Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Universal Self and The Laws of Misinterpretation

One day, years ago, I was having an awful time of it with little, petty things that today, I completely have forgotten. However, we all get wrapped up in the small stuff sometimes. My friend, Pat, was sympathetic, but not foolish enough to humor me, so he took me to the top of the hill that Holy Cross is situated on and told me to look out over the city of Worcester. Suddenly, my life, my problems--it all seemed so small, and more importantly, confined to myself alone (thank you, Jimbalaya--he gets credit for reminding me of this).

Several times, I remember when M and I used to walk by the ocean. Sometimes, it was dark, and you couldn't see the water, but you could hear it moving in and out with perfect natural rhythm--the kind we like to structure and make into meter and music. He used to remark about how that same pattern of motion and sound pre-existed us for thousands of uncountable years and would outlive us by countless more. All at once, it makes you feel connected to an inner unity that can only be experienced rather than seen or heard. And, subsequently, it makes all of those little things that weigh you down seem like impediments to our ability to perceive this unity of which we are a part.

The problem lies in how we see ourselves. All too often, we are too microcosmic in our views.

The one thing that causes this to happen most often is the act of thinking too much about yourself and how everything around you relates to you. If it is constantly a secondary, or not even a thought at all, to you that something that happens or something someone does may have nothing to do with you at all, then, if you don't mind my putting it bluntly, you need to stop seeing the people, events, and things around you as in your own personal orbit.

How often have you or your actions been misinterpreted by others? Oh, and how often does that piss you off to no end? I hope that both numbers, if you bother to come up with any, correspond. Sometimes, we make mistakes--but most of the time, if we misunderstand someone, it's our own fault. Why? Well, true misunderstanding usually is the result of us looking too closely at ourselves and how we think and feel rather than trying to put yourself in someone else's place for a few minutes. However, there is a second side to look at here--the one of the person who is misinterpreted.

Let's face it--it's a pain in the ass when you know somone thinks something of you that's wrongly assumed. And honestly, no matter how hard you try to understand the other person in question and give him or her the benefit of the doubt, the situation remains the same--it's not your fault this time, that falls on someone else's sholders and that someone else may be so engrossed in that preformed interpretation or opinion that no matter what you do, you can't change it. Even if you address the situation--you may chat or write or even change how you act--how can you know that it is going to matter? No matter what you say or how you say it, the 'misinterpreter' is going to see your actions from that preconceived stance--completely re-interpret them, if you will, to make them fit into their original ideas, margin of error not withstanding. Why? Well, because if you do regularly interpret things as they relate to you--guess what? You're the classic case of 'self-centered,' and the last thing you want proven to you is that you're wrong.

What is being ignored is all of the evidence that person does not have because it exists outside of his or her orbit and has nothing to do with him or her. And, given the people to whom this applies, well, let's say that kind of evidence either doesn't exist to them or is just ignored because, hey, it doesn't apply. Ultimate connundrum.

So, what is the bottom line? I don't think there is one. Other than: grow up, look past the end of your nose for once, and get over yourself. Harsh words, yes, but the reality is harsher. It's the idea that not everyone is always thinking about you, that you may have nothing to do with what that person just said or did, and that although people listen to what you have to say, you can't assume they care about your opinions.

The bottom line is that no matter how well you do something or how well you think of yourself, someone else probably knows more or does it better than you do--and those people don't need your sanction or acknowledgement to make that true.

Or, maybe if you learned the two hardest of life's lessons--that you are not the center of anyone's universe other than your own, and that you have to laugh at yourself, no matter how ridiculous you look TO YOURSELF or to others, then, you wouldn't be so afraid of how others see you. Tired point? Well, maybe not if you haven't mastered it. Why is this important? Because that is the root of the problem--if you close yourself within yourself, you won't get criticized and everything can be as rosy as you like it to be. It's the ultimate insecurity--no matter how you appear on the outside, this behavior sets a red flag up in the minds of every single person who has any insight and observes you for more than two seconds.

As the Indigo Girls said:

What makes me think I can start clean slated?
The hardest to learn was the least complicated.

Open your eyes, my friend, and see what's really out there--not what you want to see or what you want other people to see in terms of yourself. You may be surprised--for once in your life, you may breathe a sigh, relax, and have a good laugh. That's when you can climb the hill and see what's really there as well as your place within that spectrum. That's when you can hear and see the tide on the shore and feel that inner connection between you and the rest of what's out there. It's not about you--it's not about you being different or proving your uniqueness.

Ultimate life's challenge? Probably, but it is worth it to be able to say to yourself as you progress along life's path--look at what I was and look at what I am trying to be. At least I admitted to myself that I'm not perfect, and I didn't continue to delude myself into thinking that I made other people see me that way.

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