in this world and we do this by sharing and relating to create some sort of model (Patrick Stokes, Finding and Loosing Yourself, New Philosopher, 2014, pg. 19-21). For example, I’ve learnt what I have about my love life by sharing my experiences with my friends and somehow placing the experience on my “game” board to understand what I’m going through. If I’ve gone through something my friends have gone through, or if my experience mirrors that of an “on-screen” relationship, there; now I have some model and foundation to relate mine to. We say things such as “it must mean this, because that’s what it mean for you there…” And for some cases this works out nicely, we are able to understand our circumstances because others have understood prior to us.
But what if the lists and indexes we’ve developed aren’t the correct way to perceive things, what if we’re each guinea pigs here? My experience is mine your experiences are yours. How on earth would we ever have conversations? If there weren’t a single grain or relatable qualities in your life and mine, how would we release stress by complaining about a workweek? Truly this is the case, because we all approach situations differently; your brain computes choice A, while mine computes choice Z. I shouldn’t confuse my thoughts for yours; mixed together they won’t bake a cake.
My point comes back around to simple listening and hearing skills. The pure and beautiful act of being there to just be. Shouldn’t that be enough? I am by no means saying “shut the hell up everyone,” that would create a silent world. And I can’t stand deafening silence. Of course there is an argument for giving advice, and for offering an opinion, for standing up for the right thing. Do not take this post to mean that when you see domestic abuse, you shouldn’t say a thing. Or to mean that when you see dogs being eaten in a festival of dog meat that you shouldn’t tweet and protest. No. These are two different things we’re talking about let’s not muddle the waters. The two examples listed above are actions that go against a moral code and they should be stopped so by all means raise your voice.
I bring this back around to me sitting across from a man in a bar in Malaysia, someone who had lost everyone and everything. That was the time when I should have bought him a beer and let him cry. I bring this back around to me in my Beijing apartment listening to my roommates broken English as he explained his father was dying. That was the time that I should have stayed silent and listened to the calming fear in his voice. I bring this back around to me and my mother sitting on a couch. She tells me that her life has been flipped upside down and her body is in pain, she doesn’t think her heart can take it anymore. This is the time when I should have said nothing, simply wrapped my arms around her withered frame and held her because that would have been the last time.
But I didn’t do those things, mostly because these people had known loss and I thought I had too so instead I spoke when I should have stayed silent. I said, “It could be worse…” My pain isn’t yours and your wounds aren’t mine. Never, let me ever be guilty of stealing someone’s voice again. Let me at least meet the experiences of others with some breadth of understanding.
What I’ve written about is representative of my own experiences but yours are different, have a listen/watch to this beautiful piece on YouTube’s Button Poetry regarding pain, listening and loosing your voice:
Thank you and Good Afternoon,
FindingFelicity: We aim to raise a generation of wide social awareness from patient autonomy, and cancer to feminism and ending violence. This site, albeit with a public health agenda, embraces the notion that raising awareness can be accomplished in tandem with any interesting writing, regardless of the topic. A Therapeutic Passage. A cultural segue to more serious issues.