Sunday, November 20, 2016

Learning and Unlearning Reality

“I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent, and although it is admittedly one of a minor nature, it is perhaps also the sole talent that I possess.”

                                                                                -From “The Sympathizer” by Viet Than Nguyen

Do you guys like to think about space and time and parallel dimensions? I do. "A Wrinkle in Time" is my number one favourite book. And I mean, that's a kids book but I also read like, the first 5 pages of "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking and I definitely plan on reading the rest really soon*.

Even though my knowledge of the time-space continuum is limited to the children’s fiction level, the idea of parallel worlds fascinates me. And when I get to thinking about it, I realize that in a very real and non-fantastical, and not even impossible to understand scientific way, parallel dimensions absolutely exist and we’re interacting with them all the time.

There are 7 billion people on the planet, and each one of us is existing in our own personal reality that has been shaped by our environment, the things that have happened to us, the things that we have been told. There are no two people who perceive the world exactly the same. And each person’s reality is 100% real and true to them. We internalize our own reality, but we also project it back out onto the world. We’re all on one planet, and there’s over 7 billion realties all stacked on top of each other (and fucking each other up). 

One of the most personally influential books I have ever read is “How to be Compassionate” by the Dalai Lama. There are many pieces of wisdom within the book, but the one that has stuck with me the most is that “all beings want happiness and do not want suffering”. What that means to me is that every person is just doing what they believe they need to do to be happy and not to be hurting. This idea has helped me through many situations when I felt as though I was being wronged or hurt by someone else. It was never about me. It was just them doing what they felt like they needed to do to be happy.

Trying to be a better person, like the Dalai Lama, or like a dog

Lately I have been struggling to feel compassionate towards some people. When it comes to many forms of prejudice-sexism, racism, xenophobia, I have held fast to the belief that people are just acting according to their reality, to what they have been taught. They just don’t know any know any better, they need education. And once they know better they will act better! But lately I’ve been pretty discouraged.  Some people seem to be very attached to hate, no matter what you tell them. Sometimes I question if it’s even that helpful to be compassionate towards people who themselves show no compassion.

Compassionate or not, we ALL bring our prejudices, our preconceived notions, our ideas of how things are supposed to be around with us. We all project those things onto the world. We’re all looking at the world through whichever filter we’ve already put on our lens. That’s part of why I avoid labeling myself anything or associating with any group. I like making my own decisions about how I feel about things on a case by case basis. The only label I’ve felt was a strong part of my identity is…Bartender. Even though that’s no longer my full time job, and I’ve had lots of other roles in restaurants, when I say "I'm a bartender" it feels like yeah, that's what I am. Working at bars has taught me more about people than I’ve ever learned in any classroom, and has had a pretty huge role in shaping my character. I don’t care who you are. You walk into my bar, I’ll serve you a drink and talk to you. If you’re a dick, you gotta go. I think that’s a pretty good lens to be looking through. 

I’m not writing this because I have some powerful message. I don’t. I hate all these internet think pieces that seem to proclaim THIS IS THE ANSWER. I just have a lot going through my mind and I thought I'd try to capture some of my thoughts to share.  The past year I have made a very conscious effort to educate myself about race and gender issues, spirituality, war, politics, mental health…so many issues that are ubiquitous and highly contentious in the current public dialogue. I’m trying to figure out what the fuck is going on here. I’m trying to unlearn a whole bunch of stuff and learn a whole bunch of other stuff. I’m trying to look at everything in a million different ways. With every new book I read I ask myself, am I now just being influenced by what this author said? What’s even real? What is the truth? It feels impossible to know. 

I think the next thing I’m going to try to learn is how to teleport to Mars. Or how to get to a parallel universe that’s just me and thousands of dogs. Now that sounds like a perfect reality.

Thank you for reading.

*totally never finishing that book.

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