‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it’. This has always been one of my favourite quotes – from the wonderful novel, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the classic novel that depicts racial inequality.
We all have our own viewpoints on various aspects of life, honed by our upbringing, our life experiences, our beliefs and so much more. They may be set in concrete, immovable, regardless of who we meet or what we perceive in life. Or they may waiver and change when disaster rocks our world and makes us question who we are and what we believe in. It’s wonderful to have strong moral values, but ensure the golden vein of empathy runs through those values.
I do not walk in your shoes and therefore can’t see or feel what you do, but allow me to understand and in return understand me. Do not assume to know how I truly feel, and in return I will not assume likewise. Do not judge me and I will not judge you. Let us see each other through the eyes of God.
WHOSE POINT OF VIEW?
My point of view? Your point of view? The onlooker’s point of view?
It’s good to step back sometimes and review situations. Great authors are able to portray the nuances in life with clarity, and if they succeed in changing the reader’s mind, or even make us think twice – then they have told the story with greater impact, intended or not.
Recently, I read two wonderful novels which reminded me of the great disparities in life and also how easy it is to judge people. It’s not my intention to critique these novels, but I found them both a somewhat accurate picture of how life is for so many people.
Judgements are made daily on the colour of one’s skin, one’s status in life, one’s religion. Many people hold the belief that all black young men are criminals, that people living in Social Housing are lesser beings, that all Irish Travellers will rob you, that some religions are dangerous. People are labelled and judged accordingly – Lower class, White trash, The Untouchables, and many more insulting racial terms. The list is endless.
It’s like going through a box of smarties and discarding the colour we don’t like even though they all taste the same. Our perceptions are skewed by what we have learned growing up, what we have heard from other people, or what we have read. Also, our need to fit into a particular class or group, to belong, may detract us from the truth. We want to feel safe and comfortable in the world we have created for ourselves.
Recently I read ‘Call me Mummy’ by Tina Baker, a powerful novel that inspired this blog and reminded me how easy it is to live inside our own castle with the drawbridge pulled up, enabling us to keep the ‘invaders’ out.
The characters are so real I found myself uttering advice aloud. The kidnapper appeared to be a conservative and respectable woman with values and one could well assume she would make a better mother, even consider that the child, Tonya, would have better opportunities in life. Gradually the author pulled back the layers of apparent respectability and showed the truth beneath.
Indeed, appearances are not always what they seem. My initial disapproval of Tonya’s real mum, Kim, soon faded away as her past was revealed. So Kim’s language left a lot to be desired, but her love for her daughter was strong and she had a clear determination to ensure that her daughter would grow up into a strong woman who could protect herself.
Her stone-cold demeanour was seen as a lack of caring and love, when it was just protection for the grief she felt. It was her attempt to hold herself together lest the pain of losing her child exploded leaving her heart in splinters.
The threads of Facebook and Twitter regarding Kim are as demonic and judgemental as they would be in the ‘real’ world, a reminder of how Social Media can be a dangerous vilification of people that is never justified, nor should it be allowed.
The author, Tina Baker, gradually revealed the truth behind each character’s actions and enabled the reader to see beyond the external face they showed the world. But that is not the world we live in. We judge. We gossip. We avoid those we assume to be ‘different’ or of a lower status.
We give them personas they don’t truly possess. And amazing of all we know exactly how they spend their money, what they are thinking, and generally we proclaim them to be scroungers and of no value or worth. How dare they live off our taxes! How dare they live! And if unkind words and vicious thoughts could kill – our population would be well reduced.
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult is equally powerful and as ever Jodi Picoult depicts the moral issues in life with verve and candour. Abortion is a contentious issue and the author uncovers the many hidden aspects behind people’s decisions, the laws that vary from state to state in USA, and in other countries.
The irony in this story is the pro-lifer who has had an abortion, a deep dark secret, and also the pro-lifer who holds the clinic staff hostage, killing two of them. He believes he’s doing the right thing in the eyes of God. Taking lives in revenge for a life lost is a universal story in the history of our world.
Whatever one’s stance on abortion, it’s an emotional whirlpool and I suspect never an easy decision for anyone.
I was told the story of a young mum whose unborn child had part of the brain missing. The medics advised her to have an abortion. Being a staunch Catholic she could not bear the thought, but medical advice won the day. Her parish priest supported her through the
procedure. Just one of a million stories throughout the world, stories which Picoult shines a brief light on through her characters.
RECIPE FOR LIFE
Let’s assume we are given the recipe for life when we are born. Can we change it? Can we add new ingredients? Can we omit some ingredients? Or is it our fate to accept it? Sweet or sour, is this our lot in life?
If we veer away when someone doesn’t meet our criteria of what we consider the norm, what is our excuse? Is it valid? Is it justified? Life is complex and often a minefield of misunderstandings. How we approach it and how we live it is a choice we ultimately have to make for ourselves. Make that a good one, an honourable one.
Quote from A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult.
“Any one of us can rationalize the things we do. But he hoped empathy would spread, an invasive weed of compassion.”
Read my Blog Post- The Great Divide
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