Brain researchers tell us that we are much the product of our experiences. While genetics play its role, most of our opinions, beliefs, and framework for examining information comes from a hidden and unrealized drama that plays out inside our heads, quite unbeknownst to our consciousness.
Every new experience is compared and contrasted with everything we have already experienced, and catalogued and filed accordingly. Experts tell us that it is mighty darn hard to undo these conclusions that we hold, even though we are largely unaware of it. Hundreds of tests prove this conclusively, and I’ve written about some it on these pages over the last couple of years.
Yet it still amazes me how old prejudices die slowly or not at all. I refer you to the ideas we have about small town people and fancy city folk. Having been both, I’m in some position to know, yet I am as much a victim of my preconceived notions as the next gal.
As some of you know, I’ve been reconnecting, slowly with some folks I went to school with. I don’t mean a couple of years of commonality, but kids I went to school with from K-12. And it has been an amazingly strange experience. It is happening by fits and starts, and there are no real “trends” but only hints of trends. But still, it’s a pondering oasis.
Those I expected to go to college, didn’t. Those who I didn’t think would, did. Those who stayed near to “home” were largely not the ones I would have expected. Sure, here and there, people turned out as I thought, but mostly they didn’t. I realized that as to each and every one, some I had known well, and some I knew not well at all, I had never had a “serious” conversation with, on a matter of substance. I mean substance like racism, or religion, or anything of the kind.
The minor trend I see, is that those who went on to higher education, those who moved about the country, and such, generally have broader prospectives on the world. Those that stayed close to their lives as children, were more narrow minded. Plenty of folks would say, “No chit, shylock!”
That is after all, the presumption. The small town hickish type versus the urbane sophisticate. Yet my own experience in small town American and big city America don’t bear this out. The trend , as I said, is minor, just a wispy smoke of a notion. Yet, the conclusion, obviously ingrained at an early age, remains.
This against dozens of Hollywood movies telling the opposite. I don’t have to name names, the plot is universal. Kids graduate. One goes off to college and a big city career, the other remains in town, becoming the insurance agent, librarian, or hardware store owner. A death in the family brings the big city type home, and he/she reconnects. Eventually, the “smart” city slicker learns a lesson of life from the “small town” hick.
Yet, still the perception persists. And thus, I’ve been just blown away by the outcomes to some I went to school with. Airheads (I thought) are deep socially conscious thinkers, and bright lights (I thought) have reconstructed safe but weird worlds which they inhabit only with other fairly brain deprived humans.
And I ask myself. What is the problem with my (our) ability to discern character? It is clear that spending eight months at six or so hours a day, for thirteen years didn’t give me much of a clue. So I wonder, am I any better today? I would dearly like to think so.
So what was going wrong all those years ago? As I said, I cannot think of a single serious conversation I ever had with any of them, “closest” friend or barely knew. Is this the key to discerning? Could I have predicted who would be liberal/conservative/religious/socially conscience/self absorbed, if only I had asked the right questions? I don’t know.
Are all kids just too caught up in dating, clothes, music and entertainment? Are we not filled with sufficient “experiences” to make judgments possible at that age?
Being a seriously mature adult now, I have to wonder–are the quality of my friendships more genuine now? Is it a product of having the “right” kind of conversations or just a matter of living long enough to meet enough people to cue the right conclusions?
I don’t pretend to know of course. I never do usually. I raise the question and ask for input.
It seems important to know. I need to spend time, which means learn, from people whose character is sound, knowing that that is surely a subjective idea in the first place. In a world growing exponentially more complicated, it’s damned important to keep one’s bearings.
Perhaps it’s a element of aging. I have less and less time to spend with stupid backward people. They pull me down into a spiral of despair, and they offer me no help in how to make the world a better place.
For those of you who are beginning to think I have too much time on my hands, well, I can only say, come live in the meadow and you will find reason to spend a lot of time in your own head. I’ve grown rather comfortable there. I will sit upon my hill come spring, letting the warm breeze play across my upturned face, and I will pass my judgments upon Earth. No one will much hear me, no one will much care, but I will feel better for the doing of it.