What Today Brings
“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Ruminating on this quote has brought to light an interesting conversation about stereotypes. There is a false assumption that you can attach a personality trait to an entire group of people. Take how we paint a wide swath of generalizations based on one’s gender. Some naively believe every man loves football, strip clubs and women twenty years younger. There may be a healthy population that fits that bill but I know men who prefer practicing the violin or climbing a mountain to take photographs. Everyone has something different swirling around in their heads.
By the same token there is a misconception that a female is primarily concerned with children and grandchildren. The German artist in her studio covered in oils with a cigarette in one hand and a paint brush in the other is no less a woman. We constantly hear that women are more emotional than men. I have met some icy women void of sentimentality and fragile men who cry at the drop of a hat… my father for one. He always said they put his bladder under his eyes.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” The freedom of expression train has left the station and we are entering an age where kids are feeling more comfortable to be themselves. There are girls who want to wear boy’s clothes and boys who want to wear girl’s clothes. On the recently canceled hit show, Rosanne, the little boy liked to dress in skirts. Ironic that this forward-thinking show was taken down by the racism of its not so forward-thinking star.
The little boy on the show might have related to Allen Ginsberg, the poet of the beat generation who said, “Follow your inner moonlight, don’t hide the madness.” From the dawn of time those who follow the road less traveled have gotten a healthy dose of backlash from the masses. Preconceptions are damaging to the way we communicate and see each other. We all have a history and a mindset born and built from every experience we have ever had. Whether we are meeting a homeless person, a rock star or a Catholic Priest our minds automatically manufacture an opinion in a blink of an eye before we have a chance to really see a person. Our pre-judgements precede the recognition of that person’s individuality.
A wonderful exercise in meditation is to try to come at everything as if you are seeing it for the very first time. Look without a preformed opinion at the food on your table, the person at the desk at the cable company and the officer in the car next to you, like a baby experiencing it for the first time. How nice it would be to enter newly formed relationships without false assumptions. Every Chinese person is not good at math, every Jewish person is not good with money, every man does not enjoy strip clubs, every woman is not secretly sad because she does not have children and every artist does not want to be famous. I could go on all day with the clichés that we should throw in the garbage but you get my point.
I will close with a wish for a Utopian society that lives as Lao Tzu suggested in the Tao Te Ching, “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.”