In a few of my prior lives, I worked on a documentary about autism, headed up a large theater company in Chicago, and defrauded my home state. Too many details to describe in just one blog post, but all of these journeys into other people’s lives have changed my perspective about my own existence.
In my tiny corner of the world, I’m pretty well informed, open to conversations with strangers, continually looking for new insights, and generally aware of my surroundings. Still, there are parallel universes just down the street, or down the hall, that I will never enter and will never really know.
I live in a big city, for example, and I like to think it looks like America. We have rich and poor, multiple races and religions, and more sexual orientations than letters in the alphabet. Some days, I feel pretty smug about my great insight into the huge stew that is my kinda town.
If you’ve always lived in the same small town, though, America can look much different, and it’s presumptuous to see the rural experience as less than my own. There’s an intimacy and comfort that small-town life offers, along with different challenges and fears to keep people up at night.
It's almost instinctive to feel superior about our enlightened world view, whether it’s based on big-city congestion or small-town intimacy. We all end up proud of something and fearful about something else, and most of our perspectives are shaped by where we are, not who we are.
Well, that’s probably not correct, because who we are is determined in large part by where we are, what we see, whom we meet, and all the other experiences of our lives. We’re all alike at birth, but nature and nurture divide immediately and, after a decade or two, it can be hard to discern that we all started with practically identical DNA.
It’s easy to think we live in different worlds, not just different corners of the same universe, but that’s a mistake. The people you meet at the tattoo festival and the locals you run into at the train station have the same needs and drivers, the same humanity, as the people we meet in our echo chambers. After a few minutes of conversation, the common links emerge and their strangest traits shrink into a facet, but not an identity.
After enough visits into different dimensions, I’ve changed my questions about other people. Instead of asking how it’s possible for someone to believe things that are so incredibly stupid, I wonder how their reality led them to their conclusions. Quite often, I end up with a better understanding of their place in the world and, even if I will never agree with their position, it’s easier to recognize their humanity.
If the statute of limitations ever expires, I’ll be writing about that whole defrauding the state thing. Subscribe now and watch this space.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.