There is always something brewing somewhere, with someone. It is too much or too little. It may not sound right or reach the correct decibel. Perhaps it is the wrong color, or the perception of that color. Maybe its background is clouded by uncertainty or confusion; maybe it is clear in my eyes, but foggy in yours. There are so many possibilities, truths, lies, deceit, and clarity, all in the very same thing. Which one is correct? Which direction do we go? How do we respond or hope to respond?
It has always fascinated me the way two people look at the exact same thing and see it differently. Our perceptions as human beings begin on an elementary level. We see or feel the obvious, but do I see your bruises as an act of violence, because they were, or because mine were? Do I hear the sweet sounds of James Horner’s music and revel in the melody because my fond memories tie me to the beautiful combination of notes, or because society says it is beautiful?
Put simply, perception is an iceberg. The part above the surface which everyone sees, may be shallow, possibly uneducated and most likely unremarkable due to the religious nature of it, but ninety percent of that iceberg is below the surface. It is hidden somewhere most of us cannot see, touch, or feel. It consists of far more mass and structure than what is present above. It is stronger, with jagged edges we dare not touch without caution. It continues to exist whether we want to know it or not, and it will always outlast what is above the surface, because it is built to do so.
My mother raised me to consider others before myself. She wanted me to know the difference in color, culture, religion, and sexuality, without precluding the notion that the person may be a good human being, perhaps an exceptional human being. However, it does not preclude them from being a horrible one either. One might say we should be judged separately so that our merits are dissected as opposed to the perception of those merits, or the ones, (for example), of the girl who looks like me and attends the same church. Perhaps we should all be lumped into the same stereotype to make the judging easier, for those who have nothing better to do with their time. I have no problem with first impressions, but does judgement need to be a part of it? Some people were raised to judge, hate, dissect and belittle; others to overlook, not criticize, and to seek to understand with compassion and an open mind.
My sister, whom I adore even when we fight, has always referred to me as a burnt marshmallow. I first took offense to this, but after explanation, realized how beautiful a compliment it was. It took a significant amount of energy and trust for someone to break through the barrier, but when they did…wow, the softness on the inside was worth the wait. Aside from the whole analogy, I have always loved burnt marshmallows However, as I have experienced many times in my life, people generally look at the just the surface, and judge accordingly without even venturing a guess at what lies beneath. When you do that, you miss the best stuff—either inside yourself—or within someone else. It is a complicated struggle between what we think we know, what we hope we know, what we know we actually know, and our faith in that we simply cannot see or touch.
I acknowledge I can only control myself, but how different the world would be if love came before hate, trust before uncertainty, and loyalty before betrayal. I always hear the saying, “Be tolerant of others.” Tolerant? It is a word which insinuates imperfections and a level of inferiority that others should overlook. How absurd is this thought? Is it just me or does anyone else think the word tolerance should be replaced with understanding, compassion, or a different perspective than we have always had? It pains me to see the anger, judgement and hostility that is so prevalent in today’s world. It pains me to know that the little ones grow up thinking this is the way it is supposed to be. It makes me ache inside when a five-year-old is bullied because of the color of their skin. Hate is simply taught, engrained and fostered by those who refuse to seek understanding or compassion. It is fostered by those who have no idea how to love, and who feel hatred when they look in the mirror. If compassion cannot even be shown in the privacy of their own home, mind, or heart, then what chance does the outside world have when it greets them? What chance does your child have to learn how to accept and celebrate the differences in others? If they are not taught from birth, soon it will be the teacher they despise, disrespect, and who they wish to control or silence. There is no peace on this path for either party. There is only the agonizing and exhaustive search for someone else to dislike or judge. I wish all people could be rational, set aside their anger and personal experiences in light of the unknown—the road less traveled. I wish helping those who need it came as second nature to everyone. I pray every single night I will be a better person tomorrow than I was today; no matter what, my prayer does not change. I am flawed and riddled with cuts and bruises from my past, choices, or the cruelty inflicted on me by others who should not matter in my world, but it is only me I can control, me I have to see and respect when I look in the mirror. It is only me who needs to become what I should have always been. The journey to make that happen is excruciating and beautiful, but I still have to keep walking, trying, and growing if I want it to get better, and I do.