Thursday, August 10, 2006

Who are you? How do others know the real you?

I am so convinced of the advantages of looking at mankind instead of reading about them, and of the bitter effects of staying at home with all the narrow prejudices of an Islander, that I think there should be a law amongst us to set our young men abroad for a term among the few allies our wars have left us.
- Lord Byron, poet (1788-1824)

Byron wrote this 200 years ago, yet his words are as fresh today, in the UK or any other country, as they were in his time.

About 6.7 billion of us inhabit this orb. Of this number, how many people do we know very well?


It's impossible for us to know what life is like in the skin of anyone else, even those who are closest to us. We can make assumptions, but they are often wrong. For example, jokes about husbands who don't understand their wives or wives who don't underst and their husbands flood the internet daily. "What do women want?" "What do men want?"

We try to learn what others are like by listening to their words. Yet words often mislead us, sometimes are intended to mislead us.

We try to learn about others of our kind by reading about them. Yet for everything we read, someone else has written something that is contrary, that may even contradict what we have read.

We generalize, formulate stereotypes, label people, categorize them, pigeonhole them in order to better understand enough about them so that we can understand them. No one, not a single person, ever completely fits any one category.

How, then, can we ever understand even the people we know? Watch them. Watch them carefully and often.

We are what we do. Not what we eat. Not how we dress. Not what religion we subscribe to or what party we vote for. Not where we live, what clubs we belong to or what hobbies we have. Not what we watch on television or who we may dream of having sex with.

We are what we do. Anyone who judges you on anything other than what you do is fundamentally wrong. You must evaluate others likewise if you hope to be correct.

Here's another way to think of it. What if God (or Allah, Jahweh, The One, The Great Spirit) doesn't speak English, or German, or Dutch, or Spanish or any other language of us simple beings? In a sense, God would be like a visitor from space come to earth to evaluate us. He could only do so based on what we do.

Based on what we do, and only on what we do, how would God evaluate us?

When you die, people will not eulogize you for your Armani suits, your Perrier habit, your wealth, your poverty, your command of the language or the car you drove. Then they will speak of who you were by what you did. Actions are your legacy.

Live today the way you want to be remembered tomorrow.

And, following Byron's advice, learn about others so they will be friends who are spiritually by your side, not enemies who want to blow you up or sell you a lemon.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help each person live the life they were intended to live instead of the life that others want them to live.
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