What do we see when we look at others? Are we always weighing up, assigning labels and relating accordingly, or is there more to being human than simply determining our relative strength, power or worth? Do we stand together, or apart? All in one group, moving forwards, or everyone out for themselves, ready to elbow others out of the way at the slightest opportunity.
Don’t the ideas we have in mind about “what life is” make a huge difference to how we live it? Sometimes it seems we’re just setting ourselves against it all: looking out on life with judgement and criticism instead of acceptance or interest. Rather than being happy for others, feeling that anything they have is something we don’t – chalking up all our differences and making them grounds for competition.
Are “other people” always either rivals or allies? People helping our cause or standing against us somehow. As if “life” is gathering together those who serve our interests and fighting against those who offer no clear advantage. Fighting or, perhaps, rejecting: treating them as if they’re not there; of no interest to us; not part of our world. As if we’ll only acknowledge, respect or admire those on “our” side. (Notes One)
Isn’t it a mindset of seeing life as a battle? This idea of us against the world where anyone not thinking the same or pursuing our aims is essentially an opponent. As if we’re each assembling tribes of like-minded people. The only world that exists for us being the version that affirms us, all of our views, and our goals. As if life’s a team sport where we’re all on different sides.
Is it the only way of looking at life? To find those who see life exactly as we do and ignore all the others – or, convert them to your way of thinking. As if life’s not enriched by our differences. As if they don’t provide a fuller, richer, more multifaceted sense of reality that would ultimately serve us all well. Don’t we “need” to see reality from all sides if we’re to understand everything it means to be human? (Notes Two)
Sometimes it just seems a strangely limiting perspective. As if we’re trying to insist there’s only one way to be human, and it has to be ours. Why see things that way when, by our very nature, we live such different lives within different places, governed in different ways, managing different resources, believing different things, standing in different relationships to different people. Isn’t it all just one large web of “humanity”?
How, then, “should” we value others? Why would we ever compare, contrast and judge one way to be best? Wouldn’t society, globally as much as locally, be better off if we valued all human lives more? If everyone were loved, protected and never taken advantage of for personal or collective gain. If, rather than seeking to get ahead, we genuinely sought to treat all others with the respect they also deserve.
Notes and References:
Note 1: What does community mean?
Note 1: Frameworks of how we relate
Note 1: Where do ideas of evolution leave us
Note 1: Seeing, knowing and loving
Note 1: What should be leading us?
Note 2: Humans, tangled in these systems
Note 2: Living as an open wound
Note 2: Can “how we relate” really change?
Note 2: Value and meaning in our lives
Note 2: These ideas we have of one another