Monday, April 19, 2010

If only you thought like me and not like you

Is it possible to think exactly like someone else? Or do we hear what we want to hear coming out from an other's mouth and let our brain Spackle over the cracks of our differences until we truly believe another thinks like us?

I believe we can have similar thoughts, but none of us really think the same about everything. And that is the boogie man in the closet when it comes to communicating with others. Actually it is the boogie man in the closet when it comes to communicating with ourselves.

How many times do you catch yourself thinking, "I can't believe ___ does (or thinks or believes) ____." I think that all the time. But lately I've been catching myself and reminding myself that other people act and think the way they do because they aren't me. All of the iterations of life experience and environment that influence how people think have got to make each individuals' thought patterns as unique as their fingerprints. It is a miracle that any of us think the same about anything.

This helps me understand the incomprehensible like why anyone would become a Republican or a born again Christian. Well, at least it helps me accept it. The problem is, I observe that many people who lock their thinking into a pretty extreme thinking pattern (like being a Republican or born again Christian) firmly believe at that point that that is the only possible way to think and they shut out any possibility that any other viewpoint could be valid.

This realization also helps me understand how my old friend Siddhartha could achieve enlightenment and then have difficulty sharing it with others. Siddhartha's path to enlightenment was woven with his own unique thought patterns. Most of us would have simply sat under the tree with the best intentions of sitting there until we were enlightened, but given up when we began hallucinating about a BLT sandwich. Even Buddha's step-by-step instructions would be more or less useless since they only documented his path to enlightenment based on his viewpoint.

Oh, I suppose you argue that by being enlightened, the Buddha had stepped out of his individual viewpoint and was looking at things from a universal point of view (points of view?). But still, the people he was trying to teach were still stuck in their own private Idaho mindset.

It reminds me of my experience with mathematics. I have never been particularly enamored with numbers. I can deal with them, but I don't get all euphoric when trying to calculate pi to the nth decimal. But because I was better than average in a normal math class in school, I was placed in advanced math classes in junior high.  I went from being the head of my class in regular math to the village idiot in advanced math. By the time I was in high school, I was floundering around in advanced calculus like a banjo playing hillbilly in a French cafe trying to order lunch. I didn't understand  a word that was being said to me. At one point after coming in before class for some tutoring from the calculus teacher, she simply shook her head and patted me on the arm.

This experience taught me several things. First, it is better to be the best amongst the worst than the worst amongst the best. Second, I would never become a physicist. Third, if you don't speak a particular language well or at all, speaking louder and louder doesn't really make a difference. Finally, my brain is not hardwired for advance mathematical calculations. I simply don't think the same way as mathematicians. But conversely, they don't think the same way as me. So to coexist we simply have to acknowledge that and continue living in our parallel universes tolerating each other but not really understanding each other.

I have always prided myself as having a pretty good sense of humor. So the realization that none of us think and see the world exactly in the same way cuts deeply into my own sense of my sense of humor. I have to accept that sometimes a whoopee cushion is just a whoopee cushion and that what cracks me up often confuses others.

Which leads to my daughter's favorite joke: Why did the chicken cross the playground?
Answer: To get to the other slide.

I think it is kind of funny, too.


Naughti Biscotti said...

Haa haaa... "Republicans and Born-Again Christians." That was so good it deserved to be said twice. I think humor may be what separates the wheat from the chaff. I don't mind if someone views on religion and politics differ from my own. But HUMOR I have no patience for the lack of. I find it annoying when someone is insulted by something I find hysterical. There is no point associating with this type of individual considering that I pretty much laugh at everything.

This is why I posted "Don't believe everything you think." Thoughts are pliable, momentary little whips of smoke. They are meant to be examined, enjoyed and quickly replaced by the next great thought. There is a bit of a Medusa effect when you decide to believe. The thought becomes a permanent stone structure. It takes flexibility and imagination to throw out your thoughts before you believe them. That's why scientists don't believe anything. There are only facts that either prove or disprove theories.

I believe this was an excellent, thought-provoking, and enlightened post.

Time said...

I believe with every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.

I agree that rigid thought calcifies the brain. It is the foundation of prejudice, hypocricy and hate. Oh, and republicans and born again Christians as well. I have my own cast in concrete thoughts about them :)