A Matter of Perspective

Loneliness is a part of the human condition, an odd thing to consider given our inherently social nature. To some extent, we are always and forever alone. We have distinct mind and bodies that can never be bridged (at least not yet, though if you believe in psychics, we’ve already managed). We can always connect with each other on some level, but I don’t think we could ever truly comprehend what goes on in one another’s minds.

Indeed, most people don’t even understand their own consciousness. We have habits, obsessions, or strange thoughts that have no rhyme or reason to them. We often can’t explain or justify our ideas and actions, nor can we account for the internal contradictions and struggles that transpire daily, whether it’s making a mundane choice between consumer purchases, or a profound one about career paths.

Not only can this lead to a sense of isolation – because no one can really identify with us on a deeper level – but it can cause a lot of conflict and confusion. Even people who know each other well endure misunderstandings and disagreements – imagine when we factor in the overwhelming majority of people in a given community, who don’t know each other well, if at all. Add in other factors like culture, faith, political identity, and a slew of other diverging characteristics, and one can see why conflict has always been an intractable part of our species.

I’m not stating this out of any sort of cynicism or misanthropy. I know that people bond with each other all the time, and I’m quite fortunate to have a wide and thriving network of wonderful individuals that I feel a connection with. I’m not saying that we’re invariably and totally alienated from each other, but that to some degree there will always be a barrier between one another: love and understanding can take us to great lengths, but only so far I think.

Keeping all this in mind, my overall point is that attempting to comprehend one another’s perspective is a challenging but invaluable exercise. Not only are we innately separated from each other, but we have a tendency – for obvious reasons – to judge people based on our own limited understanding of the world. We only know what our mind knows, and the standards we are based on distinct personal experiences and beliefs.

A person steeped in a certain ideology or limited to a handful of experiences will have a difficult time understanding someone who comes from a different set of each. All the cultures, languages, and other identities notwithstanding, there are individual exceptions that are unique to each of us too.

There are just too many layers to navigate, which is why trying to broaden our personal knowledge and experience, while engaging in dialogue with different people, is so crucial to bridging these intrinsic differences as much as possible.

Recognizing this, it always wracks my brain to ponder why people do the things they do, or believe what they believe.

This is especially true of people who, understandably, get very short thrift in our society: killers, rapists, thieves, vagrants, drug addicts, frauds, and all-around nasty people. Why do they behave so horribly? What goes through their mind? What is their justification or explanation for their actions? Humans have always try to self-rationalize everything they do, no matter how hypocritical or morally wrong – so how do these people do it? What are their rationalizations?

Just some thoughts from my wandering mind.

 

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2 comments on “A Matter of Perspective

  1. Love the article, Romney! Very thought-provoking! The following two statements especially stand out me:

    1) “…but we have a tendency – for obvious reasons – to judge people based on our own limited understanding of the world.” And,

    2) “A person steeped in a certain ideology or limited to a handful of experiences will have a difficult time understanding someone who comes from a different set of each.”

    I agree with both of those statements. I actually posted an article several weeks ago about not judging others because none of us knows what other people have had to endure in their lives. We all have had different experiences, and this is what makes us behave the way we do.

    As for the killers, rapists, thieves, et al, that you mentioned… in my opinion, based on my understanding of the world and my “certain ideology,” :) I believe that there’s a whole other dynamic going on here that causes people to behave this way and do these horrible, horrible things! I just read an article last night about the American soldier who killed all those innocent Afghan civilians. He stated that he has memories of before the incident and after the incident, but he has absolutely no recollection of the horribly atrocious acts that he committed…and I believe him.

    There’s another story that was in the news in the recent past, as well, about a man who went to a Chinese restaurant to order food. Two days later, he read in the newspaper about someone who had gone ballistic at that same Chinese restaurant and robbed them of $60. He realized it was him and he went to the police station and turned himself in. He remembered going to the restaurant to order food, then he remembers playing video games later at his house, and he had $60 in his pocket that he had no idea where it came from. He had absolutely no recollection of robbing the restaurant. This man had a history of schizophrenia (as stated in the article) and I’d be willing to bet that it’s the same with the American soldier I mentioned above.

    I’m not mentioning this examples to justify what these men did – far from it! I’m just saying that there are other angles to consider when trying to figure out why these people would do such horrible things. Call it mental illness, demonic possession… or both…or neither. “Normal” people just don’t do things like this without there being other influences thrown into the mix.

    Sorry about the lengthiness of this comment, Romney. I hope you don’t mind.

    • No need to apologize, this was an excellent response. I’m quite glad you took the time to write it :) Plus, your points were solid, especially the incident about the Chinese man – that’s exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. Thanks for the feedback :)

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