“You have no idea! So … so don’t even try to understand!”
The storyteller in me cringes at these words.
Oh yeah, hi, it’s me, Ealaidh the bard sticking her paws into the blog again for a very important reason. I’ve been looking around at human exchanges and recognized a pattern, oh an age old troubling pattern, that makes my fur stand on end. Why? Because this only ends in division. I’m just saying, it’s time to talk.
By talk I mean truly talk, not shut each other out. There are people claiming that they are being misunderstood and using the most dead-end statements in existence. “You aren’t/don’t have ____ so you can’t possibly understand what it is to be ____. So, unless you only say ______ you are against me.”
Ok … so please tell me, how is a sympathetic individual supposed to respond to such a statement? Shall I crawl under a rock in shame? Shall I apologize profusely for someone else’s assertions before they get to know me which label me as committing a crime I haven’t committed? Well, the answer is a solid nope. And here is why. Because being different doesn’t default me to being wrong.
While I may not have walked in the accuser’s proverbial shoes, there is a skill that allows perspective.
That’s right. Empathy. A skill that everyone who has ever been enthralled with a book, or been moved by a character on the big screen is familiar with. Writers and storytellers employ this skill to extremes. After all, if every character in a story was a carbon copy of the author’s experiences it would a pretty boring tale.
Empathy allows the author to consider how someone in a different walk of a life experiences the world around them. By listening, reading, and processing the words of others an author can delve into the mind of someone with PTSD, explore a five-year old seeing the ocean for the first time, or even see through the eyes of a senior citizen dealing with the fear of being abandoned. We can use empathy to see the perspective of heroes and villains, rich or poor men, historical or futuristic. We can walk for a bit as another ethnicity or gender. It’s carried readers into the minds of dogs, onto the wings of dragons, on vast migrations with extinct dinosaurs. This isn’t a small feat–but the fact is most of humanity accomplishes this well when influenced to try it.
This is a powerful experience that enables growth. And good writers go beyond the stereotype. They dig into the thought process of that character, that life, and let it speak to them. This is true empathy. Extrapolating from personal life experience we can level with someone else’s situation. That can move a spirit to align–and it’s a helluva lot more powerful of a motivation than a shaming verbal assault.
But I am slan, I am not human. How can I possibly comprehend?
In ages past, within the slannic species, the god Cernunnos created a wide variety. Even within just the faol, or those who are canine based, there were wolves and foxes. Taking it smaller and just looking at the foxes, there were many different colors of markings and kinds. There were reds, greys, blacks, crosses, the arctic and fennec. Beautiful colors with personalities as varied as markings. Some lived blessed lives without a care, others struggled for every breath. But beneath the fur we all shared one thing in common: we were all fox.
Each one of us sang a different part in the chorus of life. All the parts together made up the symphony of life. A varied masterpiece that moves us all with the power of compassion.
Talk, sing with one another, build the harmony that will move the world. Don’t hold up a hand and silence a harmonizing voice just because they aren’t exactly like you. A kind invitation to those different from you see the world through your eyes will go miles further and foster growth than declaring they will never understand. Give them a chance, they may already understand more than you are aware. Some mean what they say when they speak out for true equality.
Humanity, you all different by some degree. And that is what unites you as a single race.