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Philosophy Tuesday

September 5, 2017

Delving further into the realm of last week’s post and flipping the focus a bit, there is this great quote that is rife for exploration:

“To have great pain is to have certainty.

To hear that another person has pain is to have doubt.”

–Elaine Scarry

Perhaps we can never, ever, fully, know the experience of others, nor can we ever, fully, express our own.  Thousands upon thousands of poems and songs have been written about love or misery, each trying mightily to capture the entirety of even what may seem like the most uncomplicated of emotion.  Yet thousands more will still be written, ever trying more mightily.

And despite all those songs, when we first fall in love, or have our hearts broken, or experience loss, or victory, did it ever truly prepare us?

The real question to ask in our pursuit of being alive, is what is our default thought when we hear about the experience of another?  Or see their actions without further context?  What lens(es) do we bring to bear?  How much generosity to we bring?

More importantly, what do we want our default to be?

It’s easy to be dismissive, to try to fix, to explain, to deny, or, well, simply to doubt the experience and rich context and background of someone else.  Even if that someone else is a friend, or family member. *

And while we may never be fully able to fully know their experience, we can go a long way towards it.  We can turn on our listening and our imagination and empathy and play the game to understand and to know.  Whatever gap is left, we can fill with generous  consideration and dispensation.

It is, after all, what we ourselves want when we are in pain, are feeling thwarted, stomped on, rejected, overwhelmed, without agency, under duress…

We want to be heard and to be known.

In that space, we can all center ourselves, grow, and begin to create the future we all want.

“Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Plato

 

* I wonder if maybe it is even easier to dismiss if they are a friend or family, as it becomes easier to project onto them:  you are my friend/family = therefore we must share the same history = therefore we are the same = therefore your actions or feelings can’t possibly be right.

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